Archive | June, 2018

A New Discovery

24 Jun

All or Nothing.

It sat there on my list for a while and then in the middle of a Thursday night I decided to hit the play button.

Remarkable.

The amount of intensity, drive, and humility surprised me. I heard of it, but had never watched it before. The All Blacks changed everything.

The Haka alone is a mesmerizing part of their tradition. A moment of connecting to their past, to their culture, and to their present The Haka is a hallmark of New Zealand rugby.

The-Haka

The All Blacks performing The Haka

And the thing is they don’t do it for the cameras, or for the show, they do it for themselves, as a way to connect and prepare for the battle that is about to take place. I appreciated the connection and tradition.

I had no idea what rugby was about, but this series schooled me.

As far as sports documentaries go, this one changed my perspective. Rugby is a brutal sport, asking athletes to be warriors on the field, yet demanding that teamwork , heart, and unity be at the top of the list. What’s best for the team is a mentality that drives them all. Talented and humble. These are values I try to instill in my son and values I found among the All Blacks Rugby team from New Zealand.

Now I know there are rugby teams all over the world and they may share these values as well, but it was something about the All Blacks that drew me in. Just as the championship eras of the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and New York Yankees, the All Blacks seem to have  fierce following across New Zealand and the globe.

And I’ve just discovered them.

Now it wasn’t so much their domination of the sport, but the added down to Earth characteristic of these players and their heart that stood out. They’re there to win, no doubt about that, but what drives them is not letting their teammates down, not letting their families down. The unselfish play is necessary.

I wish they had more of that value present in other sports. I mean I know there are a lot of unselfish players out there in every sport, but the light rarely shines on them. It’s given to the players with flash. The click-bait.

I appreciated that talent, hard work, perseverance and team unity were central to this series. That even though it is an extremely intense, physically and mentally demanding sport, that character and team matter most. It’s give it your all. Leave it out there on the field. With The All Blacks it really is All or Nothing. There’s no in-between because you only got one shot to wear the jersey on game day.

I’ve only just scratched the surface and can’t wait what else I discover.

Buen Camino, my friends!

 

 

 

 

Alternate Universes with The Wire on Father’s Day

17 Jun

I haven’t been able to perfect the superpower of fending off jackasses with magic bracelets or a golden lasso. I’m not on the Wonder Woman level yet.

But I get plenty of practice without asking.

I knew Father’s Day was going to be hard, but it was a rough one today. On all levels from the early morning, until the moment I started typing this post. It’s been a day I wish would end. And the sad thing is I actually practiced some positive thinking and positive vibes this morning, but the universe sent me different energy.

Apparently I needed to brush up on those superhero skills. But instead all I felt was anger, frustration, and emotional exhaustion.

Random strangers being complete jackasses at the cemetery, the cemetery of all places! I thought at the very least since we’re all grieving people would respect the sanctity of the cemetery. But instead it ended up in a cage match battle of words with a no-holds-barred level of intensity and aggression. Then on top of that, people close to you just say the ugliest things that bring you down, knowing full well that this is a tough day.  I mean it’s no wonder we’re distant, friendship suffering and all. The toxic level is so high that I just can’t go through that again and I’m on the verge of just giving up on them.

All this negative energy and nastiness leaves me feeling teary-eyed about all the ugliness I went through today. I mean, I’m too old for this crap.

And of course, the worst part … it’s Father’s Day and I know that my day would have been completely different if my pops were here. I know it. I’m stuck in an alternate universe and have to keep figuring out how this ride is gonna end up without him here. I guess it’s the unfinished life and all the missed opportunities that really bother me. That feeling always increases on holidays like this.

In an effort to keep him around this week, I had a Season I and Season II binge-watching session of The Wire just to remember  what it was like hanging out with him, his commentary on Omar, McNulty, and Lester. I still think about him often, but days like this, my thoughts are extra heavy. You see about eight years ago on Father’s Day was the last time we spoke. I mean I talked to him every day in the hospital when I was on night shift, but Father’s Day was the last time we had a conversation.

It wasn’t a life talk, or lessons he had yet to teach me, or anything like that. It was about how he was feeling. And about The World Cup, that’s something that really had him excited. His prediction and his favorite teams. He had me record some games, so he could catch up when he got out. It was a to-be-continued conversation, really. Not a good-bye, more like a see you later. You see I didn’t think he was gonna die, I just didn’t. Not my Dad. But he did. So I was left with about a month-long of one-sided late-night conversations. Him listening to me, but not being able to respond. Those were the heartfelt life talks, for sure. So much was said, and I was glad I said it. And the thing is, I never wondered whether or not he heard me, I knew he heard me as I held his hand night after night.

And so I find it so difficult to get passed these days without him by side. I have no regrets because I told him everything I needed to, but I definitely wish he was still here. I wouldn’t need superhero power training and all, to fend off bad guys at the cemetery if he were around.

But he’s not.

So I keep things that he enjoyed close by and I hear his voice when I can … and so now I’m off to dreamland to dream a dream I hope he is in. Maybe we’re having a cup of coffee and talking about life, me drinking tea of course, him with his coffee, black two sugars. Or maybe we’re just watching the The Wire. I’ll let you know how it pans out.

1A

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Happy Father’s Day everyone.

Buen Camino …

 

 

 

Hugs and Moments of Silence

10 Jun

He never knew who Michael Jordan was, but learned more about him this week.

You see, my son had to once again learn a life lesson, but this time it came through the world of sports.

Now not everyone is a superstar, but everyone has something to bring to the table. Some are offense, some defense. Everyone thrives in a different environment. But hearts can be broken no matter what side of the ball you’re on.

He loves hockey and baseball, and does really well in both. In fact, he often practices during the off-season, and while the big selection process took place this week, he’d been practicing his drills, skating, and watching videos online.

He was ready. He felt ready. He took the ice, just like Andre Agassi would take the court. A monster on defense. Now as a parent, I know many inflate their kids’ achievements and spread it on pretty thick. However, I know my kid. I know he’s not Wayne Gretzky  … he’s still a work in progress. But he falls in the upper levels of the spectrum there. So when he was not selected to the top shelf team and was chosen for what was considered the JV Squad, it was a serious burn. His spirit deflated, and his confidence crushed. He had worked so hard.

It was difficult to watch  …

I had to step up my parent game. This was when I needed my cape and superpowers in tact.

Keeping your head up when disappointment punches you in the stomach is hard. I’ve felt it plenty of times in life, so I knew what he was going through. I put my arm around his shoulder and we just sat there for a minute.

I had to bust out my best Friday Night Lights Coach Taylor Speech. But I waited until we  left.

I’m proud of you. I think you gave it everything you had and I saw it. Your old coach saw it. You saw it yourself. You walked off the ice knowing you had no regrets. And that’s how it should always be no matter what. You’re  a good hockey player.  And you’re an even more amazing person. Sometimes we just have to work a little harder because people don’t see what we see. They missed it. You know who Michael Jordan is, right? …”

image

Everyone had this amazing picture made into a poster up on their wall … I was still  Magic Johnson fan. Always. But for the purposes of this story I needed Jordan.

 

We sat on the bench, outside the pizza place, for a little while longer. He listened to Jordan’s origin story, and how when he was a kid he got cut from the team. He wasn’t even picked. But that didn’t stop him from making a monster comeback. He knew they had missed it.

There wasn’t much to say after that. Sometimes as a parent, I’ve learned that hugging works well during moments of silence.

Buen Camino my friends …

Finding A Way

3 Jun

It wasn’t intentional but it happened anyway. I stepped away for a minute.

Apparently I’d been carrying a heavy emotional workload and was unaware of this burden. It was emotionally draining and produced an unexpected writing sabbatical.

The last week of school happened and emotions were fully charged in everyone’s hearts.  Some fifth-grade moms in tears, some fourth-grade moms with emotional anxiety of what was to come next May. I overheard countless conversations about how these moms didn’t know how they were going to handle their kids graduating from elementary school, how their kids turned 10 this year and how fast that decade passed. This realization hit them as the school-year came to an end.

But this wasn’t something that made me sad.

The year hadn’t gone by fast at all. Our family had the power to stop time when life was good, with gratitude talks at night and notes in The Jar of Awesome. We also found a way to move ahead when life was crappy and things didn’t pan out the way we had hoped. The year moved at just the right roller-coaster speed.

But I was happy the school year had ended.

While it was an amazing year of triumph, growth, energy, and awesomeness for my daughter, it was a time of heartbreak, rough edges, disappointment, and life lessons for my son. This year was the most difficult for him and we haven’t even gotten to middle school.

That seemed to worry me.

I was happy for my daughter, but sad for my son. A tough spot to be in for a parent, but I imagine not the first time I’d be feeling this exact feeling. I imagine it happens often for parents. The ups and downs of family life.

And I know we’re supposed to go with the flow, but in truth I was relieved when the year ended. I was glad that my son didn’t have to deal with the harshness of friends who were no longer his friends, of eating alone during lunch because he didn’t know any of the kids in his new class, of kids who friends with him when they were in the same class, but who turned into acquaintances that sometimes said hello and sometimes didn’t because they no longer sat at the same table, or because he was into sports and they were into video games, or of being with a teacher who didn’t see his potential and wasn’t as inspirational as Stand and Deliver, but he still managed to find a way to get good grades make it to the end of the year.

The thing was he seemed all right. These social difficulties didn’t dent his spirit, as he’s always been independent. I’ve always tried to tell him not to follow the crowd, but to follow what makes him happy whether it lines up with what’s popular or not. He often played sports at lunch and got along well with the underclassmen. It was just difficult to see him have to find a way to get through the year instead of it just being a good year. It was the finding the way part … I thought that would happen when he was much older, but this lesson came early.

The year ended and relief set in and I had to take a moment.

As a parent I tend to worry a lot about what’s going on with my kid, is he doing all right, what happens at recess, how’s it going in science, why is this kid not your buddy anymore, how’s it going in class. All these questions pop up when I think about him, but when I was going to school, I don’t remember thinking any of these things myself as a student. I just went to school. I learned. I played tetherball and basketball. I studied. I don’t remember wanting to be cool or worrying about playing by myself. I always just played. I found a way to make it through school.

I had to remind myself of that. I had to remember that he’s a strong kid and that sometimes I worry more than I should about the ups and downs. And although there were times when chocolate ice cream and hugs needed to be there after school, most of the time fourth grade was all right. It wasn’t a spectacular year, but it was all right. He found a way, we found a way.

This year will still mark a decade of his life, but just part of it, the part filled with love of science and math, of playing America Ninja Warrior, soccer, and basketball at recess, of eating alone at lunch sometimes and being O.K. with it, of working on more book reports and oral presentations than any other class but being great at it, of knowing enjoying board games and Pokemon cards, of trips to the beach on Sundays, of watching Wild Kratts, Animal Planet, America Ninja Warrior, Star Wars, and Forged in Fire with his sister, of Boys Scouts, hockey games and baseball practice, of still letting me hug him before school and giving him my blessing, and of him charging me and hugging me tight everyday after school.

As we reached a milestone I was reminded of his innocence and resilience, of his heart and of his strength. As life didn’t turn out the way we expected this year, he found a way, (well together we found a way) turn things around. Hope you’re finding your way …

 

Buen Camino, my friends …