6-3-7

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My son’s JV team finished off the season with a W yesterday in a rematch against Glacier Peak. I was able to take photos of every game but one.

Even after my son injured out of the rest of the season after three games (including the season opener), I continued to take photos while James cheered his team on from the sidelines. It wasn’t always fun; for most of the season, watching his team go on without him hurt like hell. He pushed through his doubt and fear like a champ, give or take a few mood swings and at least three Coming to Jesus talks.

Taking photos helps me as well. I get to see these boys through a truth filter, my long zoom camera lens. I saw things the parents on the bleachers missed. I glimpsed parts of these boys’ personalities, compelling, surprising features that will serve them well as men.

Marcus missed the entire season, save for the last three games, where he made a difference in turning the seven previous ties into wins. A controversial figure to an outsider, he can be mouthy with the refs and hand’s on with the opposing players. But when I looked deeper, I saw kindness coupled with scary precision. Once, he called out to one of his forwards, then kicked the ball from more than halfway across the pitch exactly in the spot where that forward would be. Far from the usual ball hog that most kids in high school can be.

20170504_200449 copy
What a privilege it was to photograph the 2016-2017 JV team.

Mid-fielder Ben was tenacious as hell, always in the center of the maelstrom, and almost always the victor. He proved to be the team’s silent weapon and quiet leader when things got tough.

Cobi, that forward, made up for his smaller stature with a dogged determination, his feet always finding the ball — even through three-four goliath players. My one regret was missing his amazing goal off a corner kick.

Defender Cody, my favorite, kept the ball out of play for his keeper by strategically placing his entire body in harm’s way, while never taking a hit. I loved watching his free kicks, because, as a lefty, I never knew where that curve ball would land. In the second to the last game, it landed into the net in a perfectly timed shot around several players.

Another parent referred to defender/co-captain Sean as the American Express Card, always in the right place at the right time, just when you need him.

Juan came up from the C team, proving himself equal to the task as a mid-fielder who always won possession even against impossible odds. When the smoke and the yellow cards cleared, Juan was the one usually hustling the ball out of the mess.

The JV keeper, Connor, is just a badass. I watched direct shots deflecting off that kid, even back-to-back. He’s a miracle worker with impeccable instincts.

Another favorite player is forward/mid/defender Jonathan, who scored quite a bit for his team, often when they needed the W the most. Toward the end of the season, he was asked to moved into the defender position — a position he wasn’t as familiar with in previous plays. At the next game, he felt he let an opposing forward slip through for a costly goal, immediately dropping to the ground, angry and frustrated with himself. I knew he would pick himself up and make a comeback, which he did after another goal went past them. He scored a crucial goal off a corner, exhibiting that perfect timing and blazing speed of an attacking mid.

I could go on and on… The coaches picked well. Everyone on this team’s an asset, no question.

No, my son didn’t get to play the last game of the season. But we’re the lucky ones. We witnessed greatness in action. Watch out, these JV players are going to be unstoppable when they make Varsity. They’re not only outstanding athletes, but they’re good kids.

Heart Collector

joel-filipe-182051
PHOTO: Joel Filipe, Unsplash

“That means so much to me Carol. I’m honored to know it’s made a difference.” -Donny McCaslin

Thank you so much for these wonderful pics throughout the season. I have saved a few that we will enjoy for generations!” -Merrill Leonard

“You’re an inspiration—keep us posted on your journey.” -Lululemon

I was submitting my writing the other night, feeling like shit, feeling overwhelmed when a thought entered my head out of nowhere: I am a collector of moments that feel innately, incredibly, quietly, deeply human, a heart collector if you will.

I’m forever captured by these moments that stir my own heart.

Today, I walked around my wooded neighborhood for an hour, racing the thunder storm and lightning show. With five minutes to spare, I made it back home, the back of my right foot opening in a Nike blister, head awash in music meant to love me back.

