Thursday, April 3, 2014

More Than a Game

The following appears in the April edition of Chicago Parent.

They were the Bad News Bears of pee-wee baseball.
Last spring, my husband and I nervously registered our two oldest boys for America’s favorite pastime.  We weren’t exactly the traditional baseball family.  My husband’s side is comprised of thick Irishmen custom-made for the gridiron.  Conversely, my people are tall, lanky Lithuanians designed for playing basketball and eating kugala. 
Baseball was simply not in our blood.

Despite our trepidation, we headed to the boys’ first game fully prepared to enjoy a beautiful April afternoon and a hilarious comedy of errors.

Inning after inning, the kids kept us in stitches.  Nobody could catch, throw, or pitch a lick.  It was as though the league had taken every child selected last in gym class and compiled them into one awesomely bad team. 
But the coaches?
They were freaking All-Stars.
With the patience of a thousand Mother Teresas, these neighborhood volunteers calmly explained and demonstrated the elements of the sport.  Then they explained and demonstrated them again.
Every practice. 
Every game. 
Over and over and over.
If a kid wanted to pitch, he pitched.   If another kid wanted to play first base, he played first base.  It didn’t matter how awful or unnatural the child was, the coaches had a laser-sharp focus on learning, and not on winning.  Parents took their cues from these Zen-like leaders who never once yelled or humiliated young players as they slowly and steadily gained confidence.

The team gelled.  With no clear superstar, no pressure to be perfect, and nowhere to go but up, there was an amazing camaraderie and sense of fun.  The parents bonded.  There was plenty of laughing.  Everybody looked forward to the games, win, lose or draw.
And that’s when the miracle happened.
The boys did start to win. 
A lot.
They faced far superior teams, ones where words like “travel league” and “scholarship opportunities” were batted about.  But the Bad News Bears kept pulling it out in dramatic fashion.  
Parents were dumbfounded.  It wasn’t as though any of our children were exceptional athletes, yet together?  They were unstoppable, often rattling off six or seven runs whenever someone from the other team pointed out they were down.  Opponents warned others:  DON’T TELL THE BAD NEWS BEARS WHEN THEY’RE LOSING OR THEY START HITTING LIGHTS OUT!
The coaches just nodded and smiled.
It was as though they knew this would happen all along. 
Although our team would ultimately lose in the championship game, my sons still talk about last season with such excitement and enthusiasm that I know this experience will stay with them forever.  They have been taught that being bad at something is only permanent if you walk away.  They have learned why it is better to lift teammates up instead of tearing them down.  They have been introduced to a model of leadership rooted in kindness and caring instead of cut-throat competitiveness.
I wish every Little League parent out there at least one magical season.   When it comes down to it, there is just so much more to be learned from baseball than fast balls and foul tips.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Guest Post - Author Alexa Biggie

The following guest post is written by Alexa Biggie, co-author of the book Sunshine After the Storm and mother to four children.  Alexa writes extensively on love, grieving, and the loss of her daughter, Kathryn, to Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) at No Holding Back.  Both Alexa and her husband are military veterans (USMC and USAF).

Alexa has worked in Homeland Security and Counter Terrorism, and been deployed to war zones.  Yet she feels that nothing truly prepared her for how difficult long days home with children can be!
 
I have come to admire Alexa's marvelous sense of humor over the years, and I relate to her innate ability to say the exact wrong thing at the exact wrong moment in social situations.  Being a little  awkward and a whole lot funny has endeared me to Alexa forever.  Please have a read and consider making a donation to support bereaved parents everywhere.

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For most mothers, Mother's Day is a day for getting spoiled by children (and maybe husbands). It is a day to look forward to and a day where mothers are acknowledged for everything they do.  And mothers should be honored.

All mothers.

For some, Mother's Day is a source of pain and a constant reminder of what is no longer here, or what will never be.

It is a very difficult day for grieving mothers. I know this because I am one of them.

Franchesca Cox wrote once how a mother "is not defined by the number of children you can see, but by the love that she holds in her heart.”  A few years ago, CarlyMarie of Project Heal began International Bereaved Mother's Day. This day was established to help mothers talk about the true meaning of the day and celebrate children, both with us and not.

When Anna Jarvis officially founded traditional Mother’s Day, it was to honor her mother Ann who experienced the death of 7 children.  Yet somehow through the years, bereaved mothers were completely forgotten.

International Bereaved Mother's Day is now the Sunday preceding Mother's Day (May 5th of this year).

Inspired by the actions of CarlyMarie and so many others who make it their mission to bring light to grieving parents, I sought to do something as well. Last October, in time for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day on October 15th, a group of bereaved parents and I published our book Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for the Grieving Mother. It is our stories and thoughts on surviving the loss a pregnancy, an infant, or older children.

Fueled by the positive feedback and impact it had on other parents who have suffered the death of a child, we went one step further and created a nonprofit, Sunshine After the Storm, Inc, to raise funds to donate the book to hospitals, bereavement groups, and organizations that support bereaved parents.

