Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday Memory: The Baseball Years

My younger brother, Kasey, played baseball every year he was able. He started with T-ball, and graduated from high school as a captain of the varsity team. I'm sure he could fill several books and blogs with years and years worth of memories, but those are his stories to tell, and I'm sure I don't remember any of them accurately anyway.

What I do remember though are the years when it seemed that when Kasey played baseball, our whole family played baseball. When Kasey graduated from Pee-Wee to organized and sanctioned Little League, our baseball world got serious. There were actual try-outs and team drafts. There were uniforms that needed washed and pressed, and a concession stand schedule that needed filled. My dad spent a few of those years an as assistant coach, and my mom spent several years in charge of the concession stand.

(Kasey's first year in Little League. Wasn't he the cutest?) 

Our springtime evenings were filled with figuring out who was going home to do all the chores, and who was going to Kasey's game or practice. Crock-pot, or leftover dinners were quite common on busy nights. On game nights, especially if my mom was manning the concession stand, we'd all just eat dinner at the baseball field. Inevitably, someone would have flaked on their scheduled concession stand shift, so I'd get volunteered by my mom to work. I have a very specific memory of reading through college catalogs my senior year in between serving hotdogs and pumping squirts of bright orange nacho cheese on to handfulls of tortilla chips.

I also watched a lot of baseball during those years. I was always impressed that my brother was one of the few players who could bat both left- and right-handed. I got frustrated along with others in the stands when the kid who went through numerous hit-the-cutoff-man drills in practice, continually failed to do so in a game situation. I always knew enough about the players on my brother's teams to know when to expect a strike-out, and when to expect a line drive or a long ball.

Baseball was such a huge part of our family's springtimes, that even after Kasey graduated and went to college, my parents still went over to watch the games. I think it was just a part of their routine, and well, they probably missed it more that they cared to admit.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday Memory: Washington DC

When I was a senior in high school my family took a long anticipated, much prepared for trip to Washington DC. Typically, our family didn't take big and expensive vacations, usually we'd go camping or drive a day to visit family, so this big cross-country vacation was a really big deal for all of us. Once plane tickets had been purchased, we all dug into books and brochures to research all the things we wanted to see. (Remember, these were the days before Googling it.)

We all wanted to see certain monuments and memorials, such as the Abraham Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. We also wanted to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and tour Arlington National Cemetery. My parents knew this was likely a once-in-a-lifetime trip for all of us, so they let each of us kids select a place we wanted to go, and as a family, we would - no complaining allowed. I chose the National Gallery, a large art museum. Kasey chose the Air and Space Museum, and I can't remember what Jen chose. I remember liking the National Gallery well enough, but I remember thinking the Air and Space Museum was by far the better choice. I guess sometimes the 11-year old brother is alright.

After reading about the newly-opened Holocaust Memorial and Museum, my parents decided our family could handle it. Looking back, they did a really good job of preparing us for the museum, telling us it was a very serious and somber place, but also very important. It was definitely all of those things. I think it took us most of an afternoon to get through it and at the end we were all just emotionally and mentally exhausted. There was no talking, no joking, and no smiling that afternoon. There was a lot of reading and watching, and experiencing, and hopefully,  not forgetting. I think that exhibit did exactly what it was set up and designed to do.

One place we visited as almost an afterthought turned out to be one of my favorites. The National Archives is just a small building on the National Mall that doesn't seem all that grand and important from the outside. However, inside, we saw documents that literally changed the world. As a writer, I like to think occasionally I put something out that makes someone think or laugh or view something in a different light. The writers of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights were writing documents that set up a nation. Their words are recited by school children and debated in courts around the country even today. To see their words on crinkled parchment, pressed under light-protective glass, is a humbling, and almost holy experience.

If your family is contemplating a trip to our nation's capitol, I can't recommend it highly enough. I know we fully enjoyed our trip and hope in the future, when our girls are old enough to better understand, to go again.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Memory: I Was a High School Cheerleader

Yes, you read that correctly. I was a high school cheerleader.

Bookish, indie film loving, fashion uncaring me was a high school cheerleader.

And let this fact sink in: I LOVED IT!!!!

As a freshman, I started my high school career in a super-small school. I think there were 10 kids in my class, maybe 40 in the whole high school and we had a cheer squad of two. Yup, two of us proudly donned the green, black, and white and rooted for the basketball team. I doubt we were loud or very good, but we made up for it in enthusiasm.
(Freshman Shelle in my Griswold High School Grizzlies cheer uniform. I was drowning in that way too big sweater and quite dorky in my wire-rimmed glasses and frizzy hair. Despite those setbacks, I cheered as if every point depended on me spelling out correctly the words to B-E-A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E!)

Our family moved to a different school district that was considerably larger than our previous one. (Gasp! 40 kids in my class and nearly 200 in the whole school.) This school had actual perform-in-front-of-the-whole-school tryouts and mandatory pre-tryout practices. I went to a few of the practices, but just didn't feel like I fit in at all with the other girls, so I didn't try out.

Fast forward two years. I was still a dork, but not a complete dork. I'd made friends, even with some of the school's cheerleaders, and I learned they weren't all snobs. I knew the cheer advisor quite well and she pulled me aside after school one day and encouraged me to try out for the team. Well, I did, and I made the Varsity Cheer Squad for basketball.

Again, I loved it. I (clearly) had a lot to learn about make-up and hair, and it wasn't until college when I learned how to properly tame eyebrows, but I loved it. Being a part of a team whose sole job was to boost and encourage others was awesome. Don't get me wrong - we worked hard, sometimes really hard. We practiced dance routines and basket tosses until we were exhausted. We worked on jumps and cheers for hours on end. We painted signs and decorated lockers until our hands felt permanently stained red. But dang, we had a ton of fun.

We cheered at dozens of games (both the girls and boys basketball games) and cheered on our teams to district, regionals, and even state. We danced a half-time performance in the State Tournament and were in the running for the award of best cheer squad. We didn't come home from the tournament with that particular trophy, but I assure you, it wasn't from lack of effort or enthusiasm.

(Side note: I also learned some important life skills while cheerleading, notably, dealing with difficult people and staying cool when surrounded by drama. (There are some cliches that are totally true, a group of high school girls creating drama is certainly one of them.) In college and beyond, I attended several leadership courses and none of them taught me more about dealing with people than one season on the cheer squad.)

Cheerleading today is often described as too sexy, with girls wearing uniforms that are suggestive and too revealing. I don't disagree with those accusations. I know that's not what our squad was about (as evidenced by pictures), and hope one day if Lana wants to be a cheerleader, her cheer advisor and team is just as old-school as mine was.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday Memory: Baby Sister

Our house is preparing for the arrival of girl #2 in late December. Lana will be four-and-a-half when the baby arrives and so far she is nothing but thrilled at the prospect of having a baby sister. She's so cute and excited and I think she believes this baby will be a real-life baby doll for her to play with.

Sorry Lana, if history is any indicator at all, you are about to be disappointed.

I speak from personal experience. In the summer of 1982 my parents were preparing for a new baby. I was 3 years old and I knew a new baby would be coming to our house. My mom talked to me a lot about how I needed to be her big helper once the baby came and that I would be the big sister and get to teach my little sister all the things she would need to know. My visiting grandmother also filled me with stories about how fun it would be to have a sister to play with. I was an only child and don't remember having any close neighbors with children, so the idea of a live-in friend to play with was rather attractive.

When an eight pound dark-headed pink bundle arrived, I just didn't understand everyone's excitement. This baby was supposed to be sweet and cute and all she did was sleep and cry. I was supposed to be the big helper, but I was not allowed to even touch her without my mother's permission. This baby was supposed to be my best friend and playtime companion, instead she was a lump who couldn't pass a ball, play dollies, or sing songs. She was most certainly not what I had been led to believe she'd be. 

Of course babies grow, and big sisters learn to adjust their expectations. But even now, all these 30+ years later, I distinctly remember being disappointed with my baby sister. I think we'll need to have some extra talks with Lana to lower her expectations, and encourage her to be patient and know that her baby sister will one day indeed be a fun friend to play with, just not at first.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Where did August go?

Some how, some way, August flew by and left us and now it is September. I was certain we'd simply skipped the month all together until I looked back at all the photographic evidence to the contrary. I think the month flew by because it was so packed.

Wheat harvest started and was in full swing. Lana got to ride in the truck with Daddy and the combine with Uncle Dwayne. Of course she needed to dance in the stubble.

Lana ran (rode) the Lentil Festival 5k with me. It was slow going, but a lot of fun.

Of course we got in lots of puppy time.

And we found out our coming-in-December baby is a girl. No one was more excited than Lana, after all, for her, a baby sister is simply a real-life baby doll.

One weekend while Dan was working, Lana and I traveled to Boise to visit my cousin, Cody, While touring the Boise farmer's market, Lana somehow charmed a large-scale painter into handing over his paint brush. Brave man and a talented painted. One of his prints came home with us.

Cousin Cody even hooked Lana up with a new best friend for the day. These two blondies bonded immediately and were so cute together.

While we were there, Lana even got her first haircut!

Another Boise highlight was our day at the Boise Zoo. It was a surprisingly great zoo and perfect for little kids.

Lana has been slightly obsessed with convertibles lately, so a ride with cousin Cody was a requirement.

Then when we got back home, we had to get to work. I canned our garden's bounty.....

....and Lana played with the puppies,

and splashed in the kiddie pool.

Yup, I guess that's where August went. Here's hoping September can slow down a bit.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Monday Memory: Kids at Christmas and Lost Memories

I had the privilege of spending last weekend with my cousin, Cody. He's only a couple years younger than me and we can easily recall fun and crazy cousin adventures we had when we were kids. He surprised me with this picture and asked if I could remember anything about it. Unfortunately, other than what we could derive from the surroundings, neither he nor I could recall anything. This photo was snapped at my Grandma Carol's house at Christmas time - that much we know. But even Grandma Carol couldn't tell us any more than that. Gauging by our ages, this picture may have been from the Christmas of the Surprise Santa Clause. But I don't know for sure.
I also don't know if cousin Cody, sister Jen, and I are screaming, laughing, or perhaps singing. I don't know why we're dressed up and I don't know what Cody and Jen are looking at. But dang, this old photograph is just too great not to include in this series.

The fact that I can't remember what this picture is all about really got me thinking. All of us have experienced events, witnessed scenes, and felt emotions that at the time were invigorating, terrifying, or even awe-inspiring. And all of us, despite thinking we won't, have forgotten some of them. I started this Monday Memory series as a weekly gift to my mother. Her memories of all my childhood events (and most things really) were cruelly stolen from her over two years ago. But now she likes to hear us talk about our past misadventures. She likes going through old photographs and reading these posts. But I have to accept that no matter how many conversations we have, or how many thousands of words I write, she will only ever be getting my version of these memories. I don't know how she was feeling or what she was thinking and I simply cannot give her any memory that is unique and true to her. But I can keep giving her these posts as an attempt to make her feel connected to the memories she's lost.

A wonderful and unexpected side effect of posting memories (or in this case, a non-memory) from the past it that now they are written down and chronicled somewhere. The year isn't even over yet, and I'm enjoying pursuing and laughing at posts from months ago. One day when I am old and my memory is fading, I will have a years worth of memories to keep me anchored. One day, if they're so inclined, Lana and her little sister can laugh at their mom's silly childhood stories and awkward adolescent pictures.

A sudden illness took my mother's memories in a near instant, but in truth, we're all losing memories everyday. I know I can't stop that inevitable erosion completely, but through one memory per week, I can at least slow it down.