Along the way, the beauty of nature struck me, like scenes from a movie or me scrolling through online contact sheets after a lengthy photo shoot: The scent of spring flowers, lilacs, clean, fresh Magnolia with dew forming around the edges, a man and his dog fetching mail in a shower of cherry blossoms, the way the pink blossoms hung low over the blackstrap tarp of the road, one branch flung away from the others, reaching out toward a sky heavy with slate that I could almost smell, and suddenly, out of nowhere, that faint familiar smell of Bobby the summer of ’77.

These moments stir inside me, waiting to get out. Maybe in a story of my own, buried in the sidestepping riddles of a forgotten poem, or a word-for-word transcript masquerading as an important interview.

When I am with people, I sit back, wait, and watch for those moments, taking pictures of the images and the feelings they evoke deep inside my well-covered heart. I painstakingly take each picture out in my mind for later, in the safety of my windowless room, aching with loneliness and self-loathing.

Your words add to my collection. The praise serves as a balm for my battered soul. It’s ridiculous how much I hunger for recognition, validation, just for one person in a crowd to see me standing there…

Every so often, when I feel brave, I am able to reach out to someone with my collection, sharing pieces of these moments, so the person will not be sad, or borrow the strength of my conviction for the five minutes it takes to go on after a terrible blow.

I am that singer in a B movie who is known for copying others but afraid to show herself. I am the patient recovering from major surgery, clinging to the idle gardening conversation of masked strangers waiting for their lunch break.

They forget my name as soon as I say it. But, I forget theirs. I don’t forget their smiles, the funny little laugh of recognition, a pat on the shoulder in between my patches of psoriasis, the things that matter.

I am a heart collector, waiting to be reborn.

Mochi

gaelle-marcel-101871.jpg
PHOTO: Gaelle Marcel, Unsplash

Boots on the ground. Someone asks for breakfast. All I can find are one or two eggs sitting on the counter at this favorite diner in the middle of Tokyo Town in the Mid-West. I look down on my eggs frying in an ashtray, as the old Japanese lady lay dying by the open window 12 feet away.

She ran the diner with a firm, gentle hand, singing out her bento orders, surrounded by the small talk of young people ready for bigger things. Small and frail, she would always make room for me, saying my name in Broken English, “Ca-dole” very carefully.

On Fridays, I’d find pink, heart-shaped mochi in my pocket on the way out.

I could feel her last breath fill the room as the sound of those boots pounded in my head, surrounded by the love of the weak and the helpless, drained by compassion. I am sickened by my servile design, desperately searching for another egg that will not crack the yolk. I am running out of time.

(But I only wanted to sit quietly by her makeshift bed, with a handful of the others, waiting to die.)

Fugitive

derek-liang-239058
PHOTO: Derek Liang, Unsplash

Dear Diary,

I had that dream again, the one where I run for my life — what’s left of it.

Like Bobby Axelrod in “Billions,” he went to all the places he knew I’d go, waiting around for me in Maui at the end of our chapter.

I ran because I broke his precious laptop, the one that cost him so much time and money to jury rig. I was doomed the moment I stood up, pulled the gray metal box away from him, then carefully, intentionally slammed it against the hardest part of the nearest wall.

I heard little tiny pieces of glass shatter inside the machine, as I eyed the nearest exit. Before he could rise and roar, I left the room grabbing my purse.

Suddenly, as he stood waiting to mafia me somewhere between Lahaina and Kaanapali, I sat huddled in the corner of a random bus. The tail end of a parade passed, green and white leis, a waft of sweet through the half-open window, reminding me of eighth grade. I dare not breathe deep. The Merrie Monarch Festival, in a blur. Keauhou, I must be close.

This would not do. I pictured myself in a nowhere town in the middle of Texas maybe, Nebraska, …

I woke up thinking about South Dakota. You never hear about South Dakota.

But there is no beach.

