30 June 2007

Wherever You Go, There You Are.

I started this essay at the time of year when people were buying neckties and fishing poles for their dads. I got my dad a gift certificate. He's not much into ties or fishing poles, and the t-shirt thing has been done to death.

Daddy is notoriously thrifty. That's the polite way to put it. He puts it like this; I'm tighter than a crab's ass. And that's waterproof.  He never fails to amuse himself. I got an email from him this morning that I assume was a thank you for the gift card. It said,

Things your parents failed to tell you #47: A $2.00 card is cheaper than a $30 gift certificate.

I am and shall remain,
Yu Ben Phartine

He sometimes signs off as Ben Dover or adds "Esquire" to his name. For years I believed he'd belonged to a fraternity called I Phelta Thi.

My dad is a typical dad in a lot of ways. He is the king of scatological humor. I mean, this goes way beyond Pull My Finger or firing a pretend fart gun. My dad's fart gun had a pretend holster. He'd load it with a couple of rounds, click off the safety, take careful aim over the opposite forearm, and fire the appropriate number of bursts. According to how many rounds he had loaded. Police Academy training, right there. If my dad said, I think I feel a song coming on, you'd better duck and cover.

My dad would do a bad version of Steve Martin's Wild and Crazy Guy routine, trying to get a laugh out of Mom. If he was feeling especially romantic, he'd dance up behind her while she was doing dishes, singing I'm in the nude, for loooove ... simply because you're near me… He looked like he was trying to waltz and do The Robot simultaneously.

Daddy would play checkers or crazy eights with us when we were kids. For money. We didn't really get allowance, so our money was pretty much amassed from the washer and under the couch cushions. I have never beat my dad at checkers. He'd collect his winnings with Mom admonishing him, "Michael, don't you dare take their money! They're kids, you don't need their money! For Pete's sake!"

Daddy would shrug, That's why it's called "gambling". Is there a second chance in the real world? He’d turn to us, Did I force you to bet your money? Your mother thinks I'm taking your money unfairly. Did you make a bet fair and square?  We had, of course. If they're gonna gamble, they'd better be sure they can live with the consequences, he'd finish, scraping up our paltry collection of coins.

We didn't realize he was teaching us anything at the time.

My dad is known in our family for dispensing Pearls of Wisdom. Some of his oft-used sentiments are well-known gems, like you know what Assume does, don't you? Makes and ASS out of U and ME.  Others are his own special brand. He doesn't sugar coat anything. After all, if you roll a turd in sugar, it's still a piece of shit. You never knew when Pearls of Wisdom were going to fall from Daddy's mouth. It was pretty much a daily thing.

My dad was not impressed by excuses. There was a Pearl for that. Whenever we got in trouble, we'd offer up our excuses like currency, and invariably the words, "But I thought ..." would come out of our mouths. You thought? Doesn't look like you thought. You know what Thought did, don't you? Thought he had to fart and shit his pants.

Well. There you have it.

We were also encouraged to keep your nose clean. And we knew good and well that when your mother's happy, everybody's happy. We also knew that everybody deserves a fair shake, and that wherever you go, there you are. We were glad we listened when he advised, don't eat any yellow snow.  Above all, we learned not be slackers and that if you do a half-assed job, you'll do it over until you get it right.  We learned it was better to just do it right the first time.

My dad was not one for kisses or I love yous when we were kids. He believed in showing love, not saying it. He still believes that. He has been showing us since the day he met my mom. I can't say he's taken care of us since before I was born, because he didn't know any of us existed at that time. My dad was in high school when I was born. He would not meet my mom for another four years.

Daddy was 21 when he and Mom got married. I actually have vague memories of it. Mom was so beautiful and happy in the pictures, and Daddy looked like a handsome, boyish, college kid. Which he was. I can barely remember the small apartment my mom, little sister and I lived in before that. Mom worked in a dentist's office during the day, and put in hours as a bar waitress some evenings. My uncle sent her $50 a month from his Navy pay.

I do remember the first Christmas after Mom and Daddy met. I'd never seen so many toys. My sister and I believed in Santa that year.

When Daddy asked Mom to marry him, she said no. Said he was too young to take on the responsibilities of a wife and two kids before his own life had even started. I'd imagine Mom was very cautious, having already been through divorce by the time she was 23.

