Category Archives: Digressions

Choose to Help

Earlier this summer, I was in my car at a stop light when I noticed two people on the corner waiting for the crosswalk light to change. One was an elderly lady with a walker and the other was a young guy, maybe early 20s. He was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and while he didn’t look dangerous, he also didn’t exactly look like a Boy Scout. My first impression of him was not exactly positive, but for no particular reason that I can recall.

That all changed over the next few minutes. The light changed and he and the woman started across the street. There were cars waiting to turn onto the road after the crosswalk was clear. The guy made it almost all the way across when the red hand started flashing, signaling that the time left to cross safely was ending. He looked back and saw that the woman had made it less than halfway across and was going to be stuck in the middle of the road. What he did next surprised me – he turned around and went back to her and started walking slowly next to her, positioning himself between her and the cars waiting to turn. He accompanied her all the way across the street and made sure she got onto the sidewalk safely before moving on.

I was really touched by this and ashamed of myself for my initial, immediate judgment about the guy. He did a really nice thing and the whole event has stuck with me.

Fast forward a few weeks and we are in downtown Chicago on vacation. We are waiting in a large crowd to cross Michigan Avenue by Millennium Park. The street is wide, I think 3 lanes on each side of a small median strip, and very busy. I notice an elderly gentleman with a cane and a bag from a nearby department store. When the light changes, the throng of people start moving and I, along with my husband and son, head across the street with them. I keep looking back to check on the man, however, because he is moving slowly and I am thinking of the lady and the young guy. I feel like I should walk with him but, for some reason, I don’t. I keep checking, though.

Just as I step onto the curb on the other side of the street, I look back again and see that the man has only made it to the median and, as he gets there, he loses his balance and falls over. Without really thinking about it, I put my hand up to signal the cars that I am crossing (and hope they don’t hit me) and run back across the street. I give him my hand to help him up as a couple of people who were in their cars right next the median get out to come help, too. We get him up and get him his cane and check to see if he hit his head (he did not) and if he was otherwise okay (he said he was). I put his purchases back in his bag as they had fallen out into the street and notice that he had been out buying new boxers. That made me a bit sad for some reason.

I stay with him until the light changes again and then accompany him the rest of the way across. He keeps thanking me and I ask him where he was headed, which was to the bus stop on the other side of the street. I leave him when we get to the sidewalk, but keep an eye on him until I see that he is near the stop. Later, I felt that I should have walked him all the way there, but I realize there is a line between helping and hovering and I didn’t want to offend him.

Fast forward again to yesterday. My son is on his way back from a trip with his grandmother on the train. I text him to see if they got on the train and the following exchange occurs:

text

Turns out, a man brought his mother, who was not well, onto the train and she was unable to walk (and was nearly unresponsive, according to my mother). He was having trouble getting her up and my son tried to help him get her into a seat. At the next stop, the train was delayed as they got an ambulance there to take her off the train, so she really wasn’t in good shape, but my son wasn’t nearby at that point.

What got me the most was his comment in the text, “I chose to help. I didn’t have to.” I haven’t asked him directly, but I’d like to think that, just as I was influenced by the young man helping the woman cross the street, he was influenced by seeing me help the man in Chicago. And maybe someone who saw him step up to help this lady will take the time to help someone else out down the road. We can influence each other by our actions, both positively and negatively. My advice? Keep an eye out for the positive – it is not always as easy to see as the negative, which seems to jump out at us and is broadcast across the TV and Internet all the time, but it is there. And take the time to notice if someone needs help and be willing to step in, if you can.

As the saying goes, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

Confessions of a Klutz

I have been an athlete for most of my life. Running, rowing, playing soccer, and more has helped me develop strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, and the mental toughness to push through, even when it hurts.

But I have a confession to make…

My name is Amy and I am a klutz.

It may seem that the two – athlete and klutz – don’t go together. But, trust me, they can. And, in my case, they mesh together so well that you often don’t know if I am working so hard that I push to the extreme or if I simply tripped myself.

This topic came (painfully) to mind tonight whilst out for a walk. I decided it was a nice night and I should run some bleachers at the high school. Now, I run bleachers there all the time, so this is no big deal. EXCEPT, I decided to change things up tonight. See, I ALWAYS start on the left of the bleacher and run up the left side of the aisle, then down the right. Mostly because that is the way I usually approach them so it makes sense. But tonight I came upon them from the other side and thought, “What the heck? I’ll start on this side.” Famous last words…

Halfway up the FIRST set of stairs, I completely lost my way. It was like I didn’t know where I was and everything was so different. I was feeling off and then a series of things happened (I think, it was all a blur at the time). I think I caught my hand in my iPod cord and then I stumbled and next thing I know I am falling. Never a good thing on a set of metal stairs. All I know is that I have a bruised bump on the front of my left ankle and a cut and bruise on the outside of my right thigh (where I unceremoniously landed on the corner of a metal seat). Ouch!

I sat there and nursed my wounds for a little bit but then sucked it up and kept running. Because that is what you do (unless you’ve actually broken something, in which case, at least my case, you try to wrap it up and keep going, but when it ends up hurting too much you give it up and put ice on it. And then, when that doesn’t work, you reluctantly head to the emergency room. Been there, done that).

broken arm

I can’t blame klutziness on this one – happened during a soccer game – but it certainly was memorable.

The idea for this blog came during that run, as my thigh and ankle throbbed, but not enough to stop me from running. Merely a flesh wound. I have injured myself too many times to count, both during workouts and during other really difficult tasks, such as… walking (ask me sometime about my run in with some dastardly gravel on my way to class one day. A slip, a fall, blood running down my leg during class – such fun!). Or the time I had made it through a long run for crew and just had to make it around the corner, when I tripped and fell and ripped up my leg. More blood. OR, the time I got through an entire mountain bike trail and was simply riding down the gravel path towards the car when my tires slipped and I wiped out. Blood. The list can go on.

Not surprisingly, I have a lot of scars on my body. Sometimes they bother me. But usually I try to see them for what they are – evidence that I have lived in this body. Used it. Put it out there and pushed it to its limits.

Or, I could just admit the truth – I am a klutz. And klutzes have scars. Because… klutziness. Not that I’ll let that stop me.

P.S. When I told my teenage son about my fall, I received this response – “Mom! You are embarrassing me!” I’m touched by his concern.

 

Things I Learned from a Lifetime of Sports, Part I

Have you seen this ad from Nike?

I LOVE this! And it got me thinking about some things I’ve learned from participating in a lot of different sports throughout my life. I think some of these are reflected in the video and some are just things that I have been able to use in other parts of my life. I have more, but I’ll save those for part II. (-:

So, what are some things I’ve learned from sports?

Talent is important, but without effort and heart, you will not succeed. I made more than one team in my life because I showed up every day, shut my mouth, and worked as hard as I could at whatever the coach demanded. Good coaches take note of who is working hard. So do good bosses. Just sayin’.

Winning really isn’t everything. It sounds trite but it is true. Losing sucks, don’t get me wrong, but you have to learn to deal with that suckage and figure out what to do to improve. More lessons are learned from losses than wins.

You don’t need a trophy. Really, can we just stop the whole trophy for showing up thing already? There is actually a lot of personal pride and internal motivation that comes from knowing you’ve worked your hardest and done your best. I won my first trophy playing volleyball when I was 14. Yes, it took me 14 years to get a trophy and I treasured it (and still have it somewhere around here). And, if a coach notices how well you are doing and says something to you about your play or your effort? That is so much better than any trophy that will collect dust on your shelf. Trust me.

There is no “I” in team. Another overused saying, but for a reason. Even in sports where you may compete individually (like track or swimming or gymnastics), you are still part of a team and your effort does matter. You need to know that you can rely on others and that they can count on you. Trust and accountability – two concepts that will get you far in life.

You are mentally tougher than you think. Working out hurts sometimes. Actually, it can hurt a lot of the time. But, if your heart is in it, you can push through and get to that finish line, whatever that might look like. And when you do push through, there is satisfaction and happiness (maybe from endorphins, but I’ll take it however it comes) waiting on the other side. Develop that mental toughness – another great tool to have in your life toolbox.

As I said, I have more that I’ll get to later. I would love to know some of the things you’ve learned – please share!

Stepping Off the Pitch

Spring, 1978

That spring I played my first soccer game. I was 8 and it was the first season for a girls’ soccer league in Bel Air, MD, where I lived at the time. I don’t recall much about it except that I scored once and played goalie a little bit, a position that I continued to play throughout my career. I do remember scoring the goal – I ran upfield and my eyes started watering and I couldn’t really see but I kicked the ball and it went in the net. Nothing spectacular, but, well, we were 8.

In the net my first season. I think I was praying that they wouldn't score!

In the net my first season. I think I was praying that they wouldn’t score!

Spring, 2015

Last night I played my last soccer game. 37 years and countless games later; I am hanging up my boots and retiring from the beautiful game. The reasons are three-fold, as I explained to my coach:

  • Less time available to play on weeknights, with teaching and my son’s later practice times;
  • Games taking a more physical toll on my admittedly aging body; and
  • Less enjoyment from playing. I am simply not having as much fun as I used to, likely due to #1 and 2 above.
Schooling my brother in the front yard.

Schooling my brother in the front yard

Shinguards not required.  And nice short shorts. Ah, the 80s...

    Shinguards not required. And nice short shorts. Ah, the 80s…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I started playing with our coach, Lou, when my son was 6 weeks old. He is now 13. He grew up on the sidelines, watching one or both of his parents run around like crazy people. He turned me into a true soccer mom – the mom who set her child up in his stroller to sleep while she played. The mom who passed her child off to his dad as they subbed on and off the field during a game. The mom who, as she ran down the field chasing the ball, yelled to the sidelines for her son to get off the top of the bleachers. Parenting from the field. Don’t think you’ll find a book on how to do that.

Our captain and I after my last game.

Our captain and I after my last game.

