April 22, 2011

Fairs and Festivals...What to do?!

I am at a crossroads with this jewelry gig.  Perhaps it's time for a Rune or Tarot session...gotta throw the bones, read the tea leaves or something akin to voodoo to get some answers!  I'm just not sure what kind of business I'm interested in creating.  When my daughter was little, I started making jewelry again after a long hiatus.  I'm not one to sit around and the stay-at-home mom gig, although fun for a while, didn't work for me after a while.  I got so much joy out of making jewelry and was so incredibly excited, my creativity spillithed over (did I just make that word up?!)!  I took classes to learn new skills or to brush up on old ones.  I churned out piece after beautiful piece (well, I thought they were).  I started participating in fairs and festivals around town.  The more shows I did, the more I was invited to.  I could have literally done one every weekend of the year!   My tax lady strong-armed me into getting my business license which opened up another ball of wax I wasn't really ready for and didn't particularly like. Although I'm very detailed in much that I do, keeping good financial records is unfortunately not one of my strong points.  It makes me cringe and turn into a procrastinator or all-out avoider, neither of which I am not in my non-jewelry life.  It's like I lose my mind or turn into another person. A child-like resentment rears its head and that baffles me constantly.  What gives?

These are the people who miss me!
What emerged most glaringly out of my doing all the fairs and festivals was that my family didn't like me doing them AT ALL. They missed me. They were resentful.  They turned clingy.  My husband, while trying to be supportive, was definitely struggling not to let me see how put out he was.  He's really very proud of me and loves that I have this outlet. However, it was so apparent that he had trouble when it turned into a business. Unfortunately, it's the kind of business that requires nights and weekends.  Not cool when the guy who works 12 hour days, six days a week has to come home only to cook and clean because his wife is MIA preparing for another show.

So what to do?  I'm trying to be laid back about how this all evolves.  I'm really determined to go with the flow. I didn't particularly like how doing all the shows seemed to take the joy out of the actual creating.  I seemed to be creating the same thing, the "big sellers," over and over rather than coming up with new designs.  I got lots of requests from customers to fix pieces that I didn't even create, which is a bummer as it's quite unfulfilling.  Listing things on my Etsy site, although considered easy by the masses, takes too long for me!  It is a drag...for each item you list, even if you save templates and reuse a previous listing, you're spending at least 20 minutes an item.  You have to measure, take pictures or scan, crop the pictures, write a description or alter your previous one to fit the new item...I just would rather be off in my sweet little workshop CREATING.

My sweet little workshop
So, out of all this, I've come to feel that I should only keep the stuff I make to order on the Etsy site. The new creations I'm now just showing via Facebook or through Photobucket or Flickr.  I can't even decide which is best between those modes of presentation.  I've suddenly turned into an indecisive Libra!  Yikes.  I don't know if the new way I'm presenting my stuff is cool or a cop out.  I just am annoyingly indecisive.

What I am sure of, however, is that I won't do three-day shows anymore.  I just can't.  I know it's opportunity missed, but my family has to win on this one.  I have also decided that I will only do shows that make me happy, even if I don't sell a lot.  There needs to be happy-inducing criteria met here:

  • The other vendors have to be normal, nice people and not intense, scary carny types.  You just can't believe the weird subculture created by some of the vendors that go from show to show.  Kooks!  Their intense energy and cattiness makes me want to turn tail and run for my liiiiiiiiiffffffffe!
  • Christine-A "Normie" vendor!
  • The show entrance fee has to not make me cringe.  I need to be okay and be able to make my mortgage and car payment even if I don't sell anything. The show's percentage of what they take off sales can't be too high. I'm unwilling to gouge my customers.  If I feel guilty charging for my time as it is, I don't want to have to tack on 20% more so I can pay the show's fees.   I'm having trouble paying for my own time as the price of all my materials has not gone down with the recession. Silver is at it's highest
  • The show's customers can't pay parking or an entrance fee.  I just think that sucks.  It's why I don't do shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds anymore.  I didn't want to stick my loyal peeps with a $9 fee to just park and then walk a mile to the show, only to pay an entrance fee to the show.  Ridiculous.  I don't call that a nice day shopping.  Why come when you could park for free at a mall that's already close to your house?  Yeah, the merchandise isn't going to be handmade and potentially one of a kind like it would at one of the shows, but when there's a choice, most are gonna say "screw handmade, I'm taking the easy route!  Get me to the mall!" 
  • The show's promoter or venue has to already have a loyal following or have good advertising for their events. There's nothing worse than participating in a show that expects its vendors to bring in the customers.  I always hope to gain new customers that didn't know about me...not to give my loyal peeps a chance to cheat on my and buy someone else's loot!  I know that's pretty paranoid, but sometimes it feels that way.  One always hopes that one will retain the peeps' loyalty through sparkling, innovative, consistently-amazing designs and fantastic customer service.  Still, it's nerve-wracking...So, it's important to pick a place that's awesome on it's own and has it's own followers who trust that whatever the venue presents is going to be fantastic!
  • A venue with a very loyal following!
  • It can't be too far from my house.  I used to do a most magical show up in Solana Beach at Out of the Blue. I really loved that show even though I didn't really sell much there.  The camaraderie of the women who participated was wonderful and the shop itself is delightful!  The talent these ladies had was something to behold. It was very inspiring to me.  However, the shlep was hard to take on monthly.  And shows are a giant shlep, even if you're trying to pare it down.  There's just STUFF to lug.  The gas for the trip from Fletcher Hills to Solana Beach ended up giving me anxiety.  The emails that were generated throughout the month planning each show gave me anxiety.  We're talking an average of 40 emails a month!  My kids and husband were not surprisingly most put out by this show in particular.  Not sure whether it was the monthly prep or the million emails...I was either in my workshop, on the phone or on my email and computer creating media for the ads.  I had to give it up.  Makes me sad because Debi, the shop's owner and the Mermaid Mercantile's head mermaid, is super good with advertising, getting the word out, getting her shop and artists in print in magazines and newspapers...and you want to talk about creativity?  She has loads!  She's a force to be reckoned with.  But a mama has to do what a mama has to do and that meant I was out...I miss being a mermaid sometimes!  
  • Out of the Blue where I did The Mermaid Mercantile (cute, no?!)
  • The show has to make me proud to be a part of.  That's more of a visceral thing and something my intuitive and hugely visceral Pisces self has used to pare my schedule down to just two or three biannual shows a year. A HUGE reduction in what I was taking on.  I now do just these happy three.  One I haven't actually done yet, but I'm planning on it. It's with my ex-mermaids, that talented, inspiring bunch, in a cottage by the sea.  The Mercantile didn't work for them either for whatever reason.  It did, however, work on bringing us together!  I'm looking forward to that one as I hope to revisit the spark of creativity they elicited in me.  There's something about being in shows with this group.  They're not the creepy carny types. They're not cutthroat and so competitive you feel like you've got to watch over your shoulder lest you be stabbed in the back.  They take joy in each other's success. They willingly mentor and encourage.  They have a "one for all" mentality that's happily refreshing to me and not threatening in any way.  In the words of that former (I'm completely sure she once was) queen of the craft-fair, creepy carny, Martha Stewart, "It's a good thing!"  

So, what to do?  I guess do my pared-down three and try to bring my craft back into the love zone where I lose track of time creating new pieces or learning new skills. That's a beautiful thing!  

April 13, 2011

Two rings, sold long ago...No name mentioned though!
A gorgeous, quality mag...glad to be included!  

So, I'm in my first magazine! Amazing.  However, there's no mention of my name...anywhere. Figures, huh?!  Ah well...beggars can't be choosers, right?  I was included in an article they wrote up about The Mermaid's Mercantile, a fun show I used to do monthly up in Solana Beach at Out of the Blue, Debi Beard's shop.  It got to be a bit much for me, unfortunately.  My family missed me. The gas killed me.  The shlep sometimes didn't pay off and it was disheartening.  Even in Solana Beach, people are out for the bargains. In my view, my stuff IS a bargain. It's completely handmade, mostly one of a kind made with real materials.  That's right...REAL.  No crap.  I'm super picky, which means the materials get super expensive.  I really don't even charge for my time anymore.  I just can't.  There's this silly formula that artists are supposed to use where you factor in materials plus time (after you've given yourself an hourly rate) plus your mortgage, your utilities, your gas, etc., etc., etc.  It's ridiculous!  If I calculated a piece's cost that way, I'd never sell a thing because they'd all be completely unaffordable to the average Joe (or Josie)!  What's worse, every show I'm in has some "artist" who has the luxury of selling stuff at rock bottom because they "don't need the money" and are there selling "for the love of the art."  Holy CRAP!  That's called undercutting your fellow vendors, Cookie, and it kicks all of our asses. It makes me see RED!  That's blood and gore, folks.  Sigh.

But, I digress...as usual!  I am a tangent girl, aren't I?  The point is, I'm in a magazine and I'm grateful that it's a super cool one and it's out of being part of a wonderful show I was very proud to be in.  Thanks, Debi and the rest of the Mermaid's!  This was a nice boost to get me out of the creative rut I've been wallowing in for a few months...always welcome!

Erin Pettit's photostream

Hanging Tulip NLBone-Turq ERQuartz Cluster ERBone Choker NLTiny Turquoise ERLined Loops
Bronze Beads BLBronze and Brown BL3-Strand Yellow BLTiny Turquoise ChokerBronze Sea Urchin-Coin BLTurquoise in Knots NL-2
Labradorite ERCopper-Ab Long NLMy pearl BLSmall Garnet ERLinen Pearl ChokerSm. Lined Hoops
Bronze Sea Urchin-Ab BLGarnet HooksBronze Hearts BLHammered Chain and Pearl BLBrown Porcelain NL3-Strand Yellow NL
Erin Pettit's photostream on Flickr.

Lots of new stuff added recently...gearing up for a show. It's nice to create!  

March 02, 2011

Holiday Letter 2010

It's already MARCH?!  Lord, time flies.  I am way behind in blogging, as with everything else.  I need more time in the day, as I'm sure most of my contemporaries would lament!  How did our parents do it?

I can't seem to get out of my garden right now, which is really screwing up my jewelry business...it's just so pretty!  It's really making me happy right now, but that is squashed with the stress of not creating any jewelry with shows coming up.  I'm at a crossroads. I need some inspiration, but the garden keeps calling me!  But, I digress...

So, I wrote a letter to family and friends for the holiday season. The past few years I've made a pdf and jpeg to send out electronically with pics of the family and a little update.  I'm always guilty, guilty, GUILTY to not be sending it all via snail mail. I am saving a tree, saving stamps, saving money and time...however, there's just something about getting those holiday cards in the mail that's priceless. I save the ones we receive from our friends and family year to year. I read them and even get teary-eyed looking at them when I'm putting out the Christmas decorations.  So, why can't I pull it together to send a classic card and Christmas letter out myself?  I'm not sure why I keep falling short.  I guess I just need to give myself a break...no easy task, if you're me, apparently.  I'm pretty dang hard on myself, from what I hear from my husband and best friends.  I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing...whether or not I'm damaging my children...whether I'm gonna end up in a loony bin some day or contract some crazy stress-related disease.  I yam what I yam, in the immortal words of Popeye. Take it or leave it. Now to make myself believe that! 

So, here's the letter with some pics thrown in for reality's sake.  It came with this jpeg that I whipped up at work when I realized I had forgotten to do something this year.  Yikes!  Always running around with my hair on fire! 

The Pettit family is thankfully healthy and we are doing well. This past year was incredibly busy, of course! We are settling into our new home and are getting used to the challenges of being homeowners. The most recent challenge was a weird one. Jimmy asked me if I “happened to back into the garage.” Wha?! Uh, no! We have two garage doors and the narrow wall between them was buckled. It definitely looked like someone had slammed into it. But why? It’s not a swell place to turn around. The driveway is uphill and it’s pretty long. Not convenient at all. Someone would have really wanted to hit it! What enemies have we made? Hmmmm…none we could think of, but a bit of paranoia set in. When Jimmy went to fix it, he found out that it had not been hit, but had collapsed due to horrible termite damage. Sigh. Thank God my husband can fix anything…I say that as I knock on (undamaged and sturdy) wood.

Cooper is in 7th grade at Parkway Middle School…so far so good. His grades are high and he has made lots of seemingly-nice friends at his new school. We’re hoping none are Eddie-Haskell types. He played his last year in Rolando Little League (sob!) and made the All Stars. They went further than was forecasted, which was fantastic! I think I’ll miss Rolando more than he will. Great league…great people. He wants to continue playing baseball and will play in the Knights league next. Cooper broke his nose this past year while tandem jumping on a trampoline (told you so!), but he’s still a looker.
Coop after the "re-break"
He’s turning 13 December 23rd (so, like, in five minutes…) and has started the prerequisite eye rolling and sighing at everything we say. So far, he’s been a milder preteen than I was…I am only hoping that holds true for these coming teenage years! I hold on to the fact that up to now he has had a good head on his shoulders and is a smart kid. We’re hoping that will overrule the dreaded hormone surges to come!

Mackie is almost 5 and is in her last year of preschool at Miss Julie’s daycare. She knows how to write her name and is on the cusp of penning her autobiography. Holy mackerel! She’s 5 going on 25…she’s my karma for sure! She says “like” way too much and sits in the bathroom as I get ready in the morning, watching me put on mascara, questioning me over and over when she will be able to wear “the scara” too. Yikes! She is possibly the cutest, funniest little girl I’ve ever met. We tear up just looking at her sometimes! She just had her first dance recital through her dance school “Jibe” and said she wasn’t scared at all, even though it was her first time on stage and the performance was sold out. I would’ve been scared looking out at 400 people my first time on stage! She remembered all her moves and was a true diva, holding her final pose with a smile so as to receive as much applause as possible. Bravo…We were VERY proud! Oh and she got to wear “the scara” for the performance. The Jibe ladies said she had to. We were amazed at how long her eyelashes are!

Andrea is at a crossroads right now, which goes with her age of 24. She has a great job as a respected and well-liked preschool teacher at a very nice school in Poway, but she has the travel itch kicking off and has been talking about seeing the world. She will be coming to live with us for a while to save money so she can do something about that itch! We have some great friends who recently moved to southern France and have offered to help her find a family to perhaps nanny with for a while. Hopefully that will pan out! She is a gorgeous, smart girl who’s turning into a gorgeous, smart woman right before our eyes. She’s making us proud by taking the initiative to take charge of her life and make some smart choices. We are all looking forward to spending some time with her while she’s with us before she embarks on this new exciting chapter in her life! Mackie has plans galore with her beloved big sister, one you can bet which involves talking her into applying “the scara.” I hope she can fit in all her big plans before her Andie will hop on a plane to Europe.
Andie and Mac "Easy Bakin'!"

We hope you and yours are healthy, happy and that all is well in your world. Here’s to a great 2011!

P.S. Cooper is all better and is still a handsome gent!  He hasn't gotten on the trampoline since...

Coop at Mission Bay January 2011

November 15, 2010

Display Kudos!

I'm proud to be included on Rena Klingenberg's Jewelry Display Ideas site. Very cool! I love her site because it is so geared on fostering learning and is big on mentorship.  That makes me happy because I feel like what comes around goes around. I appreciate all the useful ideas I've gotten not only from Rena's site, but from other vendors who help just because they can and because they're nice people. I try to always be helpful and to give freely of what I've learned throughout the years!  Through Rena's posting of my display, I've received some really great comments from fellow artists, most of whom liked the idea that you can use basically anything to display on and that there are no rules you need to follow! Love the freedom that gives. The whole "Shabby Chic" thing busted it all wide open for me.  It's so up my alley.  The color of rusty, faded things really goes with my vibe, I guess!

2010 - At the Mermaid's Mercantile at Out of the Blue
I also heard a lot of comments regarding fellow jewelry vendors' annoyance with those vendors who have booths full of generic baubles from China that they really didn't make, but bought at an incredibly discounted price and are selling dirt cheap. Then there are the hobbyists or "bead stringers" who don't need the money and who are just there for "fun." Why are they there? It really damages your fellow vendors and gives customers a false sense of what things are worth! Not only are they not charging for their time, but they are not even making their money back in the supplies! That kills the rest of us who consider what we do art and who pride themselves on using fair-trade, high-quality supplies. We put our souls and love into each piece. Sometimes, I actually tear up as I watch a special piece walk away! Silly to get attached, I know, but it is what it is. I appreciate those customers who walk away knowing what they purchased took a lot of time, thought, skill and care to make.

One piece I particularly miss! It went to a very good home, thankfully! 

This magnolia took 5 hours to make!  Just the pendant...that's love!

Another labor of love...uh, maybe 5 hours?!  
Those undercutting vendors make the rest of us CRAZY. I've noticed they are outcasts at shows and are their own little group. None of my kind of vendors really interact with them and they're so clueless they don't even notice. It's maddening! And of course, their displays are so soulless. They are the ones who are able to set up in a jiffy because all they do is pop a tent up, throw some cheap table cloths on their tables, open up some boxes and viola! They are actually proud of it and make comments like, "I beat my own record...it took only 15 minutes to set up today!" as they sit on their butts with their coffee and donuts and watch me toil and fuss over my decor.

Boxes and cans and shells from my house!  Hey...All these sold. Miss!  
Each time I set my booth up, it's different. I go with the flow of what particular pieces I have at that particular time. It takes a while, but it's so worth it. I get compliment after compliment on the display of my jewelry and people say they like to linger. That's worth it!
Displayed with some items on sale at Out of the Blue.
Shoulda bought the Beach sign!  Cute, isn't it?  

August 04, 2010

Rituals and blessings...it takes a village!

My husband Jimmy has been asked to officiate at a non-denominational, yet spiritual blessing ceremony for baby Kuro, our friends Marcus and Julie's three month old. Jimmy was so remarkably touched and honored they would ask him to officiate at something he considers so heavy and spiritual. He was SO touched, however, he became almost frozen and was blocked in how to frame it because he wants it to be perfect, of course! Striving for perfection is always the biggest cause of writer's block for me! Gotta throw perfection out the window. Plus, it's the first blessing ceremony Jimmy's ever officiated, so he asked me to help him out...Then, I felt the heaviness and was blocked for a little while, too (damn that perfection!). It took a week or so, but I think I've gotten past it and have come across some really great ideas in how to best bless a child without being too religious or serious. Life is precious and kids are blank slates. I'm a bit superstitious at my baseline and I believe it should be kicked off right or we may screw him up FOREVER (cue the dramatic music: dum-dum-DUUUUUUM!). In light of that, Jimmy and I have been reading up and searching for cool little rituals that may start him off right.

Julie and Marcus liked the idea of a collective blessing with an "It takes a village..." mentality where Kuro will be blessed by each person asked to be a part of the ceremony. The ceremony is going to be on the beach, which is fitting as Kuro's daddy is one of Jimmy's "Dawn Patrol" guys that meet every Sunday to surf. A fantastic community/friendship-building ritual in its own right. There's going to be a basket of shells and each person in attendance at the ceremony will be asked to choose a shell, think of what they can offer this special little man as they're holding it, then put the shell into a cool container chosen by his parents who will keep it for Kuro until he's old enough to get it (and not break it and smash everything to smithereens along with the promises and wishes!). Sweet, huh?

I recently read an article about a man who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He was terrified his three children would be denied his guidance in the life lessons and everyday things they would learn and be exposed to. He was afraid his family and friends, in his absence, would not be prompted to teach his children the things he thought each of them had to offer them. So he got proactive. He wrote letters to each of his friends and to members of his family asking them to pledge to take their roles in his children's lives over the years seriously and to consider that role ongoing and long term. He picked a quality or talent that each one of these people had that he thought his children should be taught or exposed to. For instance, "Joe, you're hysterically funny. Please teach my children the importance of knowing how to tell a good joke and teach them mirth!" I thought that was a fantastic idea. Each and every one of us DOES have something special we can offer. I feel that I am definitely a collaboration of the things my parent's friends and our families have exposed me to and taught me over the years. I'm blessed to have had parents with a wide and diverse group of amazing people they involved in our lives to learn from. Of course, there was no formal, "Would you please teach my daughter the value of good woman friends in times of trouble?" or "Would you please teach Erin how to drive a stick shift by taking her out in that dune buggy there?" It just happened over the course of a childhood packed with good friendship and good times! This man with terminal cancer wasn't going to have the luxury of time for any of that. I like the way he took the matter into his own hands. What a gift for his children! The idea that we are shaped by those we are exposed to and for us all to take that seriously and to be proactive with it is a novel approach, eh? I like it and I guess subconsciously it's the way I approach raising my own children.

The other ritual we're considering has to do with salt. Each person will take a pinch of salt and will throw it over their shoulder into the sand on the beach to be washed away and incorporated back into the ocean. Salt has been included in almost every religious ritual throughout time. Salt's WAY important. Without it, humans and animals die. I didn't know it, but one of Napoleon Bonaparte's famous battles was lost not by force or cunning, but because most of his soldiers died because their diets were lacking in SALT. Hel-lo. Salt's so dang important, it's been used as currency again and again throughout history. Salt's mentioned in the Bible over and over. In both the Old and New Testament, salt is used to seal covenants. Shinto religion also uses salt to purify an area. Before sumo wrestlers enter the ring for a match—which is actually an elaborate Shinto rite—a handful of salt is thrown into the center to drive off malevolent spirits. In India, salt is a symbol of good luck. They use salt as a reference to Mahatma Gandhi's liberation of India, which included a symbolic walk to the sea to gather tax-free salt for the nation's poor. It's come to mean love. It's used to ward of evil spirits. Salt rocks (pun intended!). It's perfect for a blessing ceremony!

I'd, of course, like to incorporate a poignant famous quote or poem in everything. In searching, I found a quote that's more like a poem by Francis Thompson who lived in the early 20th century. He was apparently referring to a poem by William Blake titled, " Auguries of Innocence." (http://www.artofeurope.com/blake/bla3.htm) I like this quote paraphrasing what Thompson took from Blake's poem. His quote is EXACTLY what I felt as a child: Magic is possible and is around every corner. You just have to look! I hope my children feel it...especially the part about elves. Of course, I'm paraphrasing it for the ceremony by taking out the last part about death, even if it's true! I don't think the last line of a blessings ceremony should contain the word death! However, the crux of the quote touched me:

Know you what it is to be a child? It is to be something very different from the man of to-day. It is to have a spirit yet streaming from the waters of baptism; it is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief; it is to be so little that the elves can reach to whisper in your ear; it is to turn pumpkins into coaches, and mice into horses, lowness into loftiness, and nothing into everything, for each child has its fairy godmother in its own soul; it is to live in a nutshell and to count yourself the king of infinite space; it is
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour;
it is to know not as yet that you are under sentence of life, nor petition that it be commuted into death.

I am looking forward to my husband's blessing of Kuro and I'm hoping the feelings of the day that are so important to convey are expressed well in the words I helped him choose! Heavy...Do you feel me?!

May 12, 2010

Winning and Losing

So, last night, my son Cooper's little league team, The Texas Longhorns, won their very first game of the season! As the season is just about over, it was a looooong time coming and quite a spectacular event. I really don't know who was more excited...the kids or us parents! I was in the scorekeeping booth and the other scorekeeper and I just about cried, we were so relieved. It was a bit ridiculous. After the game, Jimmy and I took the kids out for a celebratory dinner at their favorite restaurant, Souplantation.

After all the celebration and reliving of the game play by play, an uneasiness settled over me. I wasn't quite sure why. Over the years, I've come to the conclusion that my intuition has merit and shouldn't be ignored. But this time, I really couldn't pinpoint what was making me uneasy. After stewing it over for a while and dreaming on it last night, I realized that my uneasiness stemmed from my realization that what our reaction to the win was teaching the youngest Pettit and that was: Winning IS everything! At four, Mackie runs off her own little brand of intuition and feeling sensors. In processing the mood from last night, this little one made the statement, "So, winning is good!" In the glow of the elusive win, I didn't stop to talk with her about it and I wish I had. I realized today that her innocent little statement about what she was observing is exactly what gave me that feeling of unease. It may not seem to be a big deal, but as someone who grew up in team sports, the art of winning, and, even more importantly, the art of losing carry such incredibly important life lessons.

I was lucky to have played softball for Navajo Bobby Sox in what was most undoubtedly its heyday. Our teams won Nationals and made it to the big tournament in Buena Park yearly and for many, many years. I started playing when I was 8 and was forced to stop at 15. After that, I umpired behind the plate. It was a heady feeling being a part of such a league for so many years. We had talent galore! We had parents who volunteered above and beyond...and when I say beyond, I mean parents remained to volunteer even after their own children had grown out of the league! It was an unbelievable league and although I think I knew that then, I know it even more now as an adult with my own children in organized sports. I have turned into one of those "volunteer parents" just like my own. I know that these things don't just magically run by themselves, but only through the grace and fortitude of its volunteers.

Throughout my time in Navajo, I made All Stars yearly. Yes, it was about winning and getting to Buena Park for the National Tournament. Yes, it was practicing five or six days a week in the stifling heat of summer. Yes, it was living and breathing your sport, only hanging out with the families who were in it with you. It was all consuming from January's sign ups and the draft until you were back to school in September after the summer tournaments with only a one-week break. Even with this balls-out approach, there was a pervasive feeling that this wasn't just about winning or losing. It was about CHARACTER building. As a child and even as a know-it-all teenager, I somehow knew that was the ultimate goal. Weird and a bit magical, huh? Of COURSE, it definitely was about kicking Clairemont's ass in the District finals (Claire what? Claire MUTT!). However, it was also about how you were going to conduct yourself as an adult in your work place; in your home as a parent or wife; as a community volunteer; as a friend. It was just...bigger.

When Mackie came to her "winning-is-good" conclusion after Cooper's game last night, it registered in my subconscious as a concept that I desperately want my children to understand from team sports. I want them to learn the discipline it innately gave me. I am grateful for that now and I think it was quite useful even during my horrid teens. I want them to learn to be gracious winners with kind words and pats on the back to their adversaries for a good go at it. I want them to learn the art of being a team player, which is something in itself. There is more to be gained with supportive words when a guy makes an error than getting down on him, which often drags everyone down and causes a downward spiral that's hard to come out of. I want them to be able to manipulate the inherent team "mob mentality" into one that has a positive, healthy spin. I want them to learn that there are very good lessons to be learned from a loss and that those lessons are often not absorbed as easily as they are by a loser. Winners aren't forced to become introspective! Treat that loss as an opportunity for growth and look at what you can be taught through it.

These days, the leagues give trophys to every single kid, no matter what their W-L record is. I'm all for recognizing things like "Best Team Spirit" and "Most Improved" within the team itself. I'm talking about league fees being used to purchase large trophies with the kids' names engraved on them and these trophies being given to each and every child on even the last-place team. Everyone. This is where the winning/losing thing becomes an important symbol and tool for me.

Back in my day, you didn't get a freaking trophy for being a LOSER! Because of that, you coveted those damn trophies because they were hard to come by. You had to kick some ASS! Now, the kids get a trophy and they practically shrug their shoulders and toss it immediately aside. It's a mere dust collector almost immediately relegated to the closet shelf. Why SHOULD it be a big deal?! What is this teaching our children?

In voicing my disbelief at this trophy-for-losers phenomenon, I have heard reasons why the whole "tradition" started. Some self-absorbed, enabling parent couldn't handle their kid's disappointment and tears and sued the freaking league, causing everyone to scramble to cover their butts. It's a travesty! It is a crime! It's frankly SAD. How on Earth do we expect to teach our children what it feels like to strive for something, work hard and then win it? How do we teach them how to appropriately treat the person or team they just beat to get it? Or for that matter, how do we teach them to deal with striving for something, working hard and then NOT getting it? Hi...welcome to LIFE. Now, do you pick yourself back up and keep on striving, learning from what didn't work for you? If you're the kid of that enabling parent, I would think you crumble, cry your eyes out and expect everyone to give you something for nothing. You have been trained that if you make enough ruckus and complain enough, someone will be there to pick up the pieces, but it's certainly not going to be YOU. I picture some little overindulged, Buddha wannabe looking around frantically and empirically for someone to DO SOMETHING, but it's certainly not going to be THEM. Here's my question: If we keep giving kids trophy's when they're on the last place team, what's it going to be like for them when they get out into the real world and they find out that trophies aren't handed out unless you've shown with skill, fortitude and perseverance that you deserve that trophy? If team sports isn't the place to learn that kind of life lesson, where the Hell is it learned?

I truly think my time in Navajo was laced with magic...one of the magicians was Mr. Nello Pierozzi (Mr. Pepperoni). He was my coach, mentor and friend for what I believe was possibly the most impressionable, painful time of my life. He was one of those parents who volunteered while his daughter, Lisa, played and who never stopped. Never. He lived well into his 80s and was still a part of Navajo. An amazing man in so many ways! He was a founding member of the Blue Angels. Although we all knew that, he never lorded that amazing history over us. He used that training he learned in the Navy which was the ultimate lesson in camaraderie and relying on your team to teach us how to ACT IN LIFE, not just in the sport of softball. Everything he taught us seemed to transfer over to LIFE. We ran laps for being assholes to our fellow teammates. We did push ups for a bad attitude. We did situps for saying, "I can't." We came early and helped set up the field for not listening to our coaches. It was about learning how to ACT THE RIGHT WAY. I remember kids crying and complaining. I don't, however, remember any parents objecting or calling the punishment unfair. I think they were grateful and they knew they were in the presence of someone in possession of magic. Maybe my parents would tell us there were complainers or that Mr. Pierozzi had to fight a fight with one of those enabling parents of a sniveler. I don't remember hearing about it, however.

There were others...Mr. Acevedo (Avocado) who could not only discuss softball plays and games 'til the end of time, but could give you advice on how to deal with the neighborhood bully like a pro. He volunteered for long after his daughter, Stacy, left the league. Jim Clark, who turned out to be lifelong friends of my parents and family. He started as a volunteer from SDSU while working on getting his teaching credentials and was one of the best catching coaches I've ever had. He would spend HOURS in our backyard with me, beaning me with softball after softball so I could literally stop everything. He would call all night long to make sure I was still squatting in front of the TV because that's how my legs would get super strong and I could move around like a freaking crab behind the plate, scooping up everything. He did this all for free and on his own dang time, while as a college student at the biggest party school on the West Coast! He's since moved to Pleasantville in the Bay Area, has his own family and is a high school science teacher and award-winning basketball coach. There was Mr. Geilenfeldt, Bev Zukor, Dot Dyck, Mugsy and so many, many more amazing volunteers involved in Navajo. Watching these people give their time not for their own personal benefit, but because they basically enjoyed helping and watching the process of forming us as PEOPLE has shaped my life. It's what I want my children to know.

Mackie's innocent, "winning" statement last night has cemented my desire to keep my children in organized sports whether they go into it full force like lunatics as I did or whether they just play something for fun here and there. I will make sure that I never let a teachable instance pass by me again like I let happen last night! Winning isn't everything, but it sure is fun...losing isn't the end of the world, but there are valuable things to gain from losing. What's important is how you learn to deal with them both after the game's over!