When you are sorrowful look again in your heart,
and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

~ Kahlil Gibran, from"The Prophet"

Friday, February 25, 2011

Quote of the Week

resolute assurance, spoken at my recent job interview

Miss Truvy, I promise that my personal tragedy
will not interfere with my ability to do good hair.

Annelle Dupuy Desoto

Monday, February 21, 2011

I'll Second That!

Carin is one of the many brave mothers out there in Internet land I've not met and most likely never will. Her son, Ben, died from cancer at the tender age of 3 1/2 years. Several weeks ago, she "climbed on her soapbox" and posted an entry on her website entitled battle hymn of a bereaved mother (please click and read it) referring to the recently published and highly promoted book by Amy Chua. I applauded Carin's post and told her to get right back up on that soapbox because the Tiger Mom's presence everywhere had caused my own blood to boil. Carin's insightful viewpoint as the mother of young children has left me considering the subject from my position as the parent of grown children.

If I dig back in my memory bank, to what seems like so long ago when our children were very small and I was a young mother trying to nurture these impressionable young minds, I remember reading the works of the gurus of the time - Benjamin Spock, T. Berry Brazelton, etc. and their Gospels of Appropriate Childrearing, hoping to glean wisdom about the important task before me. We have to do this right, Dave! I also clearly recall the advice of the neighbor down the street who'd told me those books were good for one thing. Stack them on the chair and use them as a booster seat. Go with what your gut tells you instead. Use your own common sense. When they get older, let them find their way. They'll turn out just fine. ~ said that mother of those nine children who grew up and became a lawyer, an architect, a graphic artist, a mom, a teacher... I'm sure this woman had neither the time nor the inclination to stand over each of them for hours on end, crack the whip and demand perfection. Excellence and perfection.

In a nutshell, Dave and I adopted the parenting style Mrs Chua refers to as Westernized and weak-willed, and I now say an enthusiastic, Hallelujah!

When they were very young we read to our children,
taught them basic, appropriate manners and then sent them off to school.

As they grew and their individual personality traits and inherent abilities became more prominent, each was encouraged to participate in studies in which they presented natural aptitude and join activities that held personal interest. They were always told - do your best, and each child's best varied from one to the next. One studied history and another leaned toward the sciences. One played the trombone, another played the guitar with a band, one took piano lessons and a couple sang in the school chorus.

(Matt with Brad Corrigan from Dispatch)

All were athletes. They achieved honor roll status in school, recognitions for scholastic accomplishments (even while undergoing cancer treatment) and MVP awards. They graduated from high school and were all accepted into fine, upstanding colleges - the ones of their choice.

Through the years they also made errors in judgement, impulsive peer-pressured decisions and downright stupid mistakes, and we insisted they atone for their indiscretions and then right themselves accordingly. When the situation required it there were consequences for not doing their best, they were punished for breaking house rules and privileges were removed accordingly. At times, they couldn't stand us.

Were we the perfect parents? Lord no!

And, when all is said and done, I have to say Dave and I are the proud parents of very imperfect children IF they're measured by Mrs. Chua's standards; however, her authoritarian parenting style doesn't interest me in the least. I can honestly say it never did, but especially now that the youngest of our very imperfect children is buried in Bronswood Cemetery I find myself feeling even more grateful for not having bought into the spinning level of near paranoia of some of my parenting contemporaries. What if she isn't on the honor roll this quarter? What if he doesn't get into this school? What if she doesn't make the top team?

What if she gets cancer and dies and you've WASTED all that time standing over her demanding only perfection and punishing her for anything less, when instead you could have developed a loving relationship, with the peace of that bond now providing a measure of sanity through the sleepless nights when the only thing you want to do is wrap your arms around her again??!!!

When Erin first exhibited signs that something was terribly wrong, one symptom was an aversion to food with a resulting dramatic weight-loss. We'd initially thought she was putting so much pressure on herself to make the top volleyball team during the crucial college recruiting year that she was making herself sick in the process. We'd emphatically told her she didn't need to earn a Division I scholarship and had insisted she give up the sport if it was causing this much distress. Erin maintained this wasn't the case.

She was right. It was cancer.

Through the years, I've watched controlling parents pressure their children to the point that those imposing demands ultimately caused alcohol and drug addictions, dangerous acts of rebellion and even nervous breakdowns when those kids were in college or beginning life after. Do some succeed when fostered in this environment? Sure. Perhaps more than I realize. Define the word succeed. Are they happy? Does their happiness even matter to these parents, or is it all about excellence and status? What defines personal satisfaction? I've seen many athletes pushed to extremes by parents who were living their own dreams through their children. These kids totally burn out physically and emotionally, and then struggle to find their way when their sports careers end because for years they'd been forced to focus on little else.

