Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas, Part One!

I could hardly have one of these newfound blogs, and not blog about Christmas. Am I right?

So, Christmas! Christmas was a dark holiday in the Bubka home growing up. I wish there was a bright side to that, but it really is what it is. As we approached my seventh Christmas – not surprisingly, one of the first Christmases that I can really remember – my mother died in a car accident. We had a little, red Volkswagen Bug at the time – honestly, it was probably a horrible car for the harsh winters in Denver, where I grew up. One Saturday evening, a couple weeks before Christmas, my mom had to drive up into the mountains west of Denver on an errand. On the icy roads on the way home, she drove off the road, into a fairly deep ravine, and died from her injuries.

There was a bit of a pall over Christmas in our home from that time forward. We still celebrated, of course. But as the Christmas tree went up each year, I always remembered the Christmas that Mom died. I never articulated it, but I kind of thought of Christmas as a yearly memorial to my mother. And my Dad, God bless him, wouldn’t have been great at Christmas, under the best of circumstances.

My Dad was a lot of things – most of them very positive. He was a great provider. He was as honest as the day is long. He was a hard worker. He was a good, Bible-believing, God-fearing, Christian man! One of the things that really shaped his character was living in Manhattan during the Great Depression. He learned to conserve, and to live a frugal life. Frugality is not a bad philosophy to have, in a lot of ways; but Christmastime as the son of a frugal father left a little something to be desired.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Goose's Dance Recital - WITH INSULTS!

Ah, there is truly nothing like a dance recital - sincerely! I so look forward to Lucy's dance recitals. Most of this is because I am obviously quite fond of Lucy. But even beyond that, I think it's cute how proud, nervous, and excited these girls get. And up until about Lucy's age, they don't have experience with buffering their thoughts and emotions. You get what they are - in all of its raw, unfiltered glory.

We still laugh about the tiny three-year-old girls who got into a shoving match last year when they both felt their personal space was being breached by the other girl. For them, the dance was over, just seconds after it started. While their peers were going about their performances on the stage all around them, these two little balls of fury traded shoves - neither was willing to give in. Even when the music ended and they walked off the stage, they were staring daggers into each other.

This year, a little girl walked onto the stage, just as excited and happy as she could be - at least until she turned and saw the big, scary crowd. Then she froze, stuck out her bottom lip, and started to wail. The other girls awkwardly tried to ignore her - to dance around her; but she was front and center - literally and figuratively. Finally, one of her instructors mercifully came out and carried her off.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Life Lesson: Sympathy vs. Compassion

I’ve recently had what I might consider an epiphany about what I think is an eternal principle: the difference between sympathy and compassion.

It wasn’t that long ago that I would have told you there was no difference. They were different words to describe the same human feeling. To that, now, I proclaim “FALSE!” (That’s a Paxism – and an annoying one, at that! If you make a statement to Pax and he disagrees with your statement, instead of calmly saying, “See, I think you might be mistaken there,” he loudly proclaims, “FALSE!” So, I might say, “Pax, you can’t get on your iPad – your homework isn’t finished.” He will pop up and point dramatically at me. “FALSE!” I am working on a comeback that has to do with the back of my hand. But I digress.)

Anybody can feel sympathy. I think most girls experience it early in life. They see another girl trip and spill her lunch tray, for example, and they feel sympathy for her. Being around lots and lots of teenage boys lately, I’ve realized that most boys don’t experience a lot of sympathy until later in life – it’s something that comes with early maturity – maybe about the time they start getting ready to go on missions. But other than the rare sociopath or true narcissist, all of us develop feelings of sympathy eventually. And it’s an important quality. It’s one of the characteristics that makes us human. Let’s face it – the world can be a cruel place. You can’t watch a single newscast without feeling pangs of sympathy for people who lose their houses to fire, lose loved ones to accidents, suffer catastrophes, and so on.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Oompa loompa doompadee doo!

Pax is very small for his age. When he has his yearly physical, he just barely gets on the chart – usually, at about the 5% mark in height. I haven’t been too worried about this characteristic, because it’s exactly how I was. And while I was never a threat to play power forward in the NBA, I at least ended up almost exactly average (5’ 10” – give or take). My growth spurt really started in 9th grade; which is about a year away for Pax. But just to be safe, our pediatrician ordered a bone density scan over the summer. Sure enough, everything looked fine. Based on whatever they look at with his growth plates, it’s projected that he’ll end up (surprise, surprise) about 5’ 10”.

Being small is terrible for an 8th Grade boy. It’s such a competitive (and mean) age. Everything is compared – both consciously, and subconsciously. And people are constantly making comments. I talked with Pax about this a few years ago, and many times since. My advice has been to try and take something of a self-deprecating approach to it. Laugh with people, and they will find you endearing. Your perceived weakness will actually become your strength. I think it’s good advice, and it mostly works. But sometimes, it’s hard.

Friday, December 16, 2011

On Sports and Bonding

I love sports. There was once a time when I loved playing them. My body doesn’t really allow that anymore – at least, on a sustained basis. Fortunately, I love watching them, too. My body has no issues with watching sports. I’m pretty certain my body thinks watching sports is swell.

When Susan was pregnant for the first time, and we found out we were having a boy, one of the first things that went through my head was how fun it was going to be to share my love of sports with my son. My dad never minced words about how he thought sports were a colossal waste of time. So, there was not even one occasion in my childhood where I sat down and watched a game of any kind with my father. This always made me a little sad. A mutual interest in sports between a father and son would provide a great excuse to spend time together; countless hours of potential conversation; and a unifying, single-minded bond that would hold strong through any boundaries.