Lacrosse

lacrosse

I’ve tried my hardest not to be a “sports parent.” I don’t have any belief that my children are spectacular athletes. I do, however, want them to be active and enjoy competition. So, once they were old enough to run around and (mostly) listen to instructions, we put them in a soccer league. That worked out ok for the most part for one of my children but the other one…. kinda hated it. We tried cheerleading next and again, one of my children enjoyed it and the other one was pretty unhappy. So, when it came time to figure out another extracurricular activity, I would throw out suggestions and she would shoot down each one. Ok, I said, it doesn’t have to be sports, what about learning to play a music instrument? No, absolutely not. I was starting to reach the end of my rope when out of the blue she came to me and said, “I want to play lacrosse.”

I don’t know where lacrosse came from, it’s not a sport I watch on TV or go to see, but apparently Erin played it at elementary school at PE and liked it. At this point, I was willing to try anything as long as she would not be miserable. We played a short season in our church league and she enjoyed it enough that we decided to step it up a little bit and put her in a competitive youth league.

What a step up it was. It turns out the team that Erin joined was a team of ringers. Most of the girls had years of experience playing and not only that, but experience playing with each other. So, poor Erin was put in pretty deep waters and asked to swim. She was still learning basic skills while playing on a team that was running up the score on hapless opponents. It was hard, but maybe it was good for her to do something hard. Fortunately, she had a coaching staff that was relentlessly encouraging and pushed her to do her best and halfway through the season she scored her first goal, a big achievement that she worked hard to get. I was proud of Erin, because she’s really struggled with trying new things and getting frustrated when she is not instantly an expert at it and this was a real challenge of her and while she struggled in the season, she had a tangible accomplishment like a goal to show for it.

At the end of the season, we asked her “Do you want to do this again next season?” and after thinking for a moment, she nodded. Given how much she complained about soccer and cheerleading, that was a far more positive response. So, here we are, about to do all this again in a fall league. It is supposedly not quite as hardcore and competitive in the fall and since many of her teammates are moving up to the next age level, she’ll be one of the more experienced players. With Grace starting up cheerleading again for another football season, we’re about to start the craziness of fall again.

The Last Day of Summer

PHINEAS AND FERB

An altogether too short summer ended today. School starts much earlier now than when I was a child. I remember going back to school the week before Labor Day but now it is the first week of August. August is my least favorite month of the year. It seems to drag on forever. It is hot. Football is still a month away (no, preseason NFL most definitely does not count) and yet we are out sweating every evening at cheerleading practice. Now we get to add to all of the hassle of signing forms, remembering to pick art supplies, homework, and all the other fun of school. At least we’re not trying to plan a trip to London on top of everything else this time around. That nearly broke me.

We didn’t do very much this summer which is fine. We enjoyed being lazy for a little while. We sent the girls off to each grandparents’ house for a week and did a little bit of housecleaning and date night dinners. We did a family trip to Myrtle Beach. I shamelessly played a lot of video games with the girls. We laid around on the couches a lot because we could. Now it’s time to get back on the merry-go-round and everything is going to revert to spinning out of control again.

Also poignant at the end of this summer was the end of one of our favorite tv shows. I had to endure a lot of awful childrens’ shows to placate the children when they were younger, but Phineas and Ferb was always a delight to watch. I’ve sung the praises of My Little Pony before, but Phineas and Ferb is on another level with humor, clever plots, and slapstick gags that make me guffaw as much as it entertains the girls. I loved the relentless optimism of the kids and the comedic violence reminded me of Looney Tunes episodes with maybe just a little bit of a gentler touch. The series aired the last episode this summer with the children returning to school. While the final episode was bittersweet, I can’t help feel like the co-creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh picked a good time to go out before the show become too creatively stale. (Hopefully, they will be returning with a new series in a couple years and I hope it is half as funny as Phineas and Ferb.) The series has left a pretty massive body of work. The girls and I started a marathon at the beginning of the summer watching every episode and we still have a way to go before finishing.

The last episode, though, was a tangible reminder that time continues to march on and on despite whatever we do to slow it down. My friend Sam remarked that when he started the series with his oldest daughter, she was a little older than a toddler and now at the end she is only a couple years short of middle school. I am reminded that this is a tangible end to an era in our children’s childhood and even an end to a little bit of re-living our own childhood.

So here we are in August. Autumn is approaching but I am going to have to grin and bear it through August first. I don’t want to rush the month too fast however as this summer has once again reminded me that the time with our children is all too limited and ebbing away.

On Losing Heroes

I don’t want to go into all the lurid details, but within just the last month I’ve had more than person that I’ve looked up to been exposed for infidelity. People that I’ve respected that spoke strongly about the bonds of marriage have been exposed as liars. In my 20’s, I think this would have sent me into a bit of an existential crisis, but now that I’m in my (nearly) 40’s I don’t know what to do other than shrug. Maybe I’ve been around too long and seen too much of the human condition.

It’s been a very rough month to have heroes. I’m not one to idolize people, but I do like to draw characteristics from various people to emulate and it also helps my cynicism that maybe not everyone is a horrible person. Yet, the pattern seems the same for people around me. The idealistic twenties descend into the depressing thirties,forties, and even fifties and whatever standards existed are bent, eluded, and eventually broken in our weaker moments.

I think about my children and now that they have started becoming more aware of the world around them, I am still one of their biggest heroes. At least for now, daddy can do no wrong and that is a terrifying thought that someday that won’t be true. I’ve tried my best to be honest and answer “I don’t know” to questions that I don’t know (and I get a lot of questions, so I say “I don’t know” a lot.) but I fear one day I will exposed as a fraud, too. I’m going to fight as hard as I can to keep that from happening.

All of these thoughts come bubbling to my head on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. The disciples’ hero was dead and gone. What was there worth living for? It feels much the same as this dark time in my life and I am quietly waiting for the sun to rise when our hero, our Savior will make all things right.

Moments in the spaces

Adriene at the Biltmore

This past weekend, our 12th anniversary, where my wife and I were together for the whole weekend without children for the first time in over a year, a madman went into a school and killed 20 children. These children were the same age as Erin and Grace and they were now dead. My Facebook feed yelled at me to “hug your children extra tight tonight!” That was a nice sentiment except that my children were over 200 miles away at their grandparents, safe, happy, and completely oblivious to the horror. I felt awful for those parents in Connecticut and I felt awful that I was enjoying myself away from my children.

I’ve been working hard this year to live in the present, avoiding nostalgia and avoiding longing for better times in the future. I guess it can apply to location as well. I am learning to be happy where I am and not where I am not. Last week I went to a concert in Rome, GA by Future of Forestry and singer/songwriter Eric Owyoung talked about how much he loved performing Christmas songs during this season and how in his versions he left “spaces” in the music allowing time for reflection in a busy time with busy songs. I can’t help but think this past weekend was one of the “spaces” in my life where we were afforded a rest and a break.

I don’t have anything smart to say about gun control, or mental illness, or really anything about the whole matter other than I hope we will learn in the coming week good ways to help contribute to worthy causes and pray a lot. Otherwise, all I could do this weekend was be the best husband and best father I could be and part of that was enjoying the rare moment away from my children as much as I could. So, Adriene and I toured the Biltmore House and were amused by quirky downtown Asheville. Hipsters in tacky Christmas sweaters, random hippies playing in drum circles, Sufjan’s Christmas music playing in a toy store, Asheville amused me so much in how almost predictable it’s quirkiness was. We ate great food and brought home bottles of wine and we enjoyed not having to say “sit down” 50 times during dinner and paying for kid’s meals at restaurants that would go only 1/4th eaten. We didn’t have to go through the long wind-down of bedtime and we slept in as late as we wanted.

And when we got home we hugged our children as hard as we could.

Cornerstone Festival 2012 – Saturday

vikingship-zoomed

In the post-processing Cornerstone phase. Sorting out all of my media (pictures, videos, music, etc.) and my thoughts. I’m reposting my blog posts from the Cornerstone Festival blog for archival purposes.

Saturday was upon us and it was finally time to say our final goodbyes. Up until today I think many people had been putting it off, enjoying the festival and pretending nothing was going to change. Today however was time to confront reality and it made emotions heightened even more than the normal “last day of Cornerstone” state. We started off the morning going to the church service at the Chelsea Gallery stage. It takes something pretty monumental to get our group stirred and out to the grounds before noon and I’d say this counts. Glenn Kaiser led the crowd in worship and then John Herrin spoke briefly thanking everyone for the years and years of good memories and hard work by everyone at the festival. Current co-organizers Scott Stanhke and Genesis Winter also took a few brief moments to thank the staff and everyone for coming this year when the band list was slashed and the stages reduced. John Thompson shared a little of his many years at the festival and then opened the floor for people to tell their stories about Cornerstone. I’m sure it only scratched the surface of the myriad of stories but people who had been attending the festival for 20-25 years told their stories as well as people who had only come for a year or two. We heard many stories of misfits, people who didn’t feel they fit in feel a sense of belonging at the festival. We heard stories of people meeting their life partners, recovering from loss, and finding Jesus after rejection from mainstream churches. Finally, they closed down the afternoon with a communion service and we all joined together for the last time to break bread and drink together.

After a short break, it was back to the music one last time. Lauren Mann and The Fairly Odd Folk started off an incredibly strong lineup on the Chelsea Gallery Stage. After their debut last year the band came back this year with even more confidence and a fuller sound. They didn’t have as much success getting people up and dancing such as at the Mike Mains and The Branches show last night probably due to the stifling heat, but I would think this kind of music would also be fun to dance to. Following them, Timbre had flown out from Russia just to be at Cornerstone for her show. Traveling for 24 hours, she sounded a little slap happy but it didn’t affect her meticulous and beautiful harp playing. She remarked that we were one of the biggest crowds she plays for every year and I couldn’t help but wonder how many other artists would say the same exact thing.

Kye Kye started the evening off with some nice trippy music. Looking at the liner notes in their CD, I was impressed with how much thought they had given to their lyrics. I’ve seen bands have scriptural references for songs before, but they had scripture references for nearly every line of each song. Josh Garrels played next and he has become such a beloved institution at Cornerstone. His song “Ulysses” from his newest album gets me every time. “So tie me to the mast of this old ship and point me home/Before I lose the one I love, before my chance is gone.” I wish I could have stayed for his entire show because it was incredible, but I had to skip out to see the moment of the festival.

Word has started to spread around the festival that there would be a Viking Funeral performed at the beach for Cornerstone Festival. As in old Norse tradition, they would set a longboat out to water and then shoot a flaming arrow at it, lighting it on fire and letting it burn (hopefully, this one without an actual body in it.) Standing on the beach, I waited for a little bit before a procession of motorcycles roared over the hill and behind it a group of kids carrying the boat singing “Amazing Grace.” As they set it out on the lake two older ladies had a conversation behind me. “It doesn’t seem a very Christian thing to do.” “Well, neither are Christmas Trees but we do that, too.” Good point. Once the boat was lit on fire it was a nice, emotional moment. Well, at least until the kids started singing “Na na na na, na na na na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye.” Like all things Cornerstone it was bizarre, only sort-of planned out, but most of all memorable.

I climbed back up the hill to the Gallery tent one last time. Thank goodness the heat was finally starting to break or I probably would have died. If there was the old Main Stage this year would we have made it through the week without heat exhaustion? Probably not. Anyways, I arrived in time to catch most of The Farewell Drifters set and they sounded great. I loved their cover of Paul Simon’s “The Only Living Boy In New York” and they even brought John and Michelle Thompson on the stage for a rollicking little song. After that, while Norma Jean was in the process of destroying the Underground Stage the band that played on the first slot of the first day of the first Cornerstone Festival closed out the last night. The Choir played their entire _Chase The Kangaroo_ album from beginning to end to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the album. There was even someone that was dressed up as a Kangaroo that jumped on stage and danced during the title song forcing the band to keep straight face and finish the song. The four-piece band sounded as good as they ever have debuting a couple new songs and treating us to one last growling, noisy, ambling version of “Circle Slide.”

When the Choir finished appropriately with “To Bid Farewell” that was that. Cornerstone Festival was officially finished (at least for now) for good. I probably speak for a lot of people, but I didn’t get very emotional at the end because I was so worn out. I was honestly numb when it all ended. I think the flood of emotions will start pouring out during the next week when I’m at home unpacking and starting to realize there will be no more need to pack again. I’ll be listening to new CD’s and realizing there will be no flood of new CD’s again. That’s when it’s going to hit hard that this era of life is over.

When one era ends, hopefully another springs up and none of us know what’s next but whatever it is I wish the best to Jesus People USA. They are one of the most astonishing groups of people I know with their skill of pulling everything off skillfully while it all somehow appears like it was planned on the back of a napkin. Most of all, they’ve done this festival with the right motives and the right heart towards the artists and those that attend the festival. They get art and faith and I hope that part of Cornerstone continues on even if the festival ends. Thanks to the web team for all of their hard work getting video and photos uploaded and even supporting an infrastructure for a website in the middle of nowhere. Thanks for allowing me to have a voice and a small part in this event that I hope people look back fondly for decades and say, “Man, do you remember at Cornerstone when…..”