It’s funny – I used to define myself by the fact that I played soccer. It was something different than most other “adults” did (except, of course, all the other adults who also played soccer). It was my social life in my 20s when I played 4-5 times a week. Soccer kept me in shape. I traveled to play in tournaments to places like Vegas and… Johnstown, PA (ok, so Vegas was a bit more of a rush). I met so many cool and interesting people playing soccer. I met my husband playing soccer.

Playing in Vegas.

Playing in Vegas.

Today, I am starting to redefine myself without soccer. I am not sure yet what exactly will take its place, but I have some ideas. I certainly won’t sit still.

I am sure there will be times when I’ll miss playing. But I have so many great memories from my years on the pitch and I’ll always count myself lucky that I got to play the beautiful game for so many years.

And my enjoyment of the game won’t end, especially not this summer. Women’s World Cup, baby! Let’s go USA!!!!

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Things that Make Me Crazy: The Teaching Edition

I have been teaching at the college level (university and community college) for over two years now and I’ve already started jotting down a list of things that, in my humble opinion, any aspiring college student should not say to his or her instructor. Ok, let’s be honest, these are things that make me nuts! As I repeatedly share these stories with my son, I am hopeful that he will not say these things, even in middle or high school. I also think that these are pretty universal and could apply to a job as well as school.

So, I present, five things you should not say to your instructor:

Sorry I wasn’t in class last week. Did I miss anything important?

No, I noticed you were out and decided not to teach anything new so that you would not fall behind. Really? If you choose to miss class, that is on you. But don’t imply that nothing important happens in class or assume that I’ll give you a personal lecture if you did miss something major. This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine.

I won’t be able to come to class next week. Is that okay?

Fine with me. If there are any penalties for missing class, they are outlined in the syllabus. Even if there are not points associated with attendance, there are likely going to be activities that will either have points assigned to them or will enhance your learning so that you do well on whatever assignment or test is coming up. So, missing class can be a problem and you want to keep it to a minimum and only for real emergencies. That being said, you are an adult and it is your choice if you come to class or not. Asking me if it is okay is irrelevant.

Do I need to buy the textbook?

Hmmm… is there a textbook assigned for the class? If yes, then buy it. New or used, I don’t care. For the entry-level classes I teach, we do use the book and rely on it quite heavily for content and assignments. If a book is optional, it should say that in the syllabus (repeated theme here – it’s in the syllabus!).

READ IT!

I know it is the last day of class but I just realized that I am only a few points away from an (insert A, B, or C here, depending on the circumstance). Is there anything I can do to get more points?

Unfortunately, this comes up more than I’d like. If your instructor has set up Blackboard (or whatever system your school uses) the correct way and has written out course assignments in the syllabus (read it!), you should always have a sense of where you stand in class. Taking a look once in awhile at your grades and noting your points (or missed assignments) is a good habit to get into. Don’t wait until the end of the semester to start looking at how you are doing – by then it is likely too late. Remember, the instructor also has deadlines and other work to do so allowing everyone to submit missed assignments at the last minute adds to that workload and makes it more difficult to meet grade submission deadlines. Now, you may think, “It’s just me and only two or three short assignments, what is the big deal?” No, it is not just you. To be a fair and just instructor, I need to give everyone the same opportunities. I think students fail to realize this. So, if I give you that chance, I need to give everyone the opportunity to turn in missed work. And that may add up to a lot of last minute assignments. The schedule is in the syllabus (read it!), as is the policy about late work.

Another note, I learned a great term from another instructor awhile back – there may be a chance for “extra” credit but there is not any “instead of” credit.

I had a lot of things going on over the past few weeks (the list of things I’ve heard here are endless) so I am sorry I missed class. What can I do to make up the work?

Now, I am as sympathetic as the next guy, but, let’s face it – sometimes s#$% happens in life. I get it. It has happened to me. But this is likely as good a time as any to learn how to deal with all that stuff in a mature and responsible manner. Communication is key – if you contact me and let me know what is going on, I am very likely able to work with you to modify due dates or whatever you need. I don’t need details, just let me know that things are nutty and you are struggling to balance it all. This communication is best done as soon as possible – don’t let a lot of time go by (I’ve had students disappear for 3 or 4 or 5 weeks and then come to me with their story – that’s too long). If too much time has passed, so too has your chance to make up all the work you’ve missed. Besides the late assignment policy in the syllabus (all together now – read it!), you also need to think about the length of a semester and the amount of work needing to be done, and consider the size of the hole you are digging for yourself. Yes, there are sometimes special cases that need to be considered, but those may end up as incompletes, which is another process in itself. Communicate with me, early and often. I can be quite accommodating, if I know what is going on.

Just think of it this way – if you had a job and some things happened and you didn’t show up for work for 3 or 4 weeks without a word to your boss, what do you think would happen? Yes, you’d likely lose your job. Part of the lessons you learn in school are how to manage real life. So consider class like your job and think about what may happen if you don’t show up.

I know there are many more things that could be added to this list. If you are a teacher or employer, do you have any other words of wisdom to share?

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