As Carin says in her post, we mothers who have watched our children suffer the wreckage caused by cancer and then hold them as they die before our very eyes are not who we once were, and many of our priorities have changed. We have increased sensitivity about many things, and what we may have viewed as important at one time holds little meaning when up against the slap-in-the-face realization that fine becomes NOT FINE in the blink of an eye.

Personally, Erin's suffering and death have caused the significance of so many other things in my life to pale in comparison. Understandably, the majority of mothers don't have that perspective, and I honestly can say I wish I could somehow give some of the more self-righteous ones like Mrs Chua a dose of it for perhaps they'd become more grounded in their expectations and treatment of other human beings, aka their children. Withholding food? "Garbage"?

I care that my living children are healthy, safe, accountable, kind, honest, employed, responsive to the needs of others and happy doing whatever it is they choose to do... period. Perhaps in the eyes of Amy Chua, and others like her, those requisites are woefully trite and in direct contrast with the status-driven pursuit of the best grades, ensuring the finest schools, with the ultimate goal of attaining the highest salary, the biggest house, the most expensive car... and perhaps the coldest and most shallow of hearts.

I have to wonder if Sophia and Lulu have ever been encouraged to cut their hair for Locks of Love, if Sophia donates blood regularly or Lulu ever participates in a fundraising event like a Relay for Life. I wonder if they've ever met a child/teen with cancer. These thoughts are most likely not even a blip on the radar of Mrs Chua's "virtuous circle that yields satisfaction" because these acts don't involve "winning prizes that give you opportunities". They just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside cuz you know you've done a really great thing!

There are many examples of Mrs Chua's treatment of her daughters that infuriate me, and one that breaks my heart was her refusal to accept the handmade birthday card from her daughter, expecting a drawing that Lulu "had put some thought and effort into" and telling her, "I don't want this. I deserve better than this. So I reject this." I think of the boxes containing treasures my children have made for me over the years, with their crooked sketches and misspelled words with upside down letters. Things I wouldn't part with for anything. And I now cherish any scrap of paper I stumble upon unexpectedly that has Erin's handwriting on it ~ a little piece that is a tangible connection to her having once walked this earth.

Mrs. Chua certainly would have rejected my recent valentine boat to Erin; made from a sheet of computer paper, sticky hearts from the local craft store, with the simple words, "for a moment, erin" written on the inside. I wonder what she would have said to me if she'd found me sitting in the wet snow that day, watching my boat float down the river, weeping.

<3 <3 <3

Phew!  Like Carin, I feel a bit better after releasing some steam through my rant. And, perhaps this morning I'm also bursting with a keen sense of pride because ~
I'll bet her daughters can't do this!

Life is short, so you're right, Erin. 
Have fun!

Monday, February 14, 2011

for a moment, erin

Carefully placed upon the future,
it tips from the breeze and skims away,

frail thing of words, this valentine,
so far to sail.

And if you find it
caught in the reeds, its message blurred,

the thought that you are holding it
a moment is enough for me.

"This Paper Boat" by Ted Kooser, from Valentines.
© University of Nebraska Press, 2008.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Erin Potts Invitational 2011 ~ Never Give Up!

Carly made some
really great posters for our

Erin Potts Invitational
Volleyball Tournament

This one in particular
is reflective of
one of Erin's
favorite quotes
shown in my blog sidebar.

Sound advice for all...

We had the privilege of meeting so many wonderful people for the first time this weekend, and on behalf of my family I again want to express deep gratitude for your participation in the tournament. In case you weren't in the gym when I spoke, I want you to know that Erin was a 2005 graduate of St Cletus School, and the youngest of Dave's and my four children. She began playing volleyball competitively at the age of nine and it immediately became her passion. She played for St. Cletus, Lions/1st Alliance Volleyball Club and also LTHS.

Erin was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, at the age of fifteen in December of 2006. Her playing career ended due to the hip/femur replacement surgery necessary to remove the primary tumor from her right leg. She then became a coach because it afforded her the opportunity to remain involved in the sport she loved so much.

Erin passed away on December 18, 2009 at the age of eighteen.

In February of 2010, the St Cletus Community hosted the first Invitational Tournament in Erin's memory, a fitting tribute recognizing her passion for the sport. Due to its overwhelming success we decided to make it an annual event. Our intention is to raise funds that will directly support pediatric cancer patients and families who are currently living the life we became quite acquainted with over the course of our three year involvement.

All proceeds from this year's event will be given to
As of today, our total is nearly $6500, with donations still coming in.

Your generosity will assist many families.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This year's Tournament began with
the Alumni Games on Friday night.
One thoughtful graduate baked some very special sunflower cupcakes.
Thank goodness - we all needed a little boost after we played!

Sarah's group came out in force
with a couple of them even sporting their jerseys from back in the day.

This group of high school seniors showed real TEAM spirit
and wore their St Cletus gym uniforms.
Love the socks girls!

These recent grads kindly asked me to play on their team.
I'll be better next year! I promise!

Those of us who played on Friday night all had a blast.
Thanks so much to all who participated. 
And thanks to those parents who stopped in the gym
to say hi and cheer for those of us who
took the court in the spirit of the Good Old Days!
It was SO great to see everyone again.
(clicking on all pictures will enlarge them)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The Junior High portion of the tournament 
began early Saturday morning.
Check out the impressive front of the concession stand.
You girls rock!

We're grateful to ALL St Cletus families who donated beverages and food (including Via Bella and Little Joe's), and thanks to ALL who donated their time to work the concession stand, sell T-shirts (Spirit Products, Inc supplied them at cost), and take admission money while greeting players and spectators at the door.  Thanks also to the local high schools, volleyball clubs and Flying High Gymnastics Club for their donations of raffle prizes.

The 8th graders played first, with eight teams competing in double-elimination matches. I was once again struck by the spirit and athleticism of each and every player who stepped onto the court and the enthusiastic cheers that erupted from proud parents in the stands, all filling the gym with the competitive energy that fueled Erin's passion for this sport. She loved a good head-to-head, battle-for-the-last-point game, and we certainly saw that over and over again all weekend.










~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Each participant in the tournament was awarded a medal

donated courtesy of Palos Sports
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sunday's competition involved five 7th grade teams
who also played double-elimination matches.








Everyone's favorite ref
donated her talented services
both Saturday and Sunday.

We love you, Joanie!

We're grateful to all scorekeepers for the many hours spent at the table on Friday, Saturday & Sunday, and to St Cletus Athletic Director Lukasz Majewski for his time and help. I remember those long days!!

Finally, a very special thank you to Katie, Sue and Tina -
gracious and humble tournament directors extraordinaire!

These three ladies initiated and ran last year's Invitational. It was held just seven weeks after Erin had died, and now looking back I know I just sat in numbed attendance, a mere spectator of the generosity that flowed from the hands of the surrounding community. This year it felt good to be involved, in my old stomping ground ~ my former home away from home.

Katie, Sue and Tina were just as wonderful this year, as they did the organizing and pre-weekend legwork so that everything was in place and ready to go, and then they rolled up their sleeves and worked all weekend to ensure everything ran smoothly. You're the best.

Katie created to share more pictures from the weekend.
Password is "snowflake".
~ ~ ~

Carly, I hope with all my heart that one day we will be able to SPIKE OUT CANCER for good.  I would give anything to be the one pounding THAT ball!

Until then, we champion that goal by encouraging donations toward promising research and by assisting current patients and their families who face head on into a life that is not one of their choosing.

~ ~ ~
With deep gratitude for your support of the
cause that's closest to our hearts.

~ The Potts Family ~
Mary and Dave
Chris, Sarah & Matt
in memory of our beloved Erin

Friday, February 4, 2011

Learning the Fundamentals

Did you know that today is
World Cancer Day?

The International Union Against Cancer, a consortium of organizations in over 100 countries, has designated February 4th a day to raise awareness of the disease through education about prevention, detection and treatment. Cancer has now surpassed heart disease as the leading cause of death worldwide.

According to the World Health Organization, the following are the most prevalent cancers:
  • Lung (1.4 million deaths)
  • Stomach (740,000 deaths)
  • Colorectal (610,000 deaths)
  • Liver (700,000 deaths)
  • Breast (460,000 deaths)

30% - 40% of cancers can be prevented, and 1/3 of cancers can be cured through early diagnosis and treatment.

~ Tobacco use is the single biggest cause of cancer in the world. Don't use it!
~ Drink alcohol in moderation.
~ Avoid over-exposure to the sun.
~ Beware of environmental carcinogens - polluted drinking water, asbestos, poor air quality, food chemicals...
~ Watch your diet and be physically active for at least 30 minutes per day.
~ Some cancers are caused by chronic infections.  Hepatitis, HPV and HPB all increase the risk of cancer.  Be aware of available immunizations and exercise responsible social behavior.

That's the good news.  Unfortunately, there are also cancers that cannot be prevented and cannot be cured at this time.  Those of us who've had our loved ones taken from us by the disease are fully aware of the random selection of its innocent victims.  Our focus turns to the hope of promising research on the horizon and toward the support of others who are presently in head-to-head combat and in need of some reinforcement.

World Cancer Day just happens to coincide
with the first day of the
2011 Erin Potts Invitational Volleyball Tournament
hosted by St Cletus School.

