For the Love of God and Music

We go to church. A lot. I say that not to be pompous or self-righteous. I say it not to make you or the religious right assume I am one of them. I say it because it’s true and sets the stage for this post.

We even go to church for Maundy Thursday. This service, for some denominations, is when Christians remember the Last Supper and Jesus’s washing of his disciples feet. I’ve had some powerful experiences at Maundy Thursday services in the past.

Back when we were going to dance lessons at a nearby club on Thursday nights, we would joke come Holy Week that we couldn’t go dancing at the bar with our Baptist friends because we were going to church. That always made us laugh.

So, anyway. Hal got excited when I picked him up from school and said we were going to church. I clarified that we were going to a worship service, that he wouldn’t be watching movies and hanging out with Ms. Rita like he does on Wednesdays.

He dutifully sat with his worship notebook and drew contentedly for a few minutes, then began to fidget and try to sit on the floor. I told him to sit up. He asked for some gum. I said I didn’t have any. He fidgeted and sat on the floor. I told him to sit on the pew. Eventually he stage whispered, “Can I play a game on your phone?” I said no. His hands went to his eyes, head to the pew (still sitting on the floor), and his quiet sobs could be heard by anyone nearby.

He looked up at me and said plaintively, “But I want to do something fun!”

“We aren’t here to have fun,” I said, already starting to feel there was something wrong in my words. “We are here to… to worship God and take Communion and… and… be quiet.”

What are we doing? I thought to myself.

There were 31 people from two congregations there. And that included the choir and the two pastors. Maundy Thursday is not attended by many. In fact, with the exception of the almost-13 year old friend of Jane’s present, my boys were the only people under 35 present. Even Jane had gone to watch a college volleyball game with her team.

What are we doing? I asked myself as I watched my young son cry because he was at church. What kind of damage are we inflicting?

These thoughts persisted after we left the church – the service was a very brief 30 minutes. From there, we headed to a professional symphony orchestra performance. One that started about 30 minutes before the boys’ bed time. But enriching your children’s lives is important. Infecting them with a love of music and all that, right?

Hal squirmed the entire time. Daryl complained that he was tired and did not want to be there.

What are we doing? I thought to myself.

Taking your kids to church is the right thing to do, right? Taking them to cultural events like high-quality symphony performances is the right thing to do, right?

So why aren’t they reveling in the awesome job we are doing at child rearing? Why aren’t they jumping up and down with excitement? Why aren’t they thanking us and begging for more?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know that some experiences are valuable even if they aren’t fun. That children might learn to appreciate experiences later. That we have to set the stage for patience and respect and proper behavior. That we have to widen their horizons beyond video games and tee ball.

I’m just wondering at what age some of these experiences should begin. And whether our kids are typical or not. We are a music family. We are a church family. But are we driving the love for either or both out of our children?

I’m honestly not sure.

A Woman in a Man’s World

I’m a woman who works with men most of the time. Always have. When I was a teenager, I was active in Explorer Scouts, an extension of Boy Scouts of America. It was co-ed, but still mostly guys. I went on to college where I majored in Electrical Engineering. By the last half, I had settled in with a nice group of 4 or 5 girls, but most of my classmates were men. Then I got a job in Software Engineering, again, men.

This has never bothered me, particularly. I get along with my male coworkers. I’m not a high-strung woman that takes offense easily. I’m not overly girly in my speaking or mannerisms. I wear jeans and tennis shoes to work, just like any of the other guys.

But I’ve been having this strange awakening lately. It’s come partially from interacting with more female coworkers and partially from reading blogs from other women in male dominated fields, like this one.

I’m starting to realize things I do because I’m the only woman in the room.

Take, for instance, some coworkers who like to complain about the government. Their political point-of-view is quite different from mine. From my perspective, at least one of them has fallen for some major fish stories. I frequently wish they’d just shut up. Or go talk somewhere else so I can’t hear them.

Do I say anything?

Do I walk over and say, “Hey, guys, would you mind keeping it about work? I don’t want to listen to this.”?

No. I don’t.