As Mother's Day approaches, we decided to start a special Mother's Day Campaign. The goal is simple: raise money to donate as many books as we can to hospitals and bereavement groups for Mother's Day, and use a portion of the funds to make a special Mother's Day contribution to the organizations that support bereaved parents, infant death, pregnancy loss, and research for children's health issues.

I also reached out to different people, including some well-known authors on baby and child loss, such as Sherokee Ilke and Teske Drake; to CarlyMarie (who creates the most beautiful artwork for bereaved parents on her Shore of Remembrance) and many others. I asked for donated items and services so that we could offer a wonderful incentive for those who decide to find it in their heart to make a donation. The response was amazing, and on May 4th, International Bereaved Mother's Day, we will have a giveaway of 15 incredible items. And more may be added!

We just ask for one thing. A very small donation. $5 (or more if you'd like!) It costs us about $8 to donate each book. One donation will get you entered for a chance to win all of these amazing prizes!  If you would like to make a straightforward donation, you can also visit here: http://pubslush.com/books/id/1993

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 
But more importantly, you will know that you have directly impacted the life of a mother who is hurting this Mother's Day.

Thank you for reading and considering supporting a cause very near and dear to many mothers, including myself. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Goodbye, Sue

This one is for my next door neighbor and her boyfriend, Joey.

Click HERE for today's story in Chicago Parent.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Totally True Text

Joe:  I'm getting off early today from work.

Marianne:  Okay.  Thanks for the warning, I'll get my boyfriend out of here ASAP.

Joe:  Do I need to check under the bed when I get home?

Marianne:  Nah.  I usually just hide him in the pantry.

Joe:  NOT WITH MY FOOD.

Marianne:  Jackass.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Vanity Unfair

The following appears in the March edition of Chicago Parent.

Many seasoned moms and dads cite sleep as the primary casualty of parenting.  While it is true that most new baby owners quite vocally mourn the loss of a good night’s rest, I respectfully submit that something else falters first:

Vanity.
It starts in the delivery room when teams of doctors, nurses, and students bear witness to events that the Motion Picture Association would rate NC-17.  Yet pain, stress, and exhaustion leave most moms oblivious to their own physical presentation.  I look back at pictures of myself in the hospital after my first son was born and wonder, “Why the hell didn’t someone hand me a brush?”
Sadly, I embraced the disheveled and frumpy look for the better part of the next five years.      
It wasn’t that I did not care how I looked, but rather, I was more concerned about not leaving my young children unattended for the time it took to shave both legs.  How could I possibly dye my hair when burping a newborn would intersect the 45 minutes required for noxious chemicals to vaporize my greys?
No, I wasn’t pretty during this period.  Thankfully, my husband didn’t seem to notice my failing looks and pitiful hygiene.  He never said a single solitary critical word.
I believe he is a much wiser man than originally thought.      
As the years passed and life got easier, vanity was eventually restored but never to the same levels as it once existed.
My idea of looking good at school drop-offs requires putting on lipstick before I head out in my pajamas. 
While shopping for a formal event, I spend more money on effective stomach-sucking undergarments than I do on the dress. 
If my nails don’t have sand, Play-Doh, or paint underneath them, I consider myself “well-manicured.”
Recently, I read an article about the miraculous anti-aging properties of red wine.  Suddenly, my old narcissistic sensibilities took over.   I immediately marched over to my husband with two poured glasses of merlot as he happily watched an episode of “Swamp People.” 
“Here.  Drink this,” I ordered and handed over his portion.  I clinked our glasses together in the universal symbol for “bottoms up.”
“I hate wine,” Joe grumbled as he futilely attempted to hand me back the glass.
“Doesn’t matter.  This stuff makes us age backwards.  Like Mork.”
“Why would we want to age backwards?  Things are good as is.”
“But don’t you want to look younger, more attractive, and have the arteries of a 20 year old?  What if this stuff really is the fountain of youth?” I questioned earnestly. 
“No thanks, Ponce de Leon.”

“You don’t want to be Benjamin Button?”
“Nope.  I don’t even want to be Brad Pitt.”
“What is wrong with you?  You’re un-American.  We are supposed to be vain and youth-obsessed.”
“Fine,” Joe muttered, “but can I at least put sugar in it?  Wine is gross.”
“Whatever.” 
“One last thing,” Joe paused dramatically as he lifted the sugar bowl high into the air for final consideration, “if I DO drink this, you are then not allowed to get mad when women start throwing themselves at your younger, hotter, age-defying fireman husband.”
That comment was met with a long, thoughtful pause by yours truly.
Then I handed him a beer.
Joe, like I said, is a much wiser man than originally thought.

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Beds at the firehouse.  I'll let you decide which Dwarf Joe is.

Yeah, right.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Strain of Marriage

So there was this one time I almost killed Joe.

Like last week.

Full story click HERE in today's Chicago Parent.