The Beautiful Game Back in The Day

Love Soccer

Love Soccer

I grew up in a time and place that was quite unique. I played soccer and swam on the neighborhood summer swim team. Forty years ago. It was very normal. I had no idea that literally the year my family moved to this unique place, Title IX was passed. It didn’t seem to matter. Boys and girls, black or white or other races were all just kids. We were on teams and in school and we were not told we couldn’t do any of it for any reason. I had no idea how rare it all was. I had no idea that there were huge areas of the country that did not offer soccer as a sport option, or if they did, did not offer soccer as a sport for girls back at that time.

In high school, I played on the Girls Varsity Soccer team, which I believe had only started up the year or two before I got there. I would later learn that one of my former neighborhood team teammates had lobbied hard to make high school soccer for girls a reality at my school. (Thank you, Jessie!) Our coach was a Cuban American woman, who was also my Spanish teacher.  There was no Girls Junior Varsity team back then. I don’t even know when that started in our county. I was in college by then or older perhaps.

So, I was a soccer player and soccer fan in the U.S. a long time ago. We had a very successful Boys Varsity Soccer Team at the time. One young man was drafted to play in the North American Soccer League (NASL), the U.S. professional league, right out of high school. He played for the New York Cosmos, which was a very good team.  It was very exciting to think that someone we knew from our school was playing professionally with some of the top names in the sport.

Today I learned that one of THE legends of the game back then died. Johan Cruyff. He was Dutch, but he played in the U.S. for another NASL team, the Washington Diplomats, for a time. I can’t believe how hearing of his passing has brought to mind this flood of my personal soccer memories and with them, gratitude. I got to see that guy play. And, while the details are fuzzy and honestly irrelevant, I’m happy to have had the honor. But, I’m even more grateful that I was able to play.

Soccer Patches

Soccer Patches

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Bonus Day Fun

 

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. So long, in fact, that one of my fellow HoCo bloggers introduced me tonight as a retired blogger. Very funny, HoCoConnect! Because I have had such a good “Leap Day” and not because I was guilted into it, I am inspired to get back to my blog. (Smile)

Tonight, the HoCo Bloggers were invited to enjoy a meal at the new Nalley Fresh Restaurant, which is in the Dobbin Center plaza near Performance Bikes. Nalley Fresh offers a “Chipotle-style” make your own salad, wrap, or bowl. I think one of the more unique offerings, and there are several here, is the sweet potato base for your bowl. I did not try it, because I was drawn to the salad. There is a wall of lettuce options, and I asked to have a romaine and spring mix combination. From there I had to choose a protein, which wasn’t easy. The beef looked fabulous. There was shrimp and salmon, and three styles of chicken, and I was stuck in the land of too many choices. It was temporary. One of the very friendly staff members had told me to ask for a small taste of the protein to make sure I’d like it. So, I asked to try the plain, grilled chicken. It was OK, but I wasn’t sold on it. So, I took a chance on the whisky chicken. I proceeded to the next friendly server and picked a bunch of my favorite salad veggies, then skipped the cheese (as I do) and asked for ranch dressing on the side. I was offered a piece of nutty bread, which I accepted. It was a delicious salad if I do say so myself. It was very obvious why fresh is in the name. It was super fresh. On top of a great meal, John really liked the wrap he chose, too, it was fun to meet new bloggers and chat with the regulars. (I’m going to have a lot connecting to do on social media after I get this post up.)

I was happy to get to tell JessieX in person that I love her new blog series, The Uber Chronicles. It is so perfectly her. I was so energized by her excitement and our conversation that I’m sure that is also propelling me to write this post.

Earlier today I was able to get in one more Masters swim practice for February, and it ended up being about 500 more yards than the coach actually wrote for us. Note to self: It’s time to grab your prescription goggles so you can read what is actually written on the white board. It was a happy problem on a bonus day!

Go check out Nalley Fresh for yourself. You may even run into this guy:

Chef Nalley at the New Columbia, MD Nalley Fresh Location

And, if you’re lucky, there will be live music and you’ll catch him playing a mean harmonica.