I always thought it was just my eagerness to fit in and be liked that kept me out of such confrontations. After talking with a like-minded female colleague, I’ve come to realize that there is another reason I stay silent. They might very well do what I ask, but it wouldn’t be out of respect for me and my rights. No, they’d roll their eyes and when a topic started to come up next time, they’d say in a low voice, “Well, we can’t talk about that because… you know… the woman will be offended.”

I’ve always thought of myself as one of the guys and always assumed they saw me the same. But when I transferred into my current work group, many of whom I’ve worked with before, a small handful bemoaned gaining women in the group: “Oh, I’ll have to start behaving myself now that there will be women here.”

I was recently test solving puzzles for a friend who was writing a puzzle hunt. He had a group of six of us that were communicating about the puzzles via group emails. I was the only woman. It didn’t bother me until one night near the end of the solving. There were two or three batches of puzzles to solve – 10-15 puzzles, each taking me about 3-5 minutes to solve and provide feedback on.

I was tired. Maybe a little depressed and unmotivated. I didn’t feel very good. My stomach was cramping. No… not those “lady cramps” – real, literal stomach cramping. I. Did. Not. Want. To. Solve. Those. Puzzles.

But I did.

Why?

He would have understood. If I just said, “Hey, I’m burned out. I need a break. I’ll get to these tomorrow but I bet everyone else is already giving you great feedback”, he would have been like, “Man, that’s fine. I totally understand.” And it would have sounded just like that. He’s a cool guy.

So why did I solve them? Because I was the only woman participating. At least one guy had his wife solving too but she wasn’t one of the original requested solvers. It was just me and a bunch of guys. And I just couldn’t be the woman too weak to finish it out.

It reminded me of Petra in Ender’s Game – the book, not the movie. At the end, during “Command School”, when the kids were being pushed well past their breaking points, Petra buckled under the pressure. She made a mistake with devastating consequences. She felt horrible. She had let down the team. And I always felt that she took it harder because she was the only girl participating. She had always needed to be better than all the guys to be considered an equal and when she stumbled, she feared people would think it was because she was female and couldn’t handle it.

When I was in high school, in that Explorer Post, we hiked at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Two weeks, hiking rugged trails and camping in tents. Four adults, eight guys, two girls. One day, we arrived at the base of an infamously brutal climb: Bear Canyon. I was part of the day’s water crew and the campsite we were headed to was dry. We had filled up the extra large water bag and some of the guys were gleefully adding the 20 or so pounds to my already fully-loaded pack.

As the water dropped into place, I felt the weight hit my hips and my knees buckled slightly. At that point, I was carrying over half my body weight on my back. I hefted the weight and, trying not to sound worried or incapable, asked if anyone was going to take it from me part of the way up.

“If you can keep up!” one of them exclaimed before they all scampered up the trail.

I saw red. How dare they?! I’ll show them! So I started walking. I held my water bottle in my hand, picked out a comfortable pace, and just kept walking. I didn’t stop. I didn’t slow down. I. Just. Walked.

And eventually, I caught up with them taking a break on a log. There was my chance to divest myself of the 20 pounds of water. But I walked by as if I was having no trouble at all. In fact, like I hadn’t even seen them.

And I beat them to the top. Just barely. A few guys – who hadn’t taunted me – got there earlier than I and were playing a game of cards. They motioned me over and quickly tossed me some cards so I’d look like I was playing. I worked very hard to regulate my gasps into semi-normal breathing.

The older brother of my main taunter looked up as they approached. “About time you got here,” he said, “She’s been here for ages.”

The comment made me feel good. But it was crazy that I felt the need to prove myself in that way.

Women in male-dominated arenas often feel forced to prove themselves. Like the “lady preachers” in the linked blog above, keeping it serious so that they will be treated seriously. Afraid to look or act too much like a woman, lest they not be treated like a professional.

Tell Me How It’s Fair

Chivalry is dead. Actually it’s not, but I kind of wish it were. Don’t get me wrong – I think being kind to someone is a good thing. And I think helping someone out who is weaker than you or who needs help is a wonderful thing. I just don’t like the assumption that in any pairing, the woman is the default one who needs things done for her.

I’ve had this discussion with many people and they always argue that the man is just being a gentleman. He’s trying to be nice. And I’m sure the particular man in question is. But I feel like the cultural underpinning, the long forgotten motivations behind it are actually harmful to women on the whole. And I wish people would spend more time thinking about it.

I don’t mind someone holding the door open for me if they get there first and I’m close behind. What I don’t like is someone rushing past me to get the door, actually impeding my progress, just so they can hold it open for me, as if I am incapable.

I don’t mind someone helping carry something heavy either. But when I’m already competently carrying it and a bent over man thirty years my senior shuffles over to try to take it from me, I’m baffled. What crazy societal rules dictate that he should struggle to carry something for a young, strong woman?

I also don’t mind someone opening a car door for me. As long as I’m not sitting captive in the car while I wait for him to run around the car and open it for me. Unless I happen to be wearing something that would make it difficult for me to get out without assistance, that is. But who are we kidding? I’m never dressed like that.

On a recent school day, as Hal and I exited the preschool and approached our car, another mom was opening the back door of her SUV so her two kids could climb in. There was a little boy and a slightly older little girl. I’m guessing he was four and she was perhaps six.

I’m not sure who was initially closer to the door. I wasn’t paying that much attention until the woman grabbed the boy by the arm and yanked him out of the car that he was already halfway into.

She hissed angrily at him, “You don’t get in the car first! She’s a girl! You let her go first. I don’t want to have to tell you this again!”

I was befuddled. And more than a little heartbroken for the poor little boy. The problem, according to her remarks, was not that he had shoved his way past his sister, which would universally be considered rude, but that he should have known to always let her go first.

Why?

Seriously. WHY?

Ladies first? Why should his sister get to get in the car first simply because she lacks a penis? Huh?

I mean, there are logical, sensible ways to determine who gets in the car first. Whoever was standing by the door would be a good criteria. Or, since they were both piling in from the same side, whoever was expected to sit on the far side would make sense. Or, even, the youngest gets in first because the older is more capable of being patient or remaining safe while outside the car. But simply because one was a girl?

How is that fair for the boy?

Women have fought to gain equal rights for so long. Equal rights isn’t just about gaining what the men get. It’s about being equal. That means we don’t get to be placed on a pedestal and pampered simply because we are women. The whole reason women have been treated like that over the years is because we are viewed as the weaker sex. People that need to be cared for and protected.

I’m not a fool. I know that women are, on average, physically weaker than men… on average. With the added tool of rape, I recognize that women have more vulnerabilities than men. I know all that.

But we can open a door. We can carry stuff. We can wait our turn to get in a car.

That poor little boy is being taught a cultural standard that really doesn’t make any sense. Which is probably why he’s having such a hard time remembering it. If I were him, I’d be thinking, how come she always gets to get in the car first? And quite frankly, the only way it’s fair is if he gets some sort of special thing that she doesn’t.

Which, in the archaic society in which so many of these gentlemanly acts came from, he does. He gets to be in charge when he grows up. He gets educated. He gets to make the rules. He gets to basically own the woman.

But wait. He doesn’t get to do all that anymore. She can be in charge. She can make the rules. She can outpace his education. So any way you slice it, one of these kids is getting robbed. Either she’s being held back because she’s the weaker one who needs to be allowed into the car first but from whom little is expected. Or she’s fully equal to him and he still has to wait for her to get in.

How’s that fair to either of them?

All Evidence to the Contrary

My children have lost their minds.

Our 13 year old daughter has several chores that earn her right to her cell phone. We’ve gone over what those chores are several times. I’ve walked her through them. Like, literally, stood in the room with her, told her what types of cleaning solutions to use for which chores, whether to use paper towels or a washcloth, how to not forget certain easily missed areas, demonstrated particular cleaning techniques. It has been explained.

So last night, after being told to clean the bathroom, she told her dad that she had done so. He didn’t check her work right then but commented to me later that we needed to (since we have long suspected that she’s not doing her chores or at least not doing them well). So I did this morning.

They had already left for school so I called her.

“Daddy said that you reported cleaning the bathroom last night.”

“Yeeeessss,” she said, as if confused as to why I was bringing it up.

I tried to keep my voice calm and non-confrontational. “Well, you didn’t clean the counter. Or the sinks. Or the faucets. Or the mirror. Or the toilet. Or the floor. Or the bathtub,” I said as I peeked behind the shower curtain and confirmed that the bath toys they’ve been stepping on during their showers were still there. “What exactly have you cleaned?”

I was afraid that my last question had come across too strident and we would now engage in the indignant screaming match where I would be accused of not appreciating anything she does and it’s not her fault if I can’t see all the work she did. Either that or this kind of baffling exchange: you didn’t sweep the floor _ yes I did _ then why is there visible dirt? _ I don’t know because I did sweep _ no, no you didn’t _ YES I DID! _ then you didn’t do a very good job _ I don’t know what you want me to say! I SWEPT THE FLOOR!!

She took a different approach.

“Ohhhhhhh! You mean that kind of cleaning!”

I choose to refer to this response as Selective IQ Deficit: the sudden apparent decrease in a child’s IQ to justify failure to accomplish an assigned task.

She should know that “clean the bathroom” does not mean to put the toothbrushes back in order and line up the cups and soap dishes.

When I told her that she would need to actually clean the bathroom this evening before or after volleyball practice, I finally got the explosion I was expecting.

Only I wasn’t expecting it anymore.

“What?! I’m going to volleyball practice?!”

“Um, yes,” I said, surprised and confused. “It’s Tuesday evening. You always have volleyball practice?”

“But I have UIL!”

After some very confusing back-and-forth, I found out that the school board wanted to recognize some academic award winners. Lots of people miss this. There’s no reason for her to miss volleyball practice for it. But she was enraged that we were going to make her stick to her original commitment. Whatever.

When I got off the phone, I noticed that her 10 year old brother, fully dressed for school, had really greasy hair.

“Did you take a shower this morning?”

“No.”

“Did you take one last night?”

“No.”

“Did you take one yesterday morning?”

“No.”

“Your hair looks nasty. You need to take a shower.”

“I’ll be late to school!”

“I don’t think so. I’ll call Daddy and make sure he agrees but if he agrees…”

I called Daddy. He agreed there was enough time to not be late for school. I hung up and turned to my son.

“Go wash your hair.”

To my surprise, he walked to the bathroom without complaint.

“And do a good job!”

“I will.”

As I put on my shoes, I wondered why the shower wasn’t starting. I had heard a brief turn of the sink faucet. Surely not…

I opened the bathroom door. He was at the sink.

“Um. You’ll need to get in the shower.”

WHAT??!!” Yeah… there’s the reaction I was expecting.

“You cannot wash your hair well at the sink while fully dressed. Get undressed. Get in the shower.”

UGGGH!!! I’m going to be late for school!!”

“As long as you leave in the next twenty minutes, you’ll be fine. Hurry up.”

He glared at me.

I checked on him later. The sides of his hair were not completely wet. He was trying to lather the shampoo while standing under the stream of water. He was only washing the top. I reached in to help him out. He indignantly exclaimed that he knew how to wash his hair.

Ahhhh, son… all evidence to the contrary…

Indeed, all evidence points to the conclusion that my children will never grow into fully functional, productive, responsible adults. I’ve been assured that they will, but times like this… I have serious doubts.

With A Little Help From My Friends

One difficult parenting skill to master is the art of sternly disciplining while your sides are trying to split with laughter and the corners of your mouth twitch to betray you.

I first saw the difficulty of this struggle a decade ago when Daryl was an infant. I was sitting with a group of people at the church we were attending at the time. It became obvious that Daryl required a diaper change. I hefted him into my arms, grabbed the diaper bag, and crossed to the far side of the room. I settled down on the floor and got to work.

The four year old son of one of the women at the table approached us to see what we were doing. He glanced over my shoulder for a minute, watching me open the diaper and begin wiping carefully with the baby wipe.

“He has a small winkie,” he said.

“What?” I asked. What’s a winkie? I thought.

A small hand reached over my shoulder. He pointed down into the diaper.

“He has a small winkie,” he repeated.

“Oh,” I said, understanding at last. “Well, he’s still a small baby so I guess his winkie would be small.”

“I have a big winkie.”

I said nothing, at a loss.

“I have a really big winkie.”

“I’m sure you do.”

“Do you want to see my winkie?”

“No. No, I’m ok.”

He moved around in front of me.

“Here, let me show you my big winkie.”

I was trying not to laugh as I stared at my son’s own inferior winkie and tried in vain to convince the little boy that he really didn’t need to show me his winkie.

The pants came down anyway.

And then his mother was crouched behind me, her body shaking with laughter, her face buried in my head. In a desperate voice, she whispered, “What is he doing?!

I calmly and formally told her, my voice only mildly betrayed by mirth, “He is showing me how big his winkie is.”

Oh, my gosh!” She kept her face in my hair for a moment before rising with a straight… well… straightish face. “Harold,” she said. “Pull your pants up. We don’t show people our winkie.”

As her conversation with her son continued, she would occasionally be forced to retreat to my hair until her composure returned. I continued on with the diaper change, doing my best to keep my own laughter in check.

Now fast forward to the present. I’m sitting, again, with a group of people at church. Funny how some of the most outrageously inappropriate moments seem to happen there.

I’m at a table with two of my best friends. At the other end of the table are the pastor’s parents. Both with stern expressions on their faces. I don’t know them well and I’ve heard they are kind and friendly people. Their neutral expressions don’t necessarily convey that. Or maybe I’m just self-conscious.

We are in a room full of people enjoying our annual dessert auction which raises money for Relay for Life. It is a loud and boisterous affair with an auctioneer on the microphone and plenty of people hooting and hollering as people vie for their most desired desserts.

In walks five year old Hal. The boys had been roaming the church in a pack. He approaches the table. The older boys come in behind him to see what he’s about to say. Rather than walk around the table to me, he stops on the far side between my friend and the pastor’s father.

Just as he begins to speak, the room falls silent. Not because he is about to speak but because the conversation lulled as the auctioneer picked up the next pie.

And into that silence comes the following gem, spoken loudly because loud is the only volume Hal knows. The first few words might be lost in the dying conversation but the last word is quite clear.

“Mommy, Daryl keeps saying fuck.”

My friends gasp and burst into grins. My eyes go wide and my jaw drops. I call him around to my side of the table and begin to sternly discuss with him the problem with repeating that word.

Daryl is nearby protesting that he never said that word.

My friends are laughing.

Loudly.

I mean, they are trying to hold it in. Sometimes the laughter subsides to giggling. Every once in awhile, there is temporary silence.

In those quiet moments, I try to talk to Hal with a straight face. He looks back at me intently. And then the giggling starts behind me. And my mouth begins to twitch. And I cover my mouth, trying to keep my eyes stern while I regain control.

And then I speak. And they laugh. And it all repeats again.

Until Hal finally figures out that he is in trouble when I tell him to sit down with me and he dissolves into tears. I fold him up into my lap and rest his head on my chest. And turn to glare at my friends. Who burst out laughing full force.

Really, with friends like that…

My Favorite 50 Words

This week was my first time to participate in a Weekly Writing Challenge. Actually, it was my first time to even look at one, to be honest. I’ve never had a problem finding something to say so it’s never occurred to me to look for a prompt!

I thus found it rather interesting when my first time to look created a truly difficult challenge for me. Tell a story in 50 words. Just 50. OK, I thought. Well, there was Hal’s reluctance to take a nap after falling asleep at church. I wasn’t sure there was enough meat for a large blog post. Maybe it’d work.

I soon learned two things. The first, that 50 words is beyond brief, I learned when I looked at my word count half way through and saw I was at 94 words. I then realized that my story actually had two scenes and would have to be two separate tales.

Here’s the first (inferior) one:

He briefly fell asleep on the pew. Then complained when the organ awakened him as I rose to sing. At the front for the children’s sermon, he laid down and closed his eyes, pastor ignored. But when nap time finally came, he would not. Such is the way of a child.

When I asked my husband and daughter for feedback, they said the same thing I was thinking. It moved around too much. It didn’t seem to have focus, a purpose. It fell flat.

The second one, Naptime worked better. Especially when I was able to add a picture. I published it without first looking around to see what other people were posting. I think that’s best. Keeps a person from second-guessing herself.

I learned my second thing when I started reading other posts. I learned that it really is hard to get it right. A lot of people submitted poetry. Quite a bit of it good poetry! But the write-up said this: “A fifty, much like a poem, challenges readers…” And for my literalist brain, if a fifty is much like a poem, it can’t be a poem.

