The Reverse Draft

Baseball season is afoot, and with it comes the hat of coaching that David so willingly picks up for his boys.  This year, Collin's league involves an evaluation of around 100 boys who, in a day or two, will be drafted on to a team.

David is meticulous about stats and has ranked in an extensive spreadsheet his evaluation notes and a calibrated top 100 from the first draft pick down to the last, mostly according to observed technical skill or personal knowledge of the player.

Yep, the subject of drafting players hangs heavy in this house.

So tonight I was chatting with my girlie chatterbox because in middle school, many small details and incidents must be hashed and rehashed before the day might officially end. 

She told me, after months of waiting, she finally was tapped to be team captain in PE, which meant she got the power position of drafting her team for dodgeball.   

Well, I said, who did you pick?  The super sporty 8th grade boy?  The cool hip 7th grader who hardly gives you the time of day, but might start liking you if you picked her first?  The older, cute girl who you want to impress? Who then, pray tell?

Her reply: Mom, I decided to go in reverse for once.  You know, to pick the ones who always come last.

A reverse draft?

Apparently so. After ceding the first pick to the other captain, she called up as a coveted top pick the sweet girl adopted from a foreign orphanage who, because of a slight disability, could only move slowly from here to there.  Not exactly the most competitive selection for a winning lineup.

Oh boy Mom, she was so excited.

Then she called the girl with Asperger's, who shouts out in class, never quite brushes all of her hair, and acts- shall we say- different.

We all stand together and wait, crying inside to be chosen.

After that came a series of non-sporty, quiet girls with braces.  

Apparently God blessed this selection, because they fared pretty well against all the jocks and popular coolkats who ended up on the other squad.

So I'm ending this long day pondering how a child can be taught many subjects and facts, but is she also learning lessons of kindness and love?  Can a hyper-sensitive middle school mind see beyond the staged and sometimes-thorny outer shell of a fellow teen and right into the prism-like beauty of that person's heart? 

Such unexpected love for others must certainly originate with the One who first ran the reverse draft.  You know, the heavenly team captain who, century after century, picked the rejected (Jesus), the prostitute (Rahab), the elderly (Abraham and Sarah), the runt of the litter (King David) as the All-Stars for His team.

And although I am pleased with her numerous 7th grade accomplishments, I am convinced that her memorable draft will go down as one of the most meaningful successes of all.


A Missive from an Introvert

I packed bulky bags and Christmas gifts in my white Camaro convertible to return to Vanderbilt about this time a whopping 23 years ago.  Carefully hung in the back seat were a myriad of cute outfits with square yellow post-its pinned to them.  In my sister's loopy writing, they spoke loud and clear:

"Wear this sweater with the suede skirt, concho earrings, boots" 

"Goes with long skirt but not with anything pleated" 

"Do NOT button to the top"

"Needs a long necklace"

"Pearls only"

These firm directives were meant to steer a well-known introvert (me) through Rush Week, a week that still plays on a tortuous loop in my head.

That week--it showcased how my conversations begin normal enough but careen and wobble into no-mans land in a way that well-accessorized, Texas-approved outfits and smooth bobbed hair cannot not cover.  

For instance, in the Theta house, a preppy, peppy rush chairman asked me about my hall mates.  "Well, I'm actually worried about that," I said.  "One girl seems like she's anorexic.  She will only eat pale green apples, and that's all!  She is wasting away. I've taken her to Kroger and all she will buy are those apples, or come home with nothing if they're out of stock. I'm concerned--what do you think I can do to help?" 


Then: "Okay, Kristin!  Let me introduce you to Mary-Martha! I think you both have Popovich for Survey of Western Art!  Sooooo nice to meet you, Kristin!  Remember you can Fly High with Theta!"

In spite of all the post-it notes and awkward chitchat, I was grateful to pledge Chi Omega,
 a sorority that spoke my love language with the slogan "GET REAL: Chi-O".   

Such is the awkward life of an introspective introvert.  I think if you polled a group of us (which would be like pulling teeth), you would find some common themes and opinions.  I'm going to put five of them out there for public consumption, if for nothing else but as therapy for this long-ago week when my social shortcomings took center stage.