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Thirty Years Later

La Sagrada Familia Barcelona, Spain

La Sagrada Familia
Barcelona, Spain

Rocky, exasperating, frustrating, overwhelming, and hard are a few of the words I would use to describe my first few weeks in Spain, where I was transplanted for my Junior year of college. However, those aren’t any of the words I actually use to describe my study abroad experience, mind you. I look back on my study abroad experience with happiness, excitement, pride, and a deep yearning to go back. In fact, I have a number of stories about things that I experienced when I first arrived that I laugh about now, but that I did not find funny at all at the time. So, having a child go overseas for his semester abroad program, has reminded me of the not often talked about parts of study abroad: the culture shock. We used the terms “culture shock” and “reverse culture shock” before and after my study abroad experience, back in the day. But, talking about it and learning what types of feelings are bundled under the umbrella of the term “culture shock,” does not prepare you for it happening to you. Funny thing about feelings. And, while I believe that everyone experiences some sort of culture shock, not everyone’s culture shock manifests in the same way. But, I guess, it was helpful to have the idea that what one is experiencing is normal. Although, I don’t once recall thinking, “Oh, yes. This is my culture shock talking,” when I was having a frustrated moment.And, communication has changed so much since I lived in Spain, it is mind-boggling to me. While I had pushed all of my entry into Spain and Spanish culture issues (READ: my culture shock) well to the back of my mind, I was brought back face to face with them through my son.

And, while it was a bit uncomfortable to hear he was experiencing his culture shock, it was nice to be able to say, “Yeah, I remember that. I felt that way, too.” So, while the sum total of our parenting advice has been something along the lines of, “Hang in there!” and “You can do it!” I had more peace about the place my son found himself in those early weeks of his Junior year. I knew that he was so close to getting over the biggest hump and would be fine. It just takes time.

While I mentally wrestled with ways I could “help” him, I began thinking about thirty years ago. One thing that came to me was an analogy. Undertaking a study abroad program is like panning for gold in the late 1800s. The conditions are physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing. You’re standing in unfamiliar waters, performing unfamiliar tasks, like bending down and scooping up rocks and dirt and water and shaking out the unwanted parts. It’s demanding all of your attention to find the gold nuggets. But, you find them. Some are small, some a little bigger, and every now and then, you find a sizeable chunk of gold. You put all the nuggets that you find in a pouch or off to the side and continue panning. When you stop at the end of the day, you may not find that you have many nuggets. But, at the end of the week or month or semester, you will have lots of gold nuggets. Those gold nuggets are what you will be proud of, thankful for, and will be what you remember about your study abroad experience. The lack of reliable 24/7 WiFi will fade into the deep recesses of your mind, crowded out by the awesome, shiny gold nuggets you are holding.

Another thing that came to me was a word of advice: Don’t compare your insides (READ: what you are feeling) to somebody else’s SnapChat stories, Instagram pictures, Facebook posts, or tweets on Twitter. Seeing people who are also studying abroad appearing to be having an amazing time without any of the culture shock piece does not mean they are not also struggling to come to terms with their new environment. They are. And, just a P.S. Everyone is thinking the same thing about your cool photos and posts on social media.

And finally, I thought, it’s important to find your inner warrior. Be fearless. Face the day resolving to do your best, make the best of every situation, and have fun. I used to picture a map of the world and then picture where I was compared to my family and friends. I used that image to propel me through days I didn’t want to get out bed, as well as days I was having so much fun, I didn’t want to go to sleep.

Monserrat Catalonia, Spain

Monserrat
Catalonia, Spain

 

 

 

 

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Running For Preparedness

Survivor Strong Memorial 5K Run and Fun Walk, August 2015

Survivor Strong Memorial 5K Run and Fun Walk, August 2015

The mark of a truly successful event is having volunteers ask to be part of the same event next year. The mark of a successful charity (non-profit, in this case) and charity event is having volunteers ask, “What are you doing next? I want to help with everything you are doing.” And, the mark of a non-profit’s successful mission or relevance is its ability to bring known and well regarded personalities to attend, speak at, and promote the mission and efforts of your non-profit. The National Center for Citizen Safety (NCCSAFE) had all of the above and more at the first Survivor Strong Memorial 5K run and fun walk.

Volunteers Getting Ready for the Race!

Volunteers Getting Ready for the Race!