Telling a story in 50 words, complete with some character development, plot, imagery, conclusion, clarity – that’s hard! Some of what I read never seemed to coalesce into stories. They struck me as wordy people trying to contain themselves in something brief. Or stories that tried for mystery but just left me confused with what they left out or tried to imply. The ones I liked managed to make me see and understand so much more than 50 words would seem to allow room for.

That first day or two, I read them all and saved off some of my favorites. I haven’t been able to keep up since then, but I’ll keep trying. I’ve noticed a few bloggers linking to all of them on their post. Gosh, with as many out there as there are, that just makes my eyes glaze over! What I would love to know is which ones YOU like best. And why. So that’s what I’m going to give you here. Some of my favorites. And why. In no particular order.

I recommend you follow the links before you read what I have to say. I don’t want to spoil them nor influence your reaction to them.

Let’s start with the master, the person who authored this particular writing challenge: Boy with a hat’s 50 word stories #138 sets the stage for what makes a good story. I love the recognition that he doesn’t have to explain what happened. “Snap!” is sufficient. And then the boy gazing up at the end. It says so much.

This one, Silence, does the short story thing perfectly. It draws you in to the woman’s pain and separation. It sets up the hope that she’ll say something. You are holding your breath, hopeful, and then… bam.

This one didn’t have a descriptive title but it had a great lead-in picture. I felt the story fully pulled me into the person’s state of mind and made me proud of the personal growth in those short 50 words.

Quiet Please, Can’t You See I’m Recharging? started with a funny, wry statement that immediately made me smile. And then finished up with an obvious solution that is readily apparent to the parent of a teenager. It just felt true.

He Didn’t Leave… I’m not necessarily fond of seemingly weak, fearful characters, but something about this story struck me. I think it’s the bit right at the end where he seems to act nonchalant about staying and she makes it clear that why he stayed is as important or more so than staying.

This one I like because of its social commentary. The differences that so many of us hold significant that absolutely shouldn’t be.

I like Crow simply because of its beautifully detailed descriptiveness. I can see it all so clearly. And feel that hesitation before making the last move. And that brief moment of balance.

The Last Laugh: I adore the wording of the first sentence. And the message that sometimes we get bad advice and don’t learn to let go of it is interesting to ponder.

What makes Unexpected so wonderful is the irony. And the character’s recognition of that irony.

In Darkness, I like the double meaning of the word darkness and the obvious fear of being dismissed into the great unknown.

I’m not sure why this one is called third-wave, but my failure to understand the title did little to dilute my enjoyment of the story itself. How can someone make a character this strong and this identifiable in so few words?! I love that the girl has such a strong, mature, feminist response to the world that she then belts out in the only way truly accessible for a five year old.

What I liked about this one is that I could tell the speaker was embarrassed but not about what. My curiosity grew and the way it was revealed was so well done. Plus, I can relate considerably to putting my foot in my mouth.

I’m sure it was more than the picture that made me smile at this one, although it certainly set the right tone. Whether the story is talking about the statue or a real person makes no difference to me. The speaker’s attempt to divine true intent was the win.

I greatly appreciate the extra work that went into the font variations in Érase una vez…. I like how it implied movement and pace. I also like how it made me feel like I can speak Spanish. Even though I can’t.

I followed the link to Climb: A Play in Fifty Words simply because I was intrigued at how you would write a short play like that. And she delivered. Delightful!

Ok, I’m deliberately not including examples of stories I didn’t like. I don’t think that’s nice, nor important. To each, his own. So when I tell you that I am linking this next one, which includes 3 tales, because I particularly like the middle one, please don’t take that to mean that I despise the others. They just aren’t the one I’m writing about. On The Importance of Memory took me by surprise with the last sentence. Very nice and very funny.

And… I know I said that one lesson I learned was that it was difficult to tell a story well in 50 words. Many of the ones I didn’t care for, I didn’t care for because they weren’t really a story. They were just a scene or an idea. But this description of a bonfire is proof that you can get my attention without telling an obvious story. I was enjoying the beautiful imagery but when I got to the naked knees and crickets and people falling asleep, it suddenly felt like a story had been told. I felt like I was there.