Friday, Feb. 4 ~ Alumni Games beginning at 6:30pm
Saturday, Feb 5 ~ 8th Grade Games beginning at 8:00am
Sunday, Feb 6 ~ 7th Grade Games beginning at 11:00am

Thank goodness the big blizzard came through town a couple of days ago and is long gone. The sun has been shining, we've had time to dig ourselves out and we're ready to begin the event this evening with our Alumni Games. We'll start at 6:30, and if some of you can't make it until a bit later, that's fine. Join us when you can.

I've been working on my volleyball fundamentals since the
2010 Tournament.
Look out all you young things!

Since December of 2006, I've had the opportunity to become well-versed in many fundamental elements of the cancer world as well. Somehow, Erin was chosen for this Elite Team. I don't recall taking her to the try-outs, but evidently she had what it took to make the top team.

A courageous attitude among pediatric cancer patients is not the exception, but rather the norm. Kids with cancer possess the ability to live extraordinary lives while staring down this all-too-often lethal opponent, and they have an astounding impact on those fortunate enough to be involved in their lives. Their positive attitudes and gifted understanding of living in the moment are just a couple fundamentals they exercise with proficiency.

In memory of Erin and other randomly chosen ones, we strive to make a difference in our own little corner of this big world by hosting the tournament this weekend. All monies raised will be directed to The Bear Necessities Foundation to provide support to those affected by pediatric cancer today.  There are so many.

Please stop in the gym, watch us alums play, cheer for your favorite 7th & 8th grade teams, have a slice of pizza, buy a t-shirt and support our cause. If you're unable to attend and would like to make a donation, you may do so directly.  Thank you for your generosity.

The Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation
55 W Wacker Drive
Suite 1100
Chicago, IL 60601

If you don't live locally and there is a Foundation in your area you prefer to support, please consider doing so in memory of someone's child whose life was taken too soon by this disease as a meaningful way to recognize World Cancer Day.

I'll leave you with a few more statistics.

According to the American Cancer Society, these are the most common types of childhood cancers in the United States.
  • Leukemia - 31%
  • Brain and Nervous System - 21%
  • Neuroblastoma - 7%
  • Wilm's tumor - 5%
  • Hodgkins Lymphoma - 4%
  • Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma - 4%
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma - 3%
  • Retinoblastoma - 3%
  • Osteosarcoma - 3%
  • Ewing's sarcoma - 2%
These are further divided into subcategories,
and there are others not specifically listed ~ too many...

I'd really rather be looking at stats regarding hitting percentages, aces per match, assists per game and even block attempts by shorter players who used to get upset when hit over by opponents!

Hope to see you!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What? No Groundhog Day?

We're in the midst of a pretty crazy blizzard here in the Midwest.
There's lightning and thunder too.
It's so bizarre!
While browsing the headlines this evening
I came upon this ~

"Woodstock Groundhog Day Canceled"

According to the NBC Chicago local news report, Wednesday's Groundhog Day festivities in Woodstock have been canceled because of the forthcoming snowstorm, coordinator Rick Bellairs said. Willie's forecast will be read during the annual Groundhog Day breakfast, postponed until 7:30 a.m. Saturday at Pirro’s Restaurant, 228 Main St., in Woodstock. For now, the mascot groundhog is "going to hunker down under the snow and stay warm," Bellairs said.
What?  Postponed?
Not a good sign for those of us who are hoping for an early spring!

Did you know that many of the scenes from the 1993 movie
Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, were shot in Woodstock, IL?
They've held a ceremony in this town for years to commemorate the day.

Would you like the opportunity to relive a day 
over and over again until you got it right?
Hmmm, don't know if I'd ever be able to get it right.
Do you ever FEEL like you're living the same day
over and over again?
Uh - yep.

It's been a good night to watch some scenes from the movie.
Kick back and hit Play.  They're hilarious.
I'll be singing "I Got You Babe" for days now!
Ah, Sonny and Cher - classic!

They're comparing tonight's storm to the Chicago Blizzard of '67?
Check out Lake Shore Drive in this picture taken back then.

They've shut down The Drive tonight, and cars are still stranded.
It's nice to be home in front of the fire.

Where were you when the Blizzard of '67 hit?
How about today's storm? 

In 1967 I was in 3rd grade in Mrs. Powers' classroom. The administration decided to close school around lunchtime. They began calling our homes to ask our moms to come and pick us up. We all lived right in the neighborhood, and back in those days we weren't driven to and from school, so what did all our mom's say?
Walk home, of course!
Ahhh, now THOSE were the days.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

OK, I wrote that last night and was just about
to publish the post and our Comcast service went out.
We're up and running now, and


Dave is outside shoveling,
and searching for the groundhog!

Me? Still sipping coffee, thanks.
And you?
"That's right woodchuck chuckers,

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~