The founder and president of NCCSAFE, Lois Blevins, invited me to work at her non-profit this summer to help with the 5K and other projects. I was excited to bring my experience running events to this effort. NCCSAFE is headquartered in Ellicott City, Maryland, and was started just over a year ago in response to the alarming rise in “active shooter” situations and other acts of domestic terrorism. Its mission is to fill the gap in educating the public on what to do if they find themselves in this type of life threatening situation; to be a repository for information and resources for survivors of such incidents; and to provide survivors with healing camps and retreats. The NCCSAFE has several initiatives started that will continue to promote citizen awareness and preparedness, but the 5K run was a major fund- and awareness-raiser.

Gathering for the Race Start

Gathering for the Race Start

Eyeing the Finish Line!

Eyeing the Finish Line!

Her team of volunteers and college interns did an amazing job, and the compliments keep pouring in through word of mouth and social media. I was happy to coordinate the volunteers for the day, and was asked by several about how to volunteer with NCCSAFE year round, as well as for next year’s 5K.

Survivors, Sponsor, Staff and Interns!

Survivors, Sponsor, Staff and Interns!

In addition to enjoying a well organized and well run event with great food, beverages, and SWAG, the participants and spectators heard inspiring words from three speakers, who know first hand how horrible living through shootings and domestic terrorism is. Hector Hernandez conducted responder recovery at the Oklahoma City bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Building, where he once worked. Michele Gay, a former Howard County resident, who lost her daughter Josephine Grace in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT, is a founder of Safe and Sound: A Sandy Hook Initiative. And, Erika Brannock, also a Maryland native, who lost her leg in the Boston Marathon bombing, is currently writing a book. All three were very supportive of NCCSAFE’s mission and spoke of the need for the type of information and advocacy that NCCSAFE provides during the pre-race ceremony. I was so happy to be a part of such a positive event for such a worthwhile cause. 

Hector Hernandez, Erika Brannock and Michele Gay, Event Speakers

Hector Hernandez, Erika Brannock and Michele Gay, Event Speakers

Photo Credit to Ellie and Fred McKenzie

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Our Empty Nest Game is Strong

 

We had a chance to take a page out of our Empty Nest playbook this weekend and it was fantastic, dare I say, glorious. As a couple, John and I went into empty nest-hood with a basic survival plan, some vaguely articulated hopes, and a determined flexibility. We did great! Although, I didn’t fare as well, at least initially, but that’s a topic for another post.

Since that momentous August two years ago, the kids have come back and gone again and come back and so on. Thus, the parenting territory has become murky or murkier than pre empty nest. It has required many adjustments on our part. Currently, the biggest one being how to handle the limited amount of “empty” in our house. We have found ourselves being less motivated to be the foot loose and fancy free empty nesters we were in the beginning, in exchange for spending time with one or both of the kids. Despite the soundness of our thinking, we were a little stuck.


That is, until this past week. We learned that very dear friends were going to retire on Friday. We knew immediately upon hearing the news that we wanted and needed to be there. “There” being Buffalo, NY. We were able to clear our schedules in under a week and head up to Buffalo. Our friends, Tom and MaryJane, have owned a pizzeria in the town my husband grew up in for 31 years. He actually worked for them 30 years ago. They are about our age, and when John finally moved to Maryland, he kept in touch with them. My first trip to Buffalo included a required stop at the restaurant and introductions. MaryJane and I hit it off instantly, and I would look forward to getting together with them during our Buffalo visits. To think that we wouldn’t have their restaurant as a stop during future visits was so sad. We had to get there one more time. Plus, they were planning a big party Friday night.


We ended up making the trip without the kids, which was a little strange since they were both technically at home. But it was also really empty nesty of us. We realized how much we had needed to get away almost the minute we arrived at the restaurant, which was our first stop upon arriving in town. We had a great visit and we’re thrilled to get to Torella’s one last time to wish our lovely friends happiness and lots of spur of the moment fun!


 

 

 

 

 

 

A Picture Perfect Day For a Bike Ride

Picture Perfect Day in DC

Picture Perfect Day in DC

Today the Empty Nest vibe was in full force, which is to say that we planned a bike ride and executed said plan. We chose the Capital Crescent Trail, a wonderful Rail Trail, that took us from Bethesda, MD all the way to Washington DC. It was a picture perfect day to ride this beauty of a trail. We did the same ride last Memorial Day weekend, but today was better. I remembered being a lot hotter and sweatier last year. It’s 82 degrees and sunny today. We were not surprised to see lots of people along the trail and enjