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The new trend in soccer spectating….

October 15, 2012

I am not sure if spectating is a word, but you know what I mean – parents on the sideline.

I know. Oy.

At the past two games my daughter has played in, the parents from the opposing team sat on our girls side of the field. In fact, it is the third time this season it has happened.

Now, this certainly isn’t a crime against humanity. But it is annoying.

Bowling and golf have understood rules of etiquette. No one has to explain that you wait until the guy next to you bowls before you head down the lane. No one has to say “shhh” when someone is putting.  (Because sports etiquette is largely common sense.)

And no one should have to invite parents from the opposing team to sit on the side where their girls are sitting. Really.

My kids all started soccer when they were four. My experience has pretty much been that parents have mostly self-regulated and sat with parents from their own team.

It just makes sense. We are like-minded in our cheering for and disappointment of referee calls. We can mumble amongst ourselves about what is working and what is not working. We can be proud together.

We get half of the field – you get half of the field – like the invisible line my dad used to draw down the backseat of the car. Even steven. No crossing over. Not even if your arse is on fire. Stay on your side and we’ll have a peaceful ride.

The soccer league my daughter plays in has even incorporated this backseat guideline into its rules – they have drawn a not-so-invisible 50-yard line – parents are to sit on the same half of the field their kids are sitting on.

But then there’s this new trend that’s emerging. And it’s problematic. It creates immediate tension. Unnecessary tension. And parents feign ignorance. They claim not to know the rule – it’s only been that way forever – they claim to not understand why it makes perfect sense.  And then they go on to prove exactly why it makes p.e.r.f.e.c.t. sense. Hmmm.

When our hearts jump out of our bodies, put cleats on, and play a game of soccer, we are never going to see the game in the same away as another parent whose heart has jumped out of her body and put cleats on to play a game of soccer against our child. We just aren’t.

And that is fine. It’s really as it should be.

However, we don’t have to sit right next to each other.

The past two games have been especially disappointing.

In the first game, the parents of the other team lined up about 15 feet behind us. They had to stand to watch the game because they couldn’t see over us. No one sat on the other half of the field. Literally, everyone was on one side of the 50-yard line. They disagreed with calls and loudly commented on nearly everything, including our girls. It was distracting and obnoxious.

In the second game, we were in a high school stadium in bleachers – plenty ‘o room to sit. However, the parents from the other team sat at the very end of the field – across from where our girls were. We sat closer to the fifty yard line on our side of the field. But it was still too close.

These parents yelled at the ref, even claiming his calls were “impossible”. They yelled when they felt something should have been called in favor of their team and wasn’t. They cheered for their own girls when they fouled our team, encouraging them to “keep it up, all day long”. They were encouraging their girls to foul our girls – and hard.

That is where I draw the line. Encouraging a child to go after another child is not okay. It’s just not.

The best moment of the game was when the ref stopped the game for a foul. They thought it was going in their favor. The other parents cheered and stomped on the metal bleachers… until the ref pulled out a yellow card and presented it to a girl on their team. Ahem.

The graduation prayer….

October 12, 2012

So, the other day  I posted this story about my experience with bullying in high school and I mentioned that I gave a prayer at graduation. A prayer about hate. 

Well, holy prayer, I found it.

(Just know that it is not my best work). But I thought I would share it.

If you read the post on my experience, you might remember that I masked my message as a global message about war. Well, apparently, I wasn’t as clever as I thought I was. Twenty-five plus years later, it doesn’t seem so focused on global events but rather what was closer to my heart at the time.

Anywho, here it is…

Dear Lord

As we gather here together for the last time as the class of 1986, we thank you for our good times and our bad times – our joys and our sorrows.

We have grown tremendously since we first walked the halls as a freshman class. We have eagerly anticipated the day we could walk down the aisle and receive our high school diplomas. But now, many of us look to the future with a great deal of uncertainty.

We pray that you will guide us in the decisions we must make, the fears we will face, and the defeats we shall bear.

Help us put any bad memories of the past behind us and to be thankful for the joyful times we have spent together.

Teach us there is no going back. We must accept the past and fight for tomorrow.

Help us to remember that the enemies we meet in life, whether they be nations or individuals, are as frightened of conflicts as we are.

Teach us to respect the adversaries we encounter. Remind us that there is not a single person in this world unable to feel the pain that accompanies hatred.

But most of all, guide us to gain a true belief in ourselves.

Let us remember we can never be duplicated.

Help us celebrate our uniqueness and take full advantage of our abilities – so that we may build a stronger future for ourselves and our country.

Give us knowledge so that we will not repeat yesterday’s mistakes.

The wonder of our past is not that we have survived inquisitions or world wars. It is that we can still say we believe and we care.

This is our foundation for hope. A foundation that makes us stronger and will allow us to make a difference in this world.

Lord be with us tonight and in the future and keep us safe.

Let us remember that our future is dependent on our ability to care and believe.

Thank you for all of our blessings.

Amen

She could have totally kicked my ass….

October 8, 2012

I am not really sure why I feel absolutely compelled to write this post – right now. 

But I do.

So I will.

Maybe today one of my readers needs to hear this story – I am not sure – but I am going trust my gut and share.

This isn’t particularly easy for me – but I am going for it.

If you know me, you might not imagine that I was bullied in high school. I am pretty confident (okay, most of the time) and I am not afraid to stand my ground (pretty much ever). I’m not gorgeous or particularly hideous. In those days, I fit pretty much right smack dab into the middle of just about everything. Not too tall. Not too short. Not too fat. Certainly not too skinny. Not too geeky. Certainly not too cool.

In high school, I had plenty of friends and I had dates to just about every function – most of the time I had a boyfriend. I made good grades but wasn’t a total nerd. I owned at least one pair of Tiger shoes and a pair of Guess jeans. Had me a pair of Gloria Vanderbilts too. And at least 3 shirts donning that Lacoste gator. So I wasn’t necessarily setting trends but I wasn’t a fashion abomination. Continuously falling right smack in the middle.

Because I was President of the Student Government and an officer in several other clubs, I also had fantastic relationships with quite a few teachers – okay, maybe I was more nerdy than I realized. But, the point is – I didn’t ever have to walk down the hall alone – I wasn’t invisible to teachers. I knew lots of people and got along with most of them.

Except one girl.

I won’t share her real name – but she did not like me – not one little bit. (I guess I will call her Tasha – because that’s not really her name.)

Tasha hated me.

H.a.t.e.d. M.e.

I mean really hated me. Really, really.

Honestly, I didn’t really care so much if she hated me. Her impression of me wasn’t that important to me.

Remember – I was a pretty confident kid – I completely understood that her opinion of me did not define me. Just because she called me a bitch (or worse) every. single. time. she saw me walk down the hallway did not mean I was a bitch or worse. That was clear to me.

However, she could have totally kicked my ass. I was pretty afraid that one day she would realize her words didn’t work to hurt me and that she would turn to sticks and stones to try and break my bones.

It was painfully obvious to me that the only way to survive a fight with Tasha was to never get in a fight with Tasha.

She was in my face. A lot.

And I was scared of her. A lot.

But I would just walk down a different hallway. I didn’t come back at her with words and certainly never with actions.

My worst experience with her was one night at a party at the lake.

She found out I was there and came looking for me. Running up the hill with her friends, screaming, “Where is sheeee?”

Thank God I was in the bathroom with the door locked. (Teach your children to lock the bathroom door at a party.)

She pounded on the thin wooden door for what seemed like 15 minutes, daring me to come out.

Then begging me to come out.

There I stayed – behind that locked door – probably shaking – trying to guess what my best option was. Thinking what was the worst that could happen if I came out.

That was easy. She could have totally kicked my ass.

Totally.

So I figured my best plan was to leave. Quickly.

Apparently, Tasha didn’t like that little life-preserving decision of mine. Maybe she was tired of me turning away from her. I don’t really know.

But, she positioned herself in front of me – and in front of everyone else, she threw her drink on me. Right down the front of my shirt. The funny thing was I had borrowed that cute white sweater from a friend of mine. Who was also a friend of hers.

Of course, it was a red punch drink of one sort or another.

My theory remained in tact – the surest way to not get beaten up was to not get in a fight.

I headed to my car, ever grateful that I still had my keys with me.

Tasha headed to her car. If I remember right, it was a jeep. I could be wrong on that. But I think it was.

Two girls in my class drove jeeps – the homecoming queen and Tasha. Funny little Southern irony there.

Anyjeep.

I drove on the dark hilly road along that lake scared out of my mind. Not knowing where I was going. No cell phone. No GPS. Just sheer adrenaline and prayer. Lots of prayers.

Tasha followed me very closely. And it was my distinct impression that several times she tried to run me off the road.

Yes, you’re right. She was mean as hell.

Somehow, I made it out of the woods in one piece, without wrecking my car and without getting in a fight.

That night I went to bed in that red-stained sweater, still shaking. I never told one adult what happened. In fact, I never really talked about it with my friends – even those who were there.

Tasha’s need to spew her hate at me seemed to quiet down after that night. Maybe she scared herself too. Who knows but I enjoyed a little respite.

She didn’t say much more to me until we were rehearsing for graduation. I was asked to give the prayer for the graduating class.

Tasha was my motivation.

My prayer appeared focused on the global picture of war and hate but it was meant for her.

Stop hating. Stop scaring. Now, I was begging her.

She pretended to shoot me as I walked down the stairs from the stage.

Finally, I said something.

“Oh, I think you got me this time.”

I must have looked ridiculous clutching my chest and pretending to be shot. But I finally felt it. Enough already.

Several months later, a dear friend of mine invited me to join her in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. She went to Auburn and they were playing Alabama (my favorite team).

My only reservation in going was that I knew Tasha had moved to New Orleans. Yes, I was still worried enough about her that I almost didn’t go.

The friend who had invited me reassured me – it’s a huge town, thousands of people are going to be there to see the game, you’ll never see her. What are the chances?

You can probably guess what the chances were – 100%.

We were walking down the street and, towards us, came Tasha.

My heart tightened and I had to catch my breath.

She walked right up to me and gave me the biggest, hardest hug.

WTF?

“I thought you hated me,” was all I could muster.

“Oh, that was high school,” she said and laughed.

Now we are facebook friends and we have joked about how much she hated me. Now she’ll know just how much she scared me, too. I couldn’t bring myself to laugh about that.

To be fair to Tasha, she has since shared with me that she thought I was mean to her friend – I thought Tasha hated me because of a boy who called me when he was “going with” her. Tasha said that she was defending her friend and was furious when her friend stopped being mad at me. I guess Tasha just couldn’t let go. To be fair to me, I don’t ever remember not liking this other friend or being mean to her. If I was, I am sorry for that.

As I said, I am not sure why I am supposed to share this story but I feel that I am.

Maybe there are some important things here. I will share what I think they might be…

  • Being nice is always the best option.
  • If someone comes to you with a bulling story, please do not tell them that they simply need to toughen up. Help them. It is really hard to share these things – if they thought they could handle it on their own, they would have.
  • There are books that can help you talk to kids about bullying. If you aren’t sure where to start, look here at Dinner A Love Story.
  • If your child is a bully – it’s not cool – he’s not tough, stop him now. Or her. (Boys aren’t the only bullies.)
  • If you are modeling bullying behavior for your child, stop it now. You are not cool and you are not tough. But I think you know that.
  • If you are bullying your own children, you might be creating bullies. Get help so you can stop the cycle. And get them help too.
  • Scaring someone is not entertainment. Buy a movie ticket.
  • It’s not always obvious who will be bullied. Even those who appear strong can be victims because weakness is in the eye of the beholder. And the beholder can be a vulture waiting to strike when no one is looking.
  • Those who are bullied will not always tell that they are being bullied.
  • Even if they have multiple safety nets.
  • If you are being bullied, tell someone. Someone you trust, especially if you are scared.
  • Red drink stains will come out of a white sweater with 409 and it’s good to lock the bathroom door at a party.

Photography Class – Take One…..And Two…

October 4, 2012

Two weeks ago, I took a photography class with a good friend of mine (we’ll call her Sally – because that’s her name) at the Washington School of Photography (WSP). In fact, it was this class – the Digital SLR Camera Primer with Sam D’Amico. The class’s tag line is “how to get your camera off manual mode”.

It was a marvelouso introduction to the terms aperture, shutter speed, ISO, metering, and manual mode. The only thing you really need to know before you take this class is whether or not your camera is a DSLR camera (that and maybe how to turn it on). Sam shared a lot of information and broke it all down into layman’s terms so that even I understood (most of) it. I learned so much in those three hours that I felt incredibly smart and incredibly incompetent all at the same time. I learned just enough to screw up my pictures really good. 😉 Seriously though, I took the camera off manual mode and practiced with different settings. And felt comfortable doing that.

Sally and I were inspired to learn more. We felt like we kinda, sorta knew what we were doing but we didn’t always understand why.

So, we contacted Sam for some private lessons. We liked the idea of taking the class together but, after a lady thanked me in the first class for asking so many questions, we figured we I might dominate the session too much.

Very honestly, Sam was expensive. Please know that it’s not that we doubted that Sam would be amazing – it’s just that, short of a contract with National Geographic, we thought maybe we weren’t quite ready to invest so heavily in our training.

I found Kim Seidl. Her workshop info is here.

Amazing.

And yes, I did take that fabulous picture. tee hee

Kim reinforced all that Sam taught us. Sally and I both agreed that we were soooo glad we had taken an intro class first. Apparently, we both learn best by repetition. And that’s not to say we’re slow, mind you – there is just a boat load of info to learn.

And then I came home and took these pictures…in manual mode….with either lots of light

or not so much light….

and of course one of the pooch…

I am especially proud of the one of Pepper because the room was dark and she was moving. Up until yesterday, I would never have even bothered trying to get a picture of her playing. (And just in case you are wondering, that is my son’s arm. He wasn’t willing to donate his face to the Science of my photography.)

Before our session with Kim, part of me was still asking WHY I needed take ever take my camera off of program mode – if the camera is smart enough to figure out what the settings should be, then why not just let it?

Now I understand the answer to that question. In the picture of my daughter in front of the window – the camera would naturally gravitate toward the lightest part of the photo and make her face darker – now my settings certainly are not perfect – but they are focused on her face. Aperture allowed me to make the background blurry and focus on her. In automatic mode, my camera wanted to use the flash and that put too much light on her face.

Kim kept asking us – what is the most important thing in the picture you are about to take? (detail, stopping motion, blurring the background, etc)

Then she would say – now, tell the camera that.

When we were relying on program mode – we allowed the camera to determine what the most important thing is.

The other thing that I will enjoy learning about doing (correctly) is stopping motion.

Now – remember I am an amateur, but here is an example of what I mean. These two pictures were taken within seconds of each other. See how one captures the drops and the other captures the flow? By using manual mode, I was able to tell the camera what was important to me. If I had used program/auto mode, the camera would have decided.


Now, you can see that the lighting is different in both pictures – that was based on settings. The available light did not change.

And if you are still wondering why you should ever take your camera out of its bag, nevermind out of program mode, consider hiring Kim to take pictures for you. She is truly amazing!

Anypic, if you see me with my camera, run the other way. I’ll be taking lots of pictures! 😎

Places to hear authors speak in the DC Area….

October 3, 2012

by Ellen Weeren
@EllenWeeren/@AReasonToWrite

I just recently discovered these two things and I want to share them with you so we can all come out into the light.

Authors are speaking all over DC, and we’re invited.

Mark Athitakis

This well-known book critic publishes a calendar/guide of speakers throughout the DC area on his blog called American Fiction Notes.

