Feb 8, 2014

"E" for Effort

The boys are midway through their second year of basketball.  They have both improved so much this year in their skills and understanding of the game.
I am really proud to see Gabe emerge as one of team leaders.  He isn't the high scorer but he is a great defender and a key player in running plays.  He has scored a few times each game and is generally just a good all around player on the team.  I don't speak basketball so I'm not sure I'm getting the terms correct but you get my point.
Eli is great on defense and has really increased his speed and endurance on the court this year.  I am so very proud of him.  He was a hot mess on the court last year.  He didn't really understand the game and really struggled to stay on the move.  However this year, he understands the game and the plays, he has gained confidence in shooting (not necessarily scoring but at least make some good attempts) and he is really getting quite skilled defending and grabbing rebounds.
At the end of each game the coach hands out little iron-on stars to each player highlighting their strength during that game.  The stars are colored for Christ-Like, Sportsmanship, Offense, Defense and Effort.  Last week Eli had a really good game and felt great about his performance until the coach handed him an "effort" star.  When we got in the van we were talking about how great he did.  He didn't hear us and he didn't hear the praise that the coach gave when he handed out the stars.  All he heard was "effort".
You say "good effort" when you try really hard but fail.
You rarely say "good effort" to someone who just scored the winning basket for the team, or someone who won the lottery.
"Good effort" is a nice way of saying "you suck" at least in Eli's mind.
We encouraged him and talked to him about all the great things he did in the game, and moved on.
Today we were on the court again watching a fierce battle between Eli's team and another team of equal ability.  The score was within 4 points for the entire game, and everyone was playing hard.
Eli was on it!  He was slapping passes out of the opposing team's hands, grabbing rebounds, making some great screens, took a few great shots that barely missed, and he was in his opponent's head.  He was sweaty from running so hard, and he was smiling because he was so proud!
At the end of the game a teammate's mom came up to me and commented on how great Eli played today she said "he was on fire today!" I commented that if the coach gave him another "effort" star he might have a breakdown.  The coach started giving away stars and I held my breath as I listened for the comments he would have for Eli.  He talked about how Eli jumped up and grabbed rebounds from guys that were taller than him, he mentioned that Eli disrupted at least a half dozen passes, and that he took advantage of a fast break and took the ball to the hoop.  "Eli you get a yellow star for effort".

My heart sank and actual tears welled up in my eyes.  I couldn't look at him, I was afraid I would spin into a complete meltdown.  He isn't the star of the team, he isn't great offense but today above all days he was an amazing team member and defender.
The other mom saw my horror and immediately came over to me.  She tried to talk me down from my emotional cliff.  She said it probably bothered me more than him.  I told her that he is the one that feels like the coach doesn't see anything good he does for the team.

And then something magical happened.
Not the white iron on star for Christ-likeness but white falling from the sky in thick beautiful flakes.
It started to snow.
Suddenly the effort star wasn't as important.
Who cares about an iron on when there is snow falling?
Before I could blink the tears away Eli was outside jumping around in the snow.
White saved the day.

At dinner Matt and I continually praised him, talked about all the great things he did and encouraged him as much as we could without it getting weird.  Eli looked at me and declared "this game is the best I have ever played in my life".
And that is all that matters.
In his race, he won the ultimate prize - he did his very best!

Feb 3, 2014

Wisdom in a Country Song

Every once in a while I get in a mood where I need to listen to a little country music.
Today was that day.
The day started off well enough for a Monday but things unravelled quickly upon my arrival home.
I wanted to ride my bike with Eli, but my tires were flat and despite my very best effort I couldn't figure out the German engineered tires on my bike.  I know it sounds pathetic but it isn't your average tire I'm dealing with.  I called Matt mid-fit and he couldn't help so I resigned to tossing my bike on the ground and going for a run.
With all the fit over the bike I left my gloves back at home and 10 minutes in to my run my fingers started falling off one by one in the freezing cold weather.
I pressed on.
It was cold, my legs were heavy and slow, and my heart just wasn't in it.
I spent the first part of the run still ranting over the bike tire and whining about my freezing hands and the rest of the run stressing over getting to the store and back home to make dinner for tonight and prep dinner for tomorrow night.
I didn't feel good at all during the run, but I did it, I logged my 3 miles for the day and that itself was an accomplishment considering the fiasco getting out the door.

On my way home from Costco I was snacking on some walnuts (no good samples available today so I actually had to buy something to tide me over until dinner) and turning up the country music.
I don't know who sings it or what the title is but the chorus goes like this:

If you're goin' through hell keep on going
Don't slow down if you're scared don't show it
You might get out before the devil even knows you're there
When you're goin' through hell keep on moving
Face the fire, walk right through it
You might get out before the devil even knows you're there

I was blaring the music from my mini-van, singing loud and taking it to heart.

Last week I found out both my grandma and Matt's grandma were diagnosed with cancer.
My grandma is 82 and facing a battle with breast cancer.
Matt's grandma is 85 and has decided not to fight lung cancer.

I found myself laying in bed the other night with tears streaming down my cheeks.  My heart was breaking as I imagined my grandma shuffling through hospitals for treatment appointments, laying weak in a bed and worrying about how much all this treatment was going to cost.
Then I flashed to Matt's grandma, her decision not to fight her cancer is understandable, those very images that worry me about my grandma played in to her decision not to fight.  Instead she plans to spend her good days doing what she enjoys doing and has requested some good pain meds when things get tough.

It is true no matter how tough it is, a bad day, a difficult job, a terminal diagnosis our best choice is to keep on moving.  Sure we might have the scent of smoke on our clothes on the other side, we may get burned, or maybe slip through unscathed, but we get to the other side of the journey, the trial, the pain.

I wanted to stop running so many times today for so many reasons.  But the thing is stopping doesn't get me any closer to my destination and I risk things getting worse the longer I stay there.  I'm still cold, grumpy, with a list of things to do, and frustrated in the middle of the trail instead of pressing on to get home, warm up by the fire and take care of business.

Oh if you are going through hell keep on going.