Friday, June 18, 2010

Put Me In Coach - I'm Ready To Play

Brad hates playing center field.  On his Little League team, the Nationals, all the action happens in the infield.  There is very little ball-hitting, on any of the teams.  The kids strike out swinging, sometimes, or get walked.  Once on base, the runs are all scored by taking advantage of errors.  For a game that requires so much catching, there is precious little catching going on.  It’s mostly picking the ball up off the ground, after chasing it across the infield.  So a typical play goes like this:  pitcher pitches, batter swings and misses, catcher misses also.  While the catcher is scrabbling on his hand and knees to get the ball, the player on first steals second.  The catcher finally gets the ball, throws it towards second to get the runner out, but the ball goes through the second baseman’s legs, and the runner steals third.  This can be repeated as many times as necessary until the runner, who probably got walked on base in the first place, steals home.  Ryan calls this “slop ball.”  It is exceedingly painful to watch, especially if you like baseball.

Since the ball reaches the outfield approximately once per game, Brad considers playing centerfield a punishment.  First base is his preferred position – but I bet it is for most of the boys.  Being relegated to center makes him reluctant to go to his games.

Tonight the Nationals were playing the Rays.  Brad was playing deep center, and by “playing” I mean crouching down, shifting his weight from foot to foot while the other team’s score inches up.  The third inning is a bloodbath – the score is one to five, then one to six, then one to seven.  The ball wasn’t hit a single time.  It’s one to eight, two outs, runners on all the bases, the pitcher seems to have completely forgotten where home plate is, and I’m just dying, waiting for it to end.  Out of nowhere, the batter hits a pop fly – a gorgeous, perfect arc, straight to center field.  I don’t even have time to pray as Brad runs for the ball.  I can’t see him through the infield players, but he’s on the ground.  His hand shoots straight into the air – he’s holding the ball.

The entire field erupts.  Both teams - players, parents, and coaches - are cheering.  The other coach tells our coach how beautiful that play was.  A parent loves how he thrust the ball in the air, as if even Brad was surprised that he caught it.  It was perfection, that play.  It looked like real baseball.

As the team came into the dugout, Brad is smiling, but he’s trying to play it modest – everyone is congratulating him.  I’m trying not to cry.  Is there anything more wonderful than seeing your child succeed?  This person that I created, I love him so much that I feel as happy as if I caught the winning ball myself.

Well, it wasn’t the winning ball.  The Rays ratcheted the score upward – it was two to thirteen when we go up for our last time at bat.  The coach says, “Eleven to tie, twelve to win.  We’ve got them right where we want them.”  The Nationals did their best – Brad scored a run (on a walk and three steals) but the final score was still eight to thirteen.  Someone from the League was at the game, and he presented Brad with the game ball.  Brad practically floated to the car - parents high-fived Brad and kids called out “good job” to him.  The only thing missing was the team hoisting him on their shoulders or dousing him with a cooler of Gatorade.

“I can’t wait till Tuesday!” Brad sings.  “It’s my next game!  And I can’t wait to play center field!”

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Spoiler Alert

Is there a statute of limitations on spoilers?  After a certain amount of time, is it okay to openly discuss endings of popular tv shows, books, movies?  Am I allowed to announce "Bruce Willis was dead the whole time?"  (If you don't know what that refers to, I won't say, since it would obviously spoil it.  Whatever it is.)

I'm thinking right now about Harry Potter.  I decided to reread the 7th book (okay, relisten, actually) for my class next semester.  We could pick any HP book, and the Deathly Hallows is the only one I've only read once.  I knew how it ended, knew who died and who lived, so I wasn't in for any surprises.  The surprise ended up being just how emotional I got about a book I've read before.  I was listening while grocery shopping on Friday and Dobby died just as I got to the dairy aisle.  There I was, tossing Yoplait into my cart, with tears dripping down my face.  I tried to be surreptitious about it, holding back the full-on sobs and dabbing at my eyes and nose, trying to prevent the mascara streaks that are a dead giveaway of public crying.  I'm evaluating the price of pork chops while Harry is digging Dobby's grave with his own hands - it was all I could do not to just head to the checkout.  What's the point of living, if Dobby's dead?  But no, Harry was tougher than that and I could be, too.  I did throw in a bag of Donettes, to ease the pain a little.

My first instinct when I got home was to share my pain, or at least, the spectacle I made of myself.  I mean, who cries in the grocery store?  That's funny, right?  (Actually, this wouldn't be my first grocery store crying incident - I also cried in Wal-Mart while waiting for an anti-nausea prescription to be filled.  Ah, pregnancy.  Please let me do THAT again.)  So I tried to phrase the scene for Facebook:

Emily Mudgett Simmons broke down in the dairy aisle today, listening to Harry Potter.  Not Dobby!  Take me instead!

And then I realized that I couldn't post that without a spoiler alert, which would, of course, ruin the flow and pacing of my carefully crafted status.  Then I thought, wait a second - who hasn't read the final Harry Potter book that actually intends to do so?  The only people that haven't read it either a) aren't readers, b) don't care for fantasy/YA books in general, or c) are one of those people that are avoiding reading HP because the books are "too popular" or have "too much hype."  I suppose there are people who were too young to have read this book when it came out three years ago, but I'm not friends with many nine-year-olds on Facebook.  Or people that have only recently moved here from another country and are learning English by reading great literature - those would be the only people for whom I'd feel bad about ruining the ending.  The people in a) and b) won't care if it's ruined.  And I almost WANT to ruin for the people in group c) because I take it personally when someone refuses to read one of my favorite books for what I consider to be a not very good reason.  (I don't know why this is, why HP turns me into a raving, judgmental lunatic.)  In the end, though, I am so conditioned against spoilers that I couldn't do it.  I had to let that status go.

So what do you think is the statute of limitations on spoilers?  Is it too soon to talk about Harry Potter?  And does anyone else cry in the grocery store?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Workin' It

Used to be, I would have a crummy day, or the kids would do something atrocious, or I'd do something embarrassing, and I'd throw open my laptop and pour my frustrations and angst and whatnot onto the pages of my blog.  If I could spin it and turn it into something to laugh about, I loved it and was happy.  If I couldn't make it funny, I'd at least have gotten my thoughts out there, and I'd be relieved.  In either case, I could count on at least a few people to read it and tell me I'm okay/I'm funny/I'll survive.  Writing was an outlet, the relief valve that I could turn and let off my stress, my concerns, my thoughts.

Used to be, I'd come up with a topic to write about - in the shower, while driving, during a particularly boring talk in church - and I'd positively skip to my computer to let the inspiration pour from my mind, through my fingers, all over the keyboard.  I'd walk away from an experience like this spent but elated.  Writing at those times was fun and fulfilling - it was what I imagined writing was supposed to feel like.

It's not feeling that way anymore.  I think I'm killing writing.

Lately, writing itself has been kind of stressful.  I know it's this class I'm taking - the professor's goal is to get us writing not just well, but in prodigious amounts.  Plus, everyone writes about these serious, dark topics which give their essays an emotional punch even if it isn't well written.  Curse my luck for having a pleasant childhood!  I have two and a half weeks left and I still have another 10-12 page essay to write, along with revising the two I've already written.  Anytime I'm not writing (which, as a mother of four, is frequently) the pressing weight of my writing obligation is smashing down on my chest.

I know what the problem is:  I've turned my hobby into my job.

I told Ryan this tonight and he laughed out loud.  "Welcome to the club!" he said.  Ryan learned Flash animation as a hobby, something to do in the evenings while I read.  Now, of course, it's his full-time job and he's once again hobby-less.  Granted, he gets paid decently to do his work/hobby so he's not complaining, but he's back to staring at me forlornly if I want to spend an evening on the couch with a book.

What used to be a creative outlet is now a requirement.  I've got a boss and co-workers and deadlines and a never-ending performance review.  I'm not saying I want to give up writing or anything, and I recognize that it's hard right now because I'm learning and (hopefully) improving.  Theoretically it will get easier and my writing will get better.  But for right now, my stress-relieving crutch isn't working, and I'm walking around like a gimp.

So I'm searching for a new hobby, or maybe a revival of an old hobby.  Something creative.  Something tactile.  Something that I can do for an hour and then look at the thing I've produced and be proud of it.  I'll take suggestions if you have any.  And any ideas for a 10-12 page essay, preferably something about a tortured childhood, let me know.  I'll split my paycheck with you.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Summer Reading List

I got my reading list for the Adolescent Lit class I'm taking during the second half of the summer.  I have to read a different book for every class period (3x per week) but most of the books look good so I'm not unhappy.  In fact, I like having a stack of books just waiting to be read.

Go Ask Alice- Sparks
Walk Two Moons – Creech
Out of the Dust – Hesse
Nightjohn – Paulson
Watsons Go to Birmingham – Curtis
Fahrenheit 451 – Bradbury
Graveyard Book – Gaiman
any Harry Potter book
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World – Armstrong
Hitler Youth – Bartoletti
Touching Spirit Bear – Michaelsen
Breathing Underwater – Flinn
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes – Crutcher
Stuck in Neutral – Trueman
American Born Chinese – Yang
Higher Power of Lucky- Patron
Seedfolk – Fleishman
Rules – Lord
Catcher in the Rye – Salinger
Forever – Blume

I've read 7 of these books before.  I decided to start with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (since it's easily the longest book on the list) and I'm loving it.  What a great book series!  Fahrenheit 451 is another I'm looking forward to re-reading.  And the third Hunger Games book comes out in August, which I will definitely make time for.   I'm least excited about Forever by Judy Blume.  I read it in middle school, where it was known for having the "good" scenes dog-eared for easy reference.  And by "good" I mean "inappropriate for a twelve-year-old."

How about you?  What are you planning on reading this summer?  Have any fond (or not so fond) memories of any of the books on the list?