But mom was quite the catch, in her red and white 60s-style sheath dress and knee-high, white go-go boots. He wasn't about to let her go that easily. (Years later, when Mom would tell the story, Daddy would throw a lascivious glance her way, growling, Your mother looked like just like a Christmas candy cane! He’d add the wiggling eyebrows and the Steve Martin dance, to our delight.)

My dad tacked a vinyl record up on her front door, with a note. Here's part of the song:

You know I've seen a lot of what the world can do
And it's breakin' my heart in two
Because I never wanna see you a sad girl
Don't be a bad girl

But if you wanna leave, take good care
I hope you make a lot of nice friends out there
But just remember there's a lot of bad and beware

Ooh, baby, baby, it's a wild world
It's hard to get by just upon a smile
Ooh, baby, baby, it's a wild world
I'll always remember you like a child, girl

from Wild World, Cat Stevens

I don't know what the note said, but Mom married him.

My dad was a history major in college; he's the biggest history buff I know. He used to randomly quiz us on historical facts. I couldn't stand not knowing one of his facts, and would secretly go look it up if I missed one. He'd planned on becoming a history teacher, but the Army offered an officer's salary, medical coverage, and family housing. He signed up during Vietnam. We went to Fort Benning and Fort Riley, and the war ended right before his number was due to head across the pond to 'Nam. He would've gone though. Daddy's a firm believer in you signs on the line, you does your time.

My dad signed on the line for us as well. He adopted me and my sister. And that was that. He's still doing his time with us.

As a kid, I knew I was half-adopted but it didn't seem that way. Friends would say, "Oh, so you mean he's your step-dad," and I'd say, no, he was my real dad. I couldn't figure out why they thought that. For years I thought my biological father was my step-dad. I remember in high school, I asked a friend what it was like, being adopted. She gave me a weird look and said, "I don't know, didn't your dad adopt you?" Light bulb moment. I realized that I had never considered myself "adopted", even though I knew the whole story. I also realized what a dumb question that was.

My dad is of the Rugged Individualist school of thought. He's politically conservative. He pulled himself up by the proverbial bootstraps, by God, and so can anyone else. He doesn't get people who complain about "not liking their jobs". A job is what you do to put food on the table. You want fun? Get a hobby. Nobody ever gave me a handout, now did they? Nobody ever asked me if I liked my job, did they?

It's maddening, sometimes. Try discussing institutionalized racism, or how education and health care for all would advance society as a whole, or how other countries that are doing those things are already overtaking us, or questioning why such a small percentage of fat cats hold such a large percentage of the country's wealth. What are you, some kind of Socialist? You think people should get a free handout from the government? Guess that's what living out on the Left Coast does for you – har har har!

My dad firmly believes in the whole Land of Opportunity deal. He asserts that with hard work and determination, any able-bodied person, regardless of gender, religion, race, or orientation can do the same damn thing. If you can't, you're not trying hard enough. Either that, or you're spending your hard-earned money on wine, women, and song. Despite his history buffery, he’ll summarily dismiss history’s effect on today’s disparities. Try discussing why, over the course of that history, some folks were a lot farther back from the starting line, or how the founding fathers consciously constructed our institutions for the benefit of white Christian males only, and you won't get far. The idea that while past generations of some families were busy building up a future, past generations of other families were on a plantation, building someone else's future, doesn't hold much sway with him.

Just catch up.

We joke a lot about Daddy's thriftiness, or as we call it, his crab’s ass tendencies. He pays cash for everything. He and mom are both on a strict "allowance". It's something like $25 a week. If Mom wants books or sewing supplies or a new skirt, she has to save up. She has taken "loans" from their bank accounts, but swears each time she'll never do it again. "I swear, honey, he's going to start charging me interest! He IS tighter than a crab's ass!" (Me: "And that's waterproof!") He lives by the same rules with his own allowance, though.

He and Mom paid off a 30-year mortgage in eight years on a cop's salary and, for part of that time, Mom's nurse's salary. Mom was diagnosed with MS not long after they had the house built, and was unable to continue working. That was a huge blow to her. I don't remember the timing, but Daddy had to take a medical retirement from the police department after that. (A fire truck ran into his cruiser as he was reaching to answer the radio, and buggered up his back.)