“Zealous in the beginning, unfaithful in the end.” —a recent sermon somewhere in Everett

“You shame the angels”

aimee-vogelsang-106103
PHOTO: Aimee Vogelsang, Unsplash

There’s a special kind of pain in watching a man wax eloquently about the woman he loves. A recent episode of Showtime’s “Billions” about the women behind the men drove home the point that I richly lack in that dept.

Perhaps, it’s my own undoing. I probably gravitate toward people who are incapable of showing how much they love me, who keep such declarations to themselves, or worse, never feel them enough to voice. Something about me seems to crave such self-punishment, such an impossible challenge, from early on in my childhood. Something to explore…

Deep down, I know they don’t love me enough, they don’t love me that way. If they did, I might die of embarrassment, or run away from the pressure to live up to such high expectations. Such love is foreign to me; always was.

My own husband once broke up with me a month into our courtship, because I wasn’t his dream girl and he wasn’t physically attracted to me like he should be.

We only really got back together, because of mutual trust, friendship, comfort. Not mad love. Not that that’s bad. I quite prefer it.

In his own way, he does love me the way a husband of many decades loves a wife he’s come to depend on for companionship. Besides, I’m not that kind of girl, right?

Every so often, I look up from my busy work and my pointless distractions, and realize I do miss the romance of someone regarding me with complete adoration, helpless around me, because he is madly, deeply, completely in love with me, with every fiber of my being.

Every so often, I wish with all my heart that someone somewhere out there would’ve acted the way Bobby and Chuck do without their women around, blurt out with stars in their eyes, “You shame the angels, you really do,” spout spontaneous poetry inspired by their women’s unforgettable beauty and charm, champion them to all comers, blah blah fucking blah.

It almost physically hurts to watch everybody live the kind of love story I’d always dreamed of. Meanwhile, I live in some sort of quiet desperation, a thin grasp on that childhood fantasy of living by the sea in a one-room shack with my books, quilts, and cat, far far away where nobody can bother me.

Is it a beach house or a mental asylum?

On good days, I talk myself into believing all of that bullshit’s a fairy tale anyway, Hollywoodized pair-bond campaigns for her pleasure. On bad days…

*Enjoy this post now, Dear Diary readers. I’m most likely to chicken out & delete this soon.

Recovery

glen-carrie-102887
PHOTO: Glen Carrie, Unsplash

“My son made the JV team on his own merits. He didn’t play politics. His parents didn’t wrangle an ‘in.’ … So don’t call him weak.”

One of the toughest parts of going through yet another sports injury was the feeling that we were the only ones who ever went through back-to-back sports injuries.

My son received the all-clear from the hand specialist on the day he suffered a grade 2 MCL injury at practice. The orthopedic specialist said it would be six to eight weeks before James could even think about sports again.

We’re currently heading into week six, with no end in sight. James no longer feels pain and has full extension of his knee. His knee remains unstable, however, which hopefully continued PT will improve.

In the meantime, watching the remainder of the high school games has been a lesson in utter humiliation (humility), patience (inconvenience), and witnessing the innate self-serving, self-centered nature of others.

People who mean well have wound up saying some damned hurtful things about my injured child to my face. Their sons are out there on the pitch loving every moment, not a care in the world, so what do the parents care. They can afford to feel magnanimous with their dime store wisdom.

One friend actually said my son seems incredibly injury-prone, insinuating that there is some inherent physical defect that causes him to go from one bad break to another. Others have said the same thing, things that have even caused me to wonder if James is predisposed to injuries other stronger boys his age would never succumb to (i.e., maybe he doesn’t belong in sports).

It’s true that my son was diagnosed two years ago with asthma, a respiratory condition Seattle Children’s doctors have told me usually shows up much earlier, by grade school. He must always watch his allergies, take certain medications, vitamins, and take care to get plenty of rest.

But he plays the same as every “normal, healthy” boy on the pitch; even better than most, if you ask me.

An argument could be made for the finger fracture happening weeks before soccer tryouts, which effectively kept him from staying in top condition. While the other boys were probably playing Premier/Select soccer up to the day of tryouts, my son had to stay in a full arm cast for his broken pinky finger, taking care not to get his hand sweaty.

He couldn’t play any of the basketball games he went to practice for for many weeks as a Unified Team partner with Special Olympics. (He decided on the spot to join in the finals, one-handed, just to letter in the sport.)

He also chose to opt out of wearing a cast cover in order to continue playing Premier soccer tournaments and an indoor tournament with another team, since this was his first break and he wanted to be healed in plenty of time for the tryouts in Feb.

When the hand specialist cleared him to try out, we breathed such a sigh of relief. When he made the JV team, it was the happiest, the proudest I’d ever seen him. I saw a different soccer player those first three games representing his school. He was quicker, more powerful; I saw moves from that kid I’d never seen before. It seemed playing with other competitive boys upped my son’s game.

DSC_0314 copy

Best of all, James loved his JV team.

Why this had to happen when it had to happen… I will never understand. I keep clinging to a blind faith that things happen for a reason, a better reason, that will be revealed somewhere down the line, that G-d has his own plan, and maybe this is a lesson we have to keep learning about responding to setbacks with grace.

I’ve been there when my son, a kid who never cries, stands there utterly defeated, feeling ashamed, tears on his face, hating himself and thinking he caused his own MCL injury because he was weak.

So, when you say stupid shit like, “That kid does seem injury prone,” “I don’t think anybody else has injured out the entire season on just an MCL sprain,” or “You think he’s ready for the big leagues?” (aka, “Maybe he’s too weak to stand up to those tough JV/Varsity drills”), that doesn’t help our situation. That, in fact, actually twists the knife even more.

Please keep your thoughtless comments to yourself, friends. You don’t know what we’ve been through. You certainly don’t know what my son’s made of, at all.

Some of you should know, since you’ve seen him MVP through tough tournaments that most kids his age couldn’t hack, perform miracles in the last five minutes of a game like the underdog he is to help pull off a first-place finish in the league, save your own sons’ asses, cover for them, and made them look good, and put up with more incompetent fucktards/behind-the-scenes political jostling than any teenager should have to — just to play a game he loves more than any other.

It’s easy for people to insulate/distance themselves from any and all hardships that they’ve never personally been through. It’s easier for them to forget what it’s like to be down on their luck, struggling to bounce back, while the world keeps spinning, leaving them behind. It’s oh-so-easy to focus only on immediate, short-term gratification than staying in there for the long haul, or focus only on the negative, while neglecting the positive.

When I see my son break down in private during such times, sometimes I hate those people.

My son made the JV team on his own merits, on his first try as a freshman. He didn’t play politics. His parents didn’t wrangle an “in.” He was never groomed as a toddler to be a soccer star, as we simply couldn’t afford the pricey leagues. He started soccer in third grade, a late bloomer, really, by today’s standards.

He made JV on his own. He even managed to impress a few of the returning Varsity players, some who actually thought he’d make it. One Varsity player told James he liked his hustle. The Varsity captain actually chose my son to be on his scrimmage team during tryouts.

He got to play three JV games — the proudest moment of his life. In the first one, he made an assist for what should’ve been the winning goal. (The other team would score almost at the 11th hour.) In the last two, he moved out of his mid-field spot to fill in as a defender, saving so many shots on goal from the opposing teams it was ridiculous, often taking the ball in the face at pointblank range, or outrunning and outgunning a forward to do it.

Don’t tell me my son is weak. He’s put up with more than you could ever deal with.

He’s got so much more going for him than one soccer season. The people who matter know this. For those who’ve stood by us, offered us only support, and made us feel like we’re all in this together, I love and thank you from the bottom of my heart. You guys have made going through this hell a whole helluva lot easier. I wish there were more people like you around.

Glad I got this off my chest.

Lululemon is not a commercial

emma-simpson-153970
PHOTO: Emma Simpson, Unsplash

“Sometimes, I go into a Lululemon store just to feel better about myself. I get to browse, take mental notes for future purchases, and pick up on ideas that improve my personal goals of becoming more fit and living longer.”

A few months after our family was hit with cancer (my husband), I wandered into the new Lululemon store at a nearby mall on a random December. I’d needed new running clothes to shore me up for the cold winter. I hadn’t planned on buying my running clothes at this fancy designer place I (thought I) knew more for its yoga pants than anything practical. For that, I intended on making do at Walmart.

I never did make it to Walmart.

I expected the usual dismissive runaround I always got at every department store I ever walked into. You see, people don’t pay much attention to someone like me. They are super-friendly to the customers in front of or behind me at the registers, they bypass me to serve the white, middle-class soccer mom types… Annoying baffling bullshit I’ve had to put up with all of my life.

Imagine my surprise when the staff at Lululemon treated me like every other woman who walked through those doors, with courtesy, respect, and unbelievable consideration.

It didn’t matter that I carried a few extra pounds, lacked those coveted, curvaceous Venus de Milo hips, or looked like hell in old sweat pants and beat-up borrowed Nikes, no make-up, my greasy, gray hair in a disarray.

Overwhelmed by the selection, I was about to leave when — on a whim — I drummed up the courage to ask for help. A young pixie-ish lady hovering around the dressing rooms immediately dropped what she was doing, led me over to the winter running pants and tops, and helped me find my size, explained the compression feature (wow, these are tight!), and even picked out a color (bright purple) that matched my skin tone. All without my asking.

She walked me through the scary process of trying on clothes, and never left me until I was satisfied with the first pair of pants and top she picked out in a size 10 (I haven’t worn that size since the ’90s).

She made me feel normal, valued and a welcome addition to Lululemon, another satisfied convert. She had no idea the hell I’d been through, and how much her authentic kindness lifted my spirits during the busiest time of the season.

When I visited family in Hawaii a few months later, I tried out another Lululemon store in Waikiki, assuming my first time was a fluke.

It was not. I received the same tender, loving care from those ladies.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting Portland, tagging along on my husband’s gig. While he set up the sound for a Rotary Club Conference at the downtown Hilton, I went out exploring with a friend. We checked out the Lululemon store there, my friend for the first time.

I happened to be wearing the same outfit I first bought back in Dec. of last year. It also happened to be the first time I walked for exercise since blowing my knee five weeks prior.

I helped my friend decide on her walking outfits, as she teetered on bailing. She, too, worried about the tight pants until I explained about the compression factor and how they would adapt quickly to her body and wouldn’t feel uncomfortably tight but like second skin.

fasttrackbag copy
I got mine in black. Buh-bye, Coach!

I also scored a fast track bag, which I carry with me everywhere now instead of that expensive, bulky Coach bag my mom bought me when times were better. My friend grabbed one for herself too.

The ladies at the Portland Lululemon were as wonderful as my first time. When I tweeted about my experience, the Lululemon people on Twitter immediately responded, later on with a photo of a soft-as-butter pair of Align Pant II I plan on picking up for the spring/summer.

That’s the key about this place. Everyone there responds, personalizing their interactions and taking good care of you, as if you were a new friend or literally a part of their family.

I never felt embarrassed, left out, or awkward around any of the Lululemon staff. They know their stuff. They wear Lululemon, they live its natural message of empowerment for all women, not just a chosen few who stand out.

Lululemon’s gear is also tremendously practical. Every feature is so well-thought out, from the thumb holes, weather-resistant material, and hidden zippers, to the placement of pockets and the design of the crotch (to avoid camel toe). The products are expensive, but made to last.

Sometimes, I go into a Lululemon store just to feel better about myself. I get to browse, take mental notes for future purchases, and pick up on ideas that improve my personal goals of becoming more fit and living longer.

Every now and then, I even feel… beautiful, because of these beautiful women at Lululemon.

They’re definitely more than yoga pants. They represent the kind of world I wish we could all live in.