Sixth & I Historic Synagogue
(This excerpt was taken directly from www.expressnightout.com)

Since Sixth & I was rededicated in 2004 (the building started out as a synagogue in 1908, then was an African Methodist Episcopal church for several decades, and is now a working synagogue again), it’s become one of D.C.’s hippest venues for indie rock concerts and big-name author appearances. Tina Fey’s sold-out reading and Q&A in April was the see-and-be-seen nerd event of spring, and the calendar promises an equally compelling fall. Some of Sixth & I’s programs are co-hosted by Politics and Prose, which doesn’t have nearly as much room. Expect a swarm when novelist Jeffrey Eugenides reads on Oct. 31. S.M.

Sixth and I Synagogue, 600 I St. NW,  202-408-3100 . (Gallery Place)

Connecting with Authors….

October 2, 2012

by Ellen Weeren
@EllenWeeren/@AReasonToWrite

In just the past few days, I have spoken with 4 well known authors. Shaken their hands, asked them questions. Gotten super inspired. And I now have signed books from all of them. Yea!

And just how did I do that, you might wonder. (If you don’t wonder that, stop reading now. 😎  )

Well, I attended a panel discussion at Fall for the Book at George Mason. The discussion was focused on the definition of literary fiction v. genre fiction and if it’s even important to make the distinction between two any longer. The answer was basically that it’s nearly impossible to define literary fiction or appropriately capture its essence. Outstanding writing will be discussed without prompting from scholars and its words will be devoured – no matter what you call it.

My own definition/measuring stick will be that if a college professor picks up The Alligator Purse and discusses it in her classroom or if a book club can’t stop talking about it, then I will consider it Literary Fiction. (She says crossing fingers that one day that will happen.)

These three fantastico authors were at Fall for the Book…

Alma Katsu  – Alma inspired me because she was first published after the age of 50. There’s still hope for me! 😎 And her writing has gripped me – here is the start of her novel The Taker:

“Luke Findley’s breath hangs in the air, nearly a solid thing shaped like a frozen wasp’s nest, wrung of all its oxygen.”

That is some fabulous prose.

Louis Bayard is very simply a tremendous writer and a professor at George Washington Univ.

I also love the opening of The School of Night:

“Against all odds, against my own wishes, this is a love story. And, it began, of all places, at Alonzo Wax’s funeral.”

Now, I am curious as to what is going on.

and then there was Julianna Baggott. The movie rights to her latest novel Pure have already been purchased. She writes across genres and audiences. And, she speaks in poetry. The way she expressed her thoughts was beautiful. I can only imagine the prose in her stories will be scrumptious.

This is what Julianne said on her own blog about the panel discussion. She asked if it was worth her time – she sold fewer than ten books and her child was sick while she was gone. To that I say, “Thank you for coming. When you signed my book, you wrote Best of Luck With Your Writing, Imagine Wildly.” I don’t know if inspiring me was worth missing her sick child. But I was inspired and so were many others.

Mark Athitakis was also on the panel. He is a book critic and manages a guide to DC area readings. You can find that here. I hope one day that he will review my book.

Yes, you are right. That is only three authors. The fourth was one of my absolute faves – John Shors. He wrote the magical historical fiction about the Taj Mahal called  Beneath a Marble Sky. And, if you’ve been following for a while here, you might remember this review. His new book is called Temple of a Thousand Faces and you can preorder it here.

John was kind enough to call our writers group and share his insights on writing. Why did he do that? Because he is awesomesauce – that, and we asked him to.

It is amazing to me just how approachable some authors are. They share a unique understanding of how challenging this writing journey is. And they are eager to see other authors succeed. They want to encourage and enlighten them/us/me.

So, if you are thinking that you really missed out on some great opportunities – have no fear – American University is hosting a visiting writers series and you can get inspiration from some amazing authors. You’ll find the calendar here.

Shorten that url……

September 19, 2012

by Ellen Weeren/@EllenWeeren

I just read a great article about twitter handles by Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson). Of course, I wanted to share it on Twitter. But the flippin’ url was a katrillion characters long. As you might know, Twitter only allows 140 characters. Even the new fuzzy math won’t allow you to squish a katrillion characters in to 140.

So …. I went to Google and they have this tool. It will shorted your url. Maybe that new fuzzy math will work after all. 😎

And, even though Facebook doesn’t require you to use shorter url’s, it is a nice thing to do there as well.