Friends, Memoir

Cheerleader Envy

Fall brings out my cheerleader envy.

When I was growing up, when the leaves changed and the weather cooled, it  meant two things:

the annual deer hunt and football games.

Canadian Football
(Photo credit: Vlastula)

Since my dad owned the local dairy, he sponsored and coached the Snow Dairy little league football team.

Original founders of the Springville Little League Football program. My dad is on the left end of the front row.

While my brothers dreamed of wearing shoulder pads and helmets, I dreamed of wearing the red and white cheerleading outfit.

From the time I was about 10 years old, I thought I was destined to be a Snow Dairy cheerleader.

From August to November, we spent every Wednesday and Friday night at the football field, cheering for the Snow Dairy football team.

I sat in the bleachers wrapped in a patchwork quilt next to my mother and envied the cheerleaders,

hoping that someday I would wear a red pleated skirt and punch red and white  pompoms in the air

while leading the fans in a Go-Fight-Win cheer.

I still remember the excitement when we won the championship and all the boys hoisted my dad on their shoulders.

They carried him across the field while shouting, “We’re number one!”

Finally, the summer before ninth grade, I was old enough to try out.

I had watched so many cheerleaders over the years, I was sure I knew how to be one.

They did a lot of bouncing and yelling.

I could bounce and yell.

It looked so easy.

Trust me, I had cheerleader skills.

I’d taken years of dance and tumbling from Mrs. Killpack.

(I still have one of the dance recital programs as proof, dated April 24-25, 1969)

I had a killer cart-wheel.

With my tumbling skills, loud voice, and energetic personality, I had it all.

But, by the time try-outs came along, however, I knew my squad was in trouble.

We weren’t as cute and coordinated as we thought.

Honestly, we were a ragtag group of leftovers that nobody else wanted on their squad.

(Sorry if you’re reading this Kay, but you know it’s true.)

Still, we gave it our best.

We perfected our “Spirit” cheer.

“S-P-R-I-T, spirit, drive, ability!

Shout it out with all your might

Fight team fight!”

We knew we could nail that cheer, and we did, with one little problem…

We spelled spirit wrong.


Spirit is probably the most important quality for a cheer squad, and not only did we spell it wrong, we were an uninspiring lot.

Even though I shouted out with all my might and performed that flawless cart-wheel, our squad did not get chosen.

Crestfallen and glum, I schlepped past all the happy, buoyant girls who made it

and vowed I’d never go to another football game for the rest of my life.

The last thing I wanted to do was watch those stupid, chipper cheerleaders.

As soon as football season started, I forgot about my never-go-again vow

and joined the family for our fall ritual of heading to the football field twice a week.

I sat on the bleachers next to my loser cheerleader friends and we wondered what they had that we didn’t.

I made myself feel better by thinking things like, “who cares about being a goofy cheerleader anyway?”

I didn’t need to embarrass myself by doing those absurd spread eagle v-jumps and squealing like a silly girl over a dumb touchdown.

I convinced myself that cheerleading was overrated.

My failed cheerleader dream faded over time but many years later,

I went to a luncheon at the National Press Club to listen to Jane Pauley, who was then one of NBC’s Today Show hosts.

She gave a nice speech and then took questions from the audience.

Jane Pauley 2012 Shankbone
Jane Pauley 2012 Shankbone (Photo credit: david_shankbone)

Someone asked her if she had any regrets.

Without hesitating, she said, “Yes. I never made cheerleader!”

Suddenly, ninth grade cheerleading tryouts were as vivid as that dry, hot day in August

when we tried out on the grassy lot next to the tennis courts across the street from the junior high school.

In my mind, I relived that cheerleader rejection moment.

And Jane Pauley knew that moment!

I almost laughed aloud as I realized I wasn’t the only girl in the world with cheerleader envy!

I felt a new kinship with Jane Pauley, my all-of-a-sudden close colleague and newfound best friend.

Then she said, “I felt a little better about myself when I found out Diane Keaton didn’t make cheerleading either.”