Number One:  Inauthentic social situations are torture.  Rush rounds have given way to committee meetings and client dinners, so I live the same song, different dance in a world that favors small talk and light banter.  There is hardly anything I dislike more than a committee meeting, but setting that aside, I still find it very hard to even have superficial parking lot conversations at drop off.  (Truly, I switched preschools for one that involved loading children directly into my running vehicle.)  My difficulty exists primarily because I bump into people while my thought processes are fully engrossed in something that happened earlier that morning, last night, or even years ago, for Pete's sake.  I mull past conversations and interactions over in my mind, consider better responses, or even pray or dwelling on a scripture that won't leave my head.  Thus, when confronted with small talk, I usually can only come up with a blank stare or a stilted, pathetic response.  I've noticed that this introvert's ability to flip on the conversation light at will has diminished greatly with older age.

Number Two: Staying home sounds great.  I can just be myself at home, even though with six bunk mates and a dog, it's hard to say I'm ever quite alone.  My world feels more normal here, and the limits on required social interactions keep things on an even keel. I can think a thought to its natural and full conclusion (unless the toilet is overflowing or children are jousting over who gets the last cookie). Recently, I decided to pull off the introvert's version of going out and had three close friends come over for a girls night in.  We could lean back in comfy chairs, put our feet up on the coffee table, drink too much wine, and laugh obnoxiously loud rather than get dolled up, hire sitters, and sit around a crowded establishment semi-shouting across the table.  It was one of the most enjoyable moments of my Christmas vacation.  

Number Three:  Less talking is better.  While there's a lot rumbling through in introvert's head, the effort to get it all articulated through conversation looms large.  On high-word-count days, I sometimes run out of the will to talk, to be honest.  My kids can attest to those nights where I've held up my hands and said "Mom's out of words today", which is the BatSignal for a quick and quiet tuck in and goodnight.  They've accepted it as one of my (many) quirks, and I've accepted this big, extroverted, noise-loving brood as a clear indication that God's sense of humor is alive and well.

Number Four:  Less talking is better, unless more feels right.  Apparently I'm a contrarian in addition to an introvert, because there are rare days I can talk a blue streak, when all the thoughts and words come tumbling out.  I also really enjoy deeper conversations with a few dear friends that have been in my life for many years. I suppose this is in part because we can pick up a genuine line of conversation without any small talk, and also due to the fact that these kind folk have accepted me for who I am and know that despite my idiosyncrasies, I truly care about them.

Number Five:  Love us anyway.  One of the tough byproducts of being an introvert is the sense of isolation it brings.  I regularly am in groups of people I know and still felt very alone. Because of this, my relationship with Jesus has been an integral part of my life from a very young age.  Even when I feel solitude, I can honestly say that in the depth of my heart I know God is with me, loving me every moment of the day, social gaffes and all.  And the friends who persevere with loving me--including the mismatched outfits, blunders, and blank stares--they are quiet balms helping me through this noisy, rush-filled world. 


A Normal {for us} Christmas

I have one point of comparison--my own--to judge a right and good Christmas. 

It always involves a candlelight service on Christmas Eve and then a long night's stretch to find the loot I've accumulated for months in all my best hiding places.  After that, we assemble, assemble, assemble until the wee morning hours (2:30am this particular year).  

I don't know if it was the glass of wine or the extreme fatigue, but I was downright giddy when I fell into bed.

Moreover, despite my good intentions, I'm resigned to the fact that every year there will be a certain toy/candy/clothing that I find in the dark recesses of my closet 'roundabout March that shall remain ungifted.

So what makes a normal Christmas?  ("Normal? What does anyone in this family know about normal? We act normal, Mom! I want to BE normal!" -my girl Violet in the Incredibles

This beleaguered tree and the subsequent photos tell a lot about our current "normal" and how it played out this holiday season.

For instance, for their own protection, no gifts nestled there until after bedtime on the evening of December 24.  As we approached the holiday, there were a paltry amount of unbreakable ornaments hung from 40 inches down (Josh's wingspan), with the netting and ribbon ripped off and hastily put back on multiple times.  The mid-tier is occupied by homemade baubles while the upper reaches, untouchable except to the well-placed football spiral, play home to my irreplaceable Baccarat and Waterford ornaments.

"Normal" involves gifting a six-year-old with a long history of abrasions and accidents, who is on a first-name basis with the TMH stitches tech, with his very own pack of fireworks. 

(Oh yeah.)

"Normal" involves me reading this card as fra-jeely, thanks to too many late Eves with The Christmas Story blaring in the background as we assembled toys guided solely by a glass of wine and byzantine Chinese directions. 

"Normal" includes Mr. Moneybags (aka Collin) springing for everyone a gift from the WDW souvenir shop at Epcot, perhaps the most overpriced shopping venue on the planet.

"Normal" encompasses me giving my fra-jeely item from said gift shop to a two year old so that he'll stop fussing.

The person who worked so crazy hard to pay for the gifts?  Him getting his stocking down last? Well, I suppose, right or wrong, that is our current "normal."

Oh, and it is particularly "normal" for me to percolate Big Plans to stretch my meager cooking skills by making homemade cinnamon rolls, only to discover no baking powder in the cupboard come late night Dec 24.  Even Walmart was closed at this juncture.  After a crazy vinegar/baking soda substitution, I can only embrace this flukey Christmas morn deliciousness as the new norm.  

One absolute "normal" mainstay of Christmas is balls.  Not the pretty, fra-jeely, sparkling kind, but the synthetic rubber sort that can be kicked/hit/thrown to death until they lie deflated and moldy and hidden in a bushy area of our yard (only to be replaced by the ball fairies the next Christmas).

As the day wound down and we were stuffed silly with candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup, it only seemed "normal" to take a long walk with Kate Middleton in the woods.

And then to stop

and play games under the strangely creative and unpredictable direction of Dad-- "normal" games that, in a still frame of the camera lens, might seem rather odd.

Take it from the Head Elf---it was pretty darn funny.

Thirty seconds to spell out a word as a team?  Unfortunately our "normal" canine audience-of-one has very poor spelling skills and couldn't figure out any of the words.  However, she very much enjoys loud antics involving lots of laughing/snorting/other bodily noises from her littermates.

Christmas day ended with a seemingly "normal" moment as Mom's headline gift was run up the grand ole flagpole.  Texans will be Texans till the day they die, after all.  This normally somber and patriotic moment was made more jolly

by a dancing band of elves doing a cowboy jig and hollering yeehaws while eeking out a broken rendition of "The Eyes of Texas are Upon You" as best as these Florida-born buckaroos could.  

Hope you and yours had a very "normal" Christmas, too!


Lucky 13

My firstborn turns 13 tomorrow.  Many thoughts have cycled through my mind in anticipation of this teenager entering our midst.  Allow me to simplify them:

 I am grateful to even know this person.

 Innocence still exists.

She consists of equal parts brilliance and joy. 

She is 100% Madeleine, 100% of the time.  

 To know her is to love her.  

Happy Lucky 13 to my world changer. 


See you later, Gator. {I promise.}

This brilliant and complex man passed away on a calm Friday morning.  Josh and I walked in the room right when it happened.  It was shocking, but in retrospect seems appropriate, somehow, that he would breathe his last just as his youngest grandson- his legacy- breathlessly burst through that familiar door in search of some Granddaddy-time.

Life devastates you some mornings.

Then all of the sudden those you love grieve as son and husband become pallbearer and mourner.

The sadness sweeps in.

And in parting I say: Dr. Roberts, I loved you.  You could be frustrating at times and you held close to your own opinions, but you never, ever waivered in your support of me.   My fan club is small but you were active among them, rallying me in the difficult moments just as I was sinking.

You could see the end result when all I could see were the endless diapers.

You looked in your grandchildren's eyes and found what was fine and rare and worth praising when all I could look at was immature behavior, frustrating words, and messy faces.

Thank you for always reconciling with me when either of us got mad. (What was it that upset us again?)

Thank you for being tender and thoughtful in the times when I expected toughness.

Thank you most of all for raising the man I love.  Your best qualities shine brightly in him.

I am glad for that calm Friday morning when we came searching and discovered that peace had already found you.

Millard Mason Roberts 
December 18, 1930 - October 10, 2014