In that lesson, I claimed as well that poems shouldn’t count. And then I found this one. I clicked on The F Word with a fair amount of apprehension. Was I about to read a teenage boy’s screed? Some obscene writing from a college student? An X-rated sex scene? No. To my delight, it was a perfectly balanced poem! How much harder is it to write a coherent, complete scene but break it up in nearly equal syllable counts and make it rhyme in all the right places?! Even the unspoken fifty-first word rhymed. Excellent.

Here’s another poem that I found right before I published this that I enjoyed. I liked the visual and the story… now that I’m more amenable to poems. :)

I also said that these were listed in no particular order, which was true. Except for this one. This one was hands-down my favorite of the ones I read. I was skeptical at first. When I wrote mine, I fought the urge to give explanatory statements before and/or after my story. I ultimately decided that was cheating and didn’t do it – and I tended to dislike the ones where people did that. It felt like the entire idea couldn’t be expressed in the fifty words so they were bolstering their story. So when I saw the overall word count on The Word Peddler’s submission, I was prepared to not like it. Then I read The Bits That Haunt Us and the world slowed down. I felt a chill go down my spine. I just stared at the words for a minute when I finished. And then I read on and understood why the explanatory words were so vital. The story was perfectly written and I assumed it was fiction. But it wasn’t. The hairs on my arms stood up. Suddenly I knew that the imagery from this story would never leave me.

I wish I had time to read more before publishing this post, but it feels important to actually publish this during the week of the challenge. So, here’s the DpChallenge page where you can find them all. Please take a look and share in the comments any that you particularly liked and why. I’m curious to hear from you and to read all the great ones I know I’ve missed!

I Want To Move The Ghost Captain!!

At five and a half years of age, Hal is finally getting old enough to play some more interesting games than Candy Land and Chutes & Ladders. One that we have been enjoying of late is Catan Junior.

This is a simplified version of Settlers of Catan. In Catan Junior, everyone is a pirate trying to build pirate’s lairs and place ships between those lairs. There are 5 different types of resources that are used in various combinations to purchase either a lair, a ship, or a Coco card.

Each Coco card allows you to either build a lair or ship, gain some resources, or move the Ghost Captain. The Ghost Captain gains you some resource cards and prevents other people from gaining some as well.

The object of the game is to place all of your pirate’s lairs before your opponents. This objective is routinely lost on our boys. To them, the object is to collect Coco cards. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a benefit to collecting them, but it’s not the objective of the game and focusing on it too much will actually cost you the game.

Their other favorite thing to do is move the Ghost Captain. During a recent game play over dinner while Jane was away at a dance, Daryl hit a stroke of luck and purchased a whole bunch of Coco cards, most of which earned him the opportunity to move the Ghost Captain. Daddy and I both knew he was blowing his opportunity to win but he was delirious with his sense of success.

And Hal was jealous.

Before long, Hal was crying out that he wanted to move the Ghost Captain. “Well, roll a 6 then,” his Daddy suggested, mentioning the other way to earn that right.

He rolled a 1.

And then he cried.

His arms went up into the air. Huge alligator tears spilled out of his eyes and ran down his cheeks. He cried a wordless cry before wailing, “But I wanted to move the GHOST CAPTAIN!!

My husband and I stifled smiles before helping him optimize his turn. Next it was Daddy’s turn. Did he do it? Yes. Yes, he did.

He rolled a 6.

And the wailing began anew.

“You want to move the Ghost Captain?” asked my husband.

YES!!

“Then move it,” he replied.

Hal eagerly moved the Ghost Captain, essentially costing his Daddy the game since it was not moved to the best location for Daddy to win. Daddy didn’t mind. He bought a Coco card. Which let him move the Ghost Captain again. He handed over the right to Hal.

When it got back around to Hal, he only needed to place one more pirate’s lair. He had a lot of resources. My husband and I knew the game was all but over as Hal was about to win.

Hal, meanwhile, gripped the die tightly in his hands, squinted his eyes shut, and fervently wished for a 6.

He rolled a 4.

“NO!!!” he cried. We didn’t bother to hide our laughter anymore.

“Look, Hal,” we said. “Look. You only need to build one more lair and you have what you need to do it. Look, you won!”

“But I wanted to move the Ghost Captain!!!”

I’ve never seen anyone so upset at winning a game.