We realized, during that time, how wise his tightwad approach to finances really was. The mortgage is paid. They've got money in the bank. They've got health care. They've got Daddy's police pension, Mom's "disability" checks (until she hits 65, anyway), and he went to work part time at Toys R Us in order to put in time toward Social Security, so they'd have that as well. Plus, he couldn't deal with not working. He promised Mom he'd quit as soon as he had enough quarters worked for Social Security. That was two years ago, I think. I asked him how he could stand working part time with a bunch of teenagers and self-important "managers" after being on the police force for so many years. Well, you do what you gotta do, don't you? Plus, I get a discount.

During his years on the police department, Daddy was all about some Justice for All. He wrote tickets to judges, priests, the mayor, he didn't care who you were. The only person he ever let out of a ticket was a woman who had to go to the bathroom so badly she was nearly in tears. When you gotta go, you gotta go, he quipped, shaking his head and grinning.

We, however were in the same boat with the judges and priests. Don't try to use my name to get out of a ticket. He told me when I started driving. Wives get a free pass on tickets. Snot-nosed kids don't. Try to use my name, I'll say I don't know you. Don't speed.

My parents have not always been happy with my decisions in life. Some of those decisions, like getting married so young, caused huge rifts that I wasn't sure would ever be repaired. If I'd listened to my parents around those decisions, I'd be in a hell of a different place than I am now, that's for goddamn sure. I wish my kids could get that shit NOW, instead of decades from now. But that's not the way it works, is it? My parents wished the same thing, but I thought I knew better. I didn't.

I have earned my dad's grudging respect, which means a lot to me. He and I had a long conversation a few months ago -- not a common occurrence. He's a man of few words. (Another running joke) But that day, for some reason, after discussing jobs, baseball cards, the offspring, and whether professional "wrastlin" qualifies as a sport, the conversation took a serious turn. He's not one for mushy sentiments or empty praise, but that day he practically waxed poetic. He told me,
Well, one thing I gotta say about you -- you do what you gotta do for your kids. You've done the best you can with your life, and you're doing okay. You could do better with remembering to send your mother a card on her birthday, but I get my ass reamed for mentioning that, so you didn't hear it from me.

You're not stupid with your money, you don't seem to take a lot of bullshit, and your kids are good citizens. Hell, they might even be rich, they play their cards right.

You've shown some smarts and some responsibility, and done it without a whole lot of help. You got rid of your husband when he turned into an asshole playboy, even though you should've taken him for more money.

You seem to be good at your job and you're not a whiner. I'd lend you money, and that's not because you're family. Family don't mean shit when it comes to lending money. And next time, remember: You can marry rich as easy as you can marry poor.

And wherever you go, there you are.

My dad my not have been the most mushy guy growing up, but he took me and Sis and the neighborhood kids over to the old Fraternal Order of Police lodge and played baseball with us. That was fun. A lot of fun. He laughed a lot, and made us all laugh too. He passed on a sense of responsibility and honor to us, along with a scathing dry humor. He may not be politically correct, and some of his views and comments may grate my core, but you know where he stands. He says what he means and means what he says.

I remember asking my mom about the whole dad thing when I was still little; must've been shortly after they got married. I still didn't get the terminology. Mom told me, "Anybody can be a father, honey, but it takes someone really special to be a Daddy." She pretty much nailed it with that one.

28 June 2007

Bonfire of the Vanities

So, Male Offspring got back from football camp last night. Teen Demon had to pick him up, as I am still ensconced in my new cubicle with my colleagues, dealing with our recent relocation. Whole'nuther meaning to "close quarters". I thought one colleague was readying to give me a lap dance, but she just wanted to use the printer.

I put my dollar away.

Anyway, my daughter picks up her brother from school. Now, he'd told me he had a surprise for us once he got back. I was curious, as he could not be persuaded to spill the beanage. My phone rings:

Annoying Ring! Annoying Ring!

Me: Hello?

Perky Female Friend of Male Offspring: Hi! Is ____ there!?

Me: No, I'm still at work, he's not with me.

Perky Friend: Oh. Wait! Okay! Can you please tell him that Perky Friend said, "Ohmygod, I sooo can't believe you got a mohawk!"

Me: ... (a mohawk?!) ... Sure. I certainly will. Thanks for calling, Perky Friend.

Perky Friend: OK!! Byeee!!

Oh, this was going to be fun. I live for these times. Doesn't quite make up for the stretch marks, but hey, what can, really?

I pick up the phone:

Male Offspring: Hello?

Me: You got a mohawk?

MO: ...

Mmm-hmm. That's right. You can run, but you can't hide.

MO:  How do you ...

Me: Those eyes in the back of my head? Yeah. Maybe think about that next time. When were you going to tell me about this little styling adventure?

MO:  That was the surprise! That's what I was going to show you! Who told you? Did TeenDemon call you? Man! I can't believe she to--

Me: She didn't tell me.

MO: But ... you're still at work! How do you kn--

Me: How I know doesn't concern you.

MO:  Did Coach call you!? Crap! Coach didn't call you did h--

Me:  I can't believe you did this. You're grounded.

MO:  What?!? But, why -- grounded?! Are you serious?! But ... it's my hair! What about the beach bonfire tonight? You said I could go! It's my own hai--

Me: Gotta go, things are crazy here.

MO: What? No! Wait, I need to --

Me: *click*

Of course, later he claimed he knew I'd been joking all along. Hey, whatever you have to tell yourself.  The mohawk is pretty cool.  He calls it his 'frohawk.

So I end up chaperoning the beach bonfire. The idea is to burn the last vestiges of middle school in a blaze of glory before moving on to the vaunted halls of high school.

Kind of an adolescent cleansing ritual involving fire, marshmallows, and illegal fireworks.

All week I'd tried to get the lowdown on this bonfire business. I thought he called from camp because he missed me. Or at least because he knew I'd miss him. He called to ask permission to go the bonfire. I, of course, had questions about an event involving darkness, fire, hormones, high tide and a bunch of boys fresh from football camp, pumped up on adrenaline and testosterone. (This was before I even knew about the fireworks.) I had questions like,

  • Who's sponsoring the bonfire? (I don't know)
  • Is it a school event? (I don't think so)
  • Well, is it a city event, or just a private party? (I don't know)
  • What time does it end? (Um, probably after dark?)
  • Who will be there? (My friends)
  • Do your friends have names? (You know. Just my friends!)
  • Who is supervising? Are parents going? (Probably. I don't know)

Finally, half an hour before the big event, I am put on the phone with someone named Rachel's Mom. (None of us have names. We are all ______'s Mom.) We parents decide to pull together and start this high school thing off with a strong united front. In short, we're chaperoning.

I saw one firework go off a few inches from someone's hand. I saw a kid throw a firework into the fire, and then (get this) reach into the fire pit with his bare hand to retrieve it when it didn't go off. I saw another kid balance on the edge of the fire pit on one foot, while he kicked some logs around with his other foot to "rearrange things". I saw kids pushing each other while precariously bent over to roast marshmallows with what looked like a toothpick.

One kid shot a firework through a buddy's legs. Hello! I mean, seriously, I'm all for fun, but do they not know they could lose a hand? Or an equally useful appendage?  Yeah, Junior, you might want to hang onto that for later.  Just sayin'.

At least they weren't spraying Silly String into the fire, which can ignite the string and blow up the can, just like the warning on the side of the can says. (That, apparently, once happened when another parent foolishly left the room during a birthday party. Amazing what tidbits of information surface when parents compare notes.)

The fact that there aren't more grown men walking around with eye patches and bionic parts amazes me. I didn't see a single girl doing these things. A little testosterone is a dangerous thing, people.

Male Offspring missed all these pyromaniacal goings on, as he and New Girlfriend were sitting on a piece of driftwood, the 'frohawk silhouetted against the sky, watching the sunset. Well, they would've been, had the sun been visible. They were actually sitting on a piece of driftwood watching the various and sundry shades of grey swirl around. Pacific Northwest, people. I was actually proud -- okay, fine, smug -- that he didn't get sucked into the frenzied drama.

Next up, high school.

15 June 2007

Out of the Mouths of Matrons

Heard over afternoon tea:

She was well endowed ... and she used her assets as a battering ram.

--Colleague, primly describing a crowded elevator situation.

Naked Bikers or Drag Queen Softball?

I have a conflict this weekend.

This Saturday is the Fremont Solstice Parade, part of the annual Fremont Festival.

1) It is a Solstice celebration. Enough said.
2) Awesome food
3) Car art competition -- handpainted crazyass cars.
4) Bikers costumed only with paint.
5) Republicans usually won't get within 2 miles of it.

Also scheduled for this Saturday is the Bat-n-Rouge softball game, to kick off Pride.

Drag Queens v. the Dykes. Enough said.

How the hell is a person supposed to choose? What the hell were the softball teams thinking? The Solstice Parade? Are you kidding me? What group would play opposite that, other than the Young Republicans?


12 June 2007


I am loving Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. It’s a big Hell Yeah for women. And a big Fuck You to the media. Dove is stepping up and actively working against the unrealistic portrayal (and expectations) of women. They are celebrating real women, of all ages, sizes, ethnicities, and shapes. They tackle several different areas, including:

Print Advertising
Please watch their Evolution ad. You won't believe this shit. It's the down and dirty on what we’re really seeing when we flip through the latest copy of Cosmo or drive past that billboard. All women and young girls need to see this.

This ad could just as easily have been called Exposure. As in exposing the bullshit.

Women: Get it? It’s not real! I mean, did you see that bit they did with her neck? The eyes? The media has purposely and methodically wrapped this shit up in foundation and Photoshop and shoved a pretty package down our throats. And we swallow it. We end up believing that size 0 is normal, that 60-year-olds don’t really have wrinkles. They feed us this airbrushed, Young White Emaciated standard of beauty until our eye becomes accustomed to this constructed veneer, and we think that real is ugly. Old. Fat. Disgusting. Our fault. We think this based on a lie. But even when we know, we still think it.

Weight & Body Image
Dove is also celebrating women's curves. As in fuck that cookie-cutter bullshit. I've seen recent media coverage on beautiful, sexy, talented women like Jordin Sparks, Sara Ramirez and America Ferarra, wherein the Media Tool of the Day ponders the issue of their weight. I'm sorry, but if these very sexy women are considered “fat” -- if they are even in the neighborhood of fat -- there is something very, very wrong.

That’s the media, right there, honey. They did that shit to us. They made us believe that. They have warped our perceptions with that steady diet of skinny, white, child models.

I call bullshit.

I tell you what, Sara Ramirez ever shows up at my door, I’d be goddamned if anything comes to mind other than hot. Seriously, people, have you seen that episode of Grey's where Callie (her kickass character) is dancing in these sexy boyshort type undies, alone in her little camp-out room below the hospital? Goodgawd! How can anyone see that and not fall down at the woman's feet? Please.

And Jordin Sparks? Gorgeous. Stunning. And poised as hell. I was shocked to see that bonyass, sickly-looking FOX news biotch talking about Jordin being "obese". (Lynette's site) Obese? Are you fucking kidding me?! It had never crossed my mind that folks might actually think she had a weight issue. America Ferarra, let's just say it takes a whole lot of work to make that fine female into the supposed "ugly Betty".

It's all about presenting an image to us that over time comes to be associated with The Norm. After a while our brain stops questioning that shit, and we think bird legs are normal. Teri Hatcher is not the norm, people. After we see her type night after night, year after year, we get conditioned to it, and a normal woman actually appears "fat" to our eye. Instead of normal. Because she's standing next to No-Ass Teri. And we don't even realize we've been brainwashed when we autorespond, "Damn, you need to lay off those fries, sister," Personally, I think Teri needs to pick up a milkshake.  And some damn fries.

It really pisses me off, because they've sucked me in, too. Yeah, I can fully recognize Sara Ramirez' sexiness and strength, but I feel that it's somehow "different" for me. It's not beautiful on me. I know better -- in my head -- but there it is.

Beauty at Any Age
Dove made a TV commercial promoting their Pro-Age line of skin products, celebrating female beauty in women of all ages. The commercial showed older women, nude, very tastefully positioned so that no lady bits were in evidence. Profile shots. Limbs artfully arranged.

The commercial was banned, ostensibly due to "partial nudity". Fortunately, you can still watch it at the Dove site. It was in no way erotic or offensive. See what you think.

There is plenty of offensive partial nudity out there that isn't banned. Then again, that nudity usually involves skinny, white chicks in their 20s. Hmm. I'm thinking maybe folks were more uncomfortable with real women above 25 having the nerve to show their skin, than they were with the idea of skin in general. Best keep that shit behind a hefty layer of polyester, ladies.

Girls and Self Esteem

I absolutely love their True Colors TV spot. It's beautiful. Watch it. This is where I'm impressed. Getting to young girls before their heads get filled with this fuckery. Stop the cycle and all that. They have a free kit to learn how to facilitate a Real Beauty workshop for girls. They're partnering with the Girl Scouts on the Uniquely Me! program to raise girls' self esteem. Their True You guide for moms (or aunts, grandmas, mentors) and daughters deals with feelings of beauty. They've got discussion groups and even casting calls for their ads.

Anyway, they're doing something. Check out Dove's site. Watch the Evolution ad. See the truth, ladies. America's top models look pretty close to you and me.

08 June 2007

The Tattoo Didn't Exactly Work Out So Well.

You can tell I don't exactly have any hot dates for the weekend. So, I'm farting around on the Internets today, when I see this Official Seal deal over at Sling's Domain. Hey, that looks fun. I've got nothing better to do -- let's make a seal!

I wasn't actually going to make a seal, for real, until I saw that little sunshine emblem. I have a tattoo that IS this sun. (Twilight Zone theme song, fade in) Well, it was supposed to look like this sun, anyway.

I still have the sketchbook where I drew it for the tattoo artist, a sexyass Hungarian flesh artist with long black hair and an intoxicating sort-of-smile. Sensual doesn't even begin to cover it. Puts me in mind of Johnny Depp, actually. We had this weird chemistry thing going on the whole time I lived there. Story for another day. Anyway, Smoldering Tattoo Guy does a beautiful job with the tattoo -- I mean I was practically ready to sign up for some sort of piercing -- when I decided that I couldn't see it well enough. I thought it needed something else.

STG: This? No. Perfect.

Me: But it's not really showing up. I think it needs an outline.

STG: No. No outline. Trust me. I know what is good for you.
(half-smile. suggestive, sidelong look.)

now at this point, I should've shut the hell up and let him tell me what
was good for me.

Me: That, I'm sure of. Don't you think it should be brighter... maybe more ink?

STG: No. No ink. This is the summer skin, brown skin. Wait some months. The ink must living with your skin. If you don't like it, you come back to me, I'm gonna fix it, make what you want. Trust me.

But I didn't. (Fool!) I insisted on an outline. Just a little skinny one. To "define" it. Why oh why, did I not listen? The man knew his inks. I insisted. He outlined it.

My sun turned into a spider. Fuck!

I tried the whole "living with it" thing, but the outline pretty much ruined that. So I went back. He didn't say a word. Just half-smiled. Covered the spider with his whole hand. Shook his head.

He suggested making it into something completely different. But noooo, I didn't want anything bigger. I asked him to add some sun-colors to the tips of the rays, so it might look less like an arachnid. Maybe bleed the yellow outside the goddamn outline. He wasn't so sure. "How can it be any worse?" I asked.

It's now a spider with painted nails.

Anyway, I guess I made an Official Seal. Since the tattoo didn't exactly work out. Amazing what memories come up whilst a-farting around on the Internets.

06 June 2007

Some Serious Shit About Coaches

(In which I bow down to coaches and use the word "blessing")

This is important, even if you aren't into the whole sports thing. This is about coaches, and how important they are to kids growing up in this country.

Young people need role models. What with Dubya, Paris, R. Kelly, movies and MTV, the future leaders of this country need some real-life folks to point them in the right direction.

Coaches are bringing it, every day. I can literally see a difference in the way my son carries himself this year. Much of that came directly from sports. Good coaches are a blessing, y'all.

Those of you who know me just now choked to see me use the word "blessing", didn't you? (Please, I could hear the what-the-hells from here.) Well, the only other word I could come up with on the fly that conveyed what I'm thinking was "godsend". So yeah, coaches are a blessing. Goddamn right.

They don't get paid much, and some are straight up volunteers. They give so much more than just instruction. They are mentors for these young folks. They are modeling good sportsmanship, responsibility, commitment, and teamwork.

Life skills, here, people. Skills we actually use day to day, unlike sophomore algebra.

I appreciate that several of my son's coaches in particular have been wonderful models for healthy male-to-male interaction. For those who think sports coaches must be big into that stereotypical, macho bullshit, I have not seen it here. These guys have been hands-on with the kids; they hug these kids, put their arms around them, hold their faces and look them straight in the eye while telling what they've done right and what they can work on. They say things like,

I love you man; you pulled it out today!

I couldn't ask for any more from you.

I am so proud of you!

That's okay; you know you're still my boy. You'll get it.

You gave your best; that's what we do.

Way to apply what you learned!

You had good form out there today.

Things that build a kid up. I see my son and his teammates hug each other, and walk with an arm over the other's shoulders. I see them stick together off the field, help each other out.

Female athletes are still working on equal sports status with the men. They still have to deal with being called "The Lady Muskrats/Wildcats/Pelicans". They don't get cheerleaders or assemblies. Coaches don't give a damn about that; they're coaching athletes, not girls. I see the difference in my daughter, because they actually have a high jump coach this year, one who really cares about the kids. It means a lot to her. I hope he's here again next year. (Cross your fingers that he gets that teaching job ...)

And may I also add, while I'm at it, that I especially appreciate the African American men who are stepping up to mentor these kids. Kids of color in our district do not have many mentors who look like them. The images they see in the media and in their own school environment are mostly White.  Well, the positive images are, anyway. African American males face a lot of issues unique to them. That's a whole'nother post, but suffice it to say that when puberty hits and these kids don't look like little boys anymore, people react to them differently. They need positive role models who look like them and who have an awareness of what they're experiencing. The White kids need to see positive Black role models too. Again, another post. Anyway, to the African American men in our community who take time out of their lives to purposefully guide these kids, I appreciate that. Very, very much.

Coaches make a difference.

They show up.

As a single mom, I appreciate the hell out of that.

Up and Over!

(In which I contemplate the sports gene, and Teen Demon kicks high jump ass)

TeenDemon nails 5'1" at the high jump bar.
Up and OVER, hell yeah!

Track season is over. And I'm like, "What? Already?" I should be relieved -- it's a hell of a schedule. I never thought I'd be one of those "sports parents." I always thought I was lacking the sports gene. My sister and I didn't do organized sports growing up. Neither did my parents as kids. Neither did my ex.

The Bohemian's sport is the piano. Girl has some buff fingers.

I remember playing H-O-R-S-E with my dad. That was fun. It was also the extent of my sports experience. Let's just say the Army was a rudeass awakening for my behind. In hindsight, my sister and I really missed out. I think I probably would've been some crazy sports chick, had it been encouraged as a kid. I have discovered a wildass competitive inner bitch, even while just spectating. (Yes, watching the Seahawks is a sport in and of itself.) I guess I had latent sports genes.

Who knows, I could've been an Olympic Curling Champion.

Anyway, track season is over for the two younger offspring, and I'm sorry to see it end. There's something about seeing your kid accomplish something physical, seeing them interact with their teammates, seeing the coaches interact with your kid.  Seeing them feel proud of themselves.

There's also something about seeing your kid friggin' trample every other kid out there, and come out The Champ, The Beast, Yeeaah, GoGoGo, It's All Yours Baby, You've Got This, YES, HellYeah, What Now, Bitches, WHAT NOW ....... oh. So, anyway, yeah, great for a kid's self esteem and responsibility and all that.

Kickassery at the high jump bar:  the 5'0" & 5'1" jump sequences:

5'0" run up

5'0" jump

5'0" landing

5'1" run up

Up & Over, 5'1"
5'1" landing (What now, bitches?!)

Did I say she kicked ass? She was so happy! Her smile was brilliant. So she ended the season as 1st in District, 2nd in League South, and came close to qualifying for State, which is her goal for next year. Her coach says she'll do it, too. (Watch her.) Hell yeah!

She was selected for one of the team's Athlete of the Year awards, which was a very cool surprise for her, and she'll be a Captain for next year's team. You go, baby!

And (rubbing hands gleefully), she got her first letter from a college actively recruiting her based on "recent athletic achievements"! Now that's what I'm talking about, that's where it pays off. She's writing her own ticket, right there. Combined with the letters she's already getting for her grades, she'll hopefully snag a nice scholarship package.

Damn right I'm proud of that shit -- kid works her ass off.

Jump your way right into university, baby, hell yeah.

Okay, that's enough parental bragging for now. Next installment: Dear Son's 400-meter-relay photo finish.