30 January 2017

Thank God for Freezing Soccer Mornings

We were up at 6am, in rural Turlock, California, ready to cheer on a field full of 10-year olds competing in their early morning State Cup Quarterfinal.

It was 34 degrees outside -- not so impressive if you're playing winter soccer in Chicago, or New York, or Kansas, but pretty freakin' cold if you happen to be 10-year old California girls and their parents.

The grass crunched beneath our feet. We blew frosty smoke rings from our mouths. We stomped our feet and talked about how it was damn cold but WOW it could be even colder, and at least the sun was out.

We cheered on our girls, hoping to will them to victory with our support and encouragement. And then, we felt heartsick and helpless as we watched them go down in defeat. We fretted to each other that they deserved this win, that the score didn't tell the real story.

We joked "At least we'll get our Sunday back," since by midway through the second half it was clear that we weren't returning for a 2pm Semifinal. None of us really wanted our Sunday back.

We high fived the losing team -- our daughters -- as they ran by our outstretched hands at the end of it all. I slapped my own daughter's hand as she ran by in a blur, and saw eyes full of tears and a face crumpled in torment. She, with visions of being the next Carly Lloyd, had run smack dab into the wall of 10-year old failure and was feelin' it, big time.

We took the team to crepes afterwards, in rural, sleepy Turlock, where we enjoyed the parent table a few feet from the player table, where they stuffed themselves with crepes piled high with nutella and strawberries and whipped cream: no need for our young athletes to be smart and healthy with no afternoon game beckoning.

It was a bittersweet morning, and I will forever love these days, as gut-wrenching as they can be.

The owners of the Creperie in rural, sleepy Turlock were absolutely thrilled to see us pile into their small cafe. Thrilled, cheerful, welcoming, and then, as our large group kept streaming in, ever so slightly panicked and then downright stressed out by the impact we had on their three crepe machine establishment. It took forever to get our food. For. Eh. Ver.

The owners of the Creperie in rural, sleepy Turlock are, as it happens, Syrian immigrants.

That’s how we spent our Sunday morning, and thank God we did. Because had I not been there, riding the wave and crash of U11 competitive soccer, I would have been in front of a screen somewhere, swallowing up the fear and rage that I find rising in me lately when I see my Facebook feed, check Twitter for the current outrage, and scan npr.org’s pages.

There are more than enough horrors happening in our country these days to fill our every moment and every breath. There are marches to go to and phone calls to make and airports to occupy. There are difficult conversations to have – with people we agree with as much as those we don’t. If we are to be responsible and well-informed, we have to do the work to make sure we are getting real information.

We will see more horrors. Of course we will. The time to wonder if this will be the thing that does him in is over. The time to make this – or the next thing, or the thing after that – be the thing that wakes up our country and unites us in ridding ourselves of this orange cancer is here and now.

But for today, I am grateful for the freezing cold pitch beneath my feet and the chance to watch my daughter lose her soccer game, because I needed a wee-bit of a break from the chaos of the real world. Today, I am grateful for delicious crepes, sweet balm after a tough loss, prepared with love and enthusiasm by a lovely Syrian couple now living in the middle of California.

My daughter is sleeping on the couch next to me, still in her stinky soccer socks.

Tomorrow morning, she will shower. And tomorrow morning, I will call some US Representatives who need to know that I oppose Betsy De Vos’s nomination as Education Secretary and that I want him or her to vote against it. Tomorrow, I will tell a friend of mine that yes, I will go with her to my local representative’s office to thank him for opposing DJT so far and to let him know that I expect him to continue to do exactly that at every turn. Tomorrow, I will search for reliable news sources, and I will resist the click bait that beckons me and my righteous indignation.

Today, I am grateful that I got to watch my 10-year old daughter play her heart out and lose her State Cup Quarterfinal. There’s always next year, and maybe we can go back and visit the Syrians.

01 January 2017

What Can Be Our Response?

Here is an unspeakable secret: paradise is all around us and we do not understand.
It is wide open. The sword is taken away,
but we do not know it. I am present
without knowing it at all, in this unspeakable paradise, and I behold this secret, this wide open secret which is there for everyone, free.
– Thomas Merton 
Thank you, Thomas Merton, for your words, and thank you to my friend Linda for sharing them on Facebook this morning to usher in 2017.  

Perhaps this is what all angst and anxiety stem from: we are present in unspeakable paradise without knowing it, even while we search for it high and low, with desperation and urgency.  We are searching for that paradise with every resolution, every firm decision to be better, do better, love better.  Paradise is all around us: why don't we see it?  Why aren't we aware of every moment we are living in it?  Why don't we know it?

That existential crisis will be even more palpable in this, our beloved country, as we watch Donald J. Trump assume the mantle of leadership and tweet his strange brand of narcissism and megalomania into the world.  

What can be our response, not only to Trump but to the slings and arrows of daily, difficult, wrenching life?  We must see, enjoy, create, share and demand beauty.  We must make something beautiful and put it out into the world.  We must light that small candle in the darkness.  We must.  It is essential.  It is all that matters.  

Write.  Make music.  Paint.  Draw.  Grow things.  Tend to animals.  Read.  Cook.  Teach.  Design.  Push.  Resistance takes a million forms, so pick the one that fits you like a warm and loving sweater, but pick one or you will spend your time in this paradise feeling cold and shackled.  Pick one, so that you can begin to see the paradise all around you.  Pick one: it is there for you, for everyone, free.

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