Dreaming Big & Imaginary Blue Ribbons

It’s icy and cold here in Arkansas. Perfect weather for deep cleaning and reminiscing. I sat down earlier today and went through my cedar chest that holds a lifetime of photos, letters, and a gazillion other keepsakes that I can’t bring myself to part with. I came across a small stack of newspaper clippings from my brief stint as a columnist with our local paper. On the top of the pile was a story I’d written around the end of 2014. It is quite possibly my favorite piece of writing…in a strange, twisted kind of way. There’s no joy in admitting embarrassing moments and failures, but there’s something freeing about throwing them out there for everyone to laugh at. So, I wanted to share the story with you. Warning: It’s long. I write like I talk….a lot. 🙂 Enjoy!

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New Year’s resolutions. I don’t make them. I prefer short-term goals as I’m more likely to reach them. Not that I’m afraid of failure. Quite the opposite. I thrive on failure. Well…maybe thrive isn’t the right word. But, I’ve been rejected and suffered enough failure and disappointment in my life that failure doesn’t scare me anymore. A German philosopher once said “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger” (Thank you, Google). So, why not make some realistic goals? If we don’t reach them, so what? We’re stronger for trying.

When I was a kid I used to dream of being on Star Search. I never dreamed it out loud, just thought to myself how cool it would be. I had no talent whatsoever so being on Star Search wasn’t going to happen unless they were looking for uncoordinated, tone-deaf, scrawny middle-schoolers with bad hair. So, I decided I was going to be an astronaut until I learned that you had to be good at math. Through my junior high years I went through phases of wanting to be everything from a doctor to a news anchor. Too bad you had to be smart to be a doctor. My feel of public speaking nixed the news anchor thing.

Hmm…what’s left? CHEERLEADING! Yeah…cheerleading! Anyone can be a cheerleader! My freshman year of high school I decided to try out. I practiced faithfully and learned the routines and cheers. Four cheerleaders would be chosen for the varsity squad and four for the junior varsity squad.

Tryout day arrived. Eight spots were open and nine were trying out. We were to perform a group cheer, a cheer with one other wannabe, and a cheer alone.  No problemo! The judges were representatives from each class, the cheer coach, and a couple of teachers. The group cheer went great. The couples cheer was easy-peasy. As I walked out onto the gym floor for my solo cheer, I panicked. I thought I might pass out. I don’t remember the cheer. I don’t remember anything past “Ready? Okay!” I blinked and tryouts were over.

The nine of us waited in the hallway for results to be posted on the oversized bulletin board on the wall across from the secretary’s office. I got tired of waiting and went to my locker. Wouldn’t you know that they would post results while I was away? As I walked back down the hall, I saw the other girls gathered around the board giggling and hugging each other. As I approached, a few of them scattered. The others looked at me sympathetically and mumbled “Sorry, Tiff.” Seriously? I was the ONE girl that didn’t make the squad? Loser is not strong enough a word to describe how I felt. Humilibarassified pretty much covers it.

Sure…it hurt at the time, but I’m glad it happened. I feel like I’ve felt the worst possible rejection anyone could ever feel (at 14, I thought my life was over). So why not keep trying? And, try I did. I played every sport I could and sat the bench more often than I played until I grew into my feet. I joined every club and learned what it meant to be better. I rarely won anything and have a cedar chest full of red, yellow, and bless-your-heart-thanks-for-trying ribbons to prove it. But, you know what? Without losers there wouldn’t be winners. Think about it. There’s no joy in winning unless you beat someone, right? Every time I lost, somebody else got a certificate or trophy or blue ribbon to hang on their wall…or a spot on the cheerleading squad. You’re welcome!

While I may not be great at any one thing, I love trying. Cooking for instance. I don’t consider myself a fantastic cook or baker, I just do it because I love it. If other people like what I make, then great! If not, that’s okay, too. The most important thing to me is that my family likes what I bake. One of my daily goals is to sit down and have dinner as a family. Dinner time varies depending on hubby’s work schedule, ball games, etc. But, we try to eat as many evening meals together as possible and make them special.

What makes meal time special? Sitting around the table and eating together. That’s it. It doesn’t take fine china and a four course meal to make a meal memorable. My kids are happy with paper plates and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as long as we’re all sitting down together. No phones. No computers. Just good old-fashioned uninterrupted conversation. Every night that we eat together as a family is another virtual blue ribbon on my wall and trophy in my trophy case. Nobody else can see it right now, but I know it’s there. Those imaginary blue ribbons mean a whole lot more to me than any track award, student-of-the month certificate, or Pillsbury Bake-Off ever would. The cool thing is that those ribbons and trophies don’t only belong to me. They belong to my kids too. Only they won’t be able to see them until they’re grown and ready to start adding their own to the case.

 

 

 

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