Keaton in Hanging Up (2000)
Keaton in Hanging Up (2000) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Suddenly, Diane Keaton, Jane Pauley and I were soul sisters.

We were all part of the “Aspiring-Cheerleaders-Who-Never-Made-it-Club.”

Perhaps my favorite cheerleader reject was Erma Bombeck.

Erma Bombeck
Erma Bombeck (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She said that she could walk into a room and tell with 90 percent accuracy which women were cheerleaders.

When she received an honorary doctorate from her alma mater she said,

“When I stood up to make my acceptance speech, it all came back.

Cheerleader Tryouts: 3 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, in the gym…

I knew every single word of the cheers. Every movement was flawless.

I jumped like I had springs in my feet.

I was the only one who did the entire routine carrying a handbag.

As I looked out over the crowd of well-wishers,

I clutched the leather-bound honorary degree and blurted out,

“Don’t try to make up now. It’s too late. Where were you when I had fat thighs and a cheerleader wish?”

Touch`e, Erma Bombeck.


Community, From the News, Religion

Day to Serve and The Snowball Effect

Last January, I received a new church public affairs assignment.

One of our first decisions was to encourage the members of our church to dedicate a day to serve.

We explored the various needs in our communities.

After reviewing some startling hunger statistics, we decided to focus on the needs of those who are considered “food insecure.”

One in four Americans don’t know where their next meal will come from.

11.8 percent of people  in Virginia, one in six people in Maryland, a surprising 27.4 percent in the nation’s capital, 

and 21 percent of children in West Virginia live in families that cannot afford food

We reached out to the Governors of Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia and the Mayor of Washington, D.C. and asked for their support.

They eagerly jumped on board.

They issued proclamations declaring September 29 as a regional Day to Serve.

They reached out to their community faith groups and asked them to join us by organizing and/or participating in service projects to benefit the hungry.

Governor O’Malley in Maryland set a high bar by sending out letters to over 30 faith groups who all wanted to help.

We have held weekly meetings with our planning committee, which includes representatives from our church and representatives from the Governors’ and Mayor’s offices.

Each week, there is more to report.

More people are catching the vision.

More people want to help.

In West Virginia, all the football games played this Saturday will include food drives.

In Virginia, there are soccer games, 5K races, grocery store food drives, clean-up activities and more.

In D.C., there are “pack the pantry” projects to benefit the Capital Area Food Bank.

In Maryland, there are activities to clean up the environment and restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay, and feed the hungry.

Enthusiasm is building for what will be a historic, unprecedented regional day to serve.

We set up a website at and asked every organization sponsoring a service activity to add a pin to a google map.

If you go to the site, you’ll see a packed map, full of activities in this wide swath of the country, all designed to feed the hungry or serve the community.

In fact, we maxed out the number of pins allowed on a google map.

We are now in the process of redesigning it to accommodate all the projects that haven’t made it on the map yet.

Every day the snow ball gets bigger with more activities, more donations, and more people gearing up to serve.

If you’re not sure, how to help, go to the website, click on a pin in your community and show up.

Everybody is welcome and everybody is needed.

Family, Memoir, Relationships

Remembering the good stuff

I recently read a blog by Michael Hyatt titled “We are what we remember.”

I’m intrigued by this concept and title and how our memories define us.

In many cases, we can choose the memories we want to keep and, hopefully, we choose the good ones.

When I look back on my years as a mother of young children, the days of drudgery are a blur while the moments of joy shine brightly in my mind.

I remember going to the town festival, riding carnival rides, eating snow cones and watching fireworks.

An assortment of rides at the Royal Melbourne ...
An assortment of rides at the Royal Melbourne Show. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I forget how mad I was when the girls cried when it was time to leave.

Hadn’t I done everything to create the perfect day for them?

Yet, at the end of it, instead of thanking me profusely, they cried and wanted more.

I laugh at how disappointed I was that day. And, when kids are having fun, they never want the fun to stop, right?

I’d rather remember them giggling as they spun around on the Tilt-a-whirl than crying because it was time to go home.

When our girls were home for the summer, we talked about curfews.

One of our daughters always came home on time. The other one never did.

(If you know my kids, you can guess which one was chronically late — always with a good excuse, of course!)

I remembered all those late nights we spent waiting for them to come home safely.

But, I don’t remember the fatigue, frustration, and mounting fears that came with the waiting.

(Okay, I do remember it, but I can smile about it now.There is no end to a mother’s worry.)

Thankfully, they always got home safely, and my spirit always relaxed when I knew they were sleeping peacefully down the hall.

Mark Twain said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

A portrait of the American writer Mark Twain t...
A portrait of the American writer Mark Twain taken by A. F. Bradley in New York, 1907. See also other photographs of Mark Twain by A. F. Bradley taken in March 1907 in New York on Mark Twain Project Online. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thankfully most of the things I’ve worried about haven’t happened either.

I know that time has a wonderful, miraculous way of making most things better.

But, when you are in the midst of difficulty or worry, it’s hard to be patient with time.

It can be pretty darn miserable to wait for time to pass when you desperately need to feel better and move forward.

The waiting can be torturous.

Cancer treatments spring to mind — UGH.

I’ve shared my favorite quote on this blog before, but it can never be shared too often.

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

In other words, keep moving, keep fighting, don’t give up hope. Everything will work out.

In Hyatt’s blog he said, “What seems awful will soon seem manageable.”

He said, “We live up to the narratives we tell ourselves.”

Narrative Ecology Framework
Narrative Ecology Framework (Photo credit: Crystal Campbell)

For now, my narrative is this:

No matter what happens, I’ll never lose hope.

I’ll take something good from everything that happens, and move forward, cherishing the lessons I learn along the way.

Life is never easy, and we don’t always get what we want, but time really does miraculously bless, heal, and restore us.

While making friends with time is one of life’s greatest challenges, it delivers life’s most precious gifts.

From the News, Uncategorized

Political Blogging? Not here.

A longtime friend of mine has asked me to blog about politics.
No thanks, I don’t blog about politics, I tell him.
He persists, claiming that since I have been a politically involved person, people want to know what I think.
I disagree.
If I blog about politics, I open the door for an entirely different audience than the one I have now.
Politics is polarizing and divisive.
It can bring out unwelcome hostility and snarkiness in otherwise nice people.
I once posted a link on Facebook for what I thought was a well-written, insightful column.
I immediately regretted it because of the accusatory political attacks it generated.
As I’ve discussed why I don’t want to write about politics on my blog, it’s made me revisit my original purpose for starting a blog.
When I started blogging well over a year ago, I wanted to write for readers, who, like me, enjoy looking at the ordinary things in life a little closer.
I remembered interviewing one of my favorite writers, Jeanne Marie Laskas, who used to write a weekly column called “Significant Others” in the Washington Post’s Sunday magazine.
(I’m still grieving the loss of that column.)
I asked her how she decided what to write about every week. She said she thought about what had moved her that week, and that usually led her to a topic.
I loved her response because it reflected my approach to writing.
I generally try to write about what moves me — from watching my daughter fall to the ground in a high school lacrosse game after tearing her ALC to missing my Grandma in August because that was the month she always organized a family reunion.
These are the small things that have meaning to me, and I believe they resonate with people on a more personal level than politics.
Politics stimulates my brain, energizes my surface emotions, angers, frustrates, and often exhausts me.
Those emotions are not the ones I want to stir up on my blog.
We are drowning in political commentary, and I want my blog to be a respite from the clatter of the political world.
I think of my blog like a yoga mat that yogis consider as sacred space, sealed off from the loud voices in our noisy world.
I want it to continue to draw people to it because it is softer than most things in the world.
I want my readers to keep coming back because they know my blog will offer them a brief mental break.
I want it to be a place where readers can take a deep breath, feel something below the surface, see something a little differently or just smile because my silliness reminds them of their own.
I have my opinions, and I toss them gently around sometimes, but I try to share them in either a fun or introspective way.
The last thing I want to do is lose readers because you hate my politics.
I like you all too much to lose you.
And this recent post I found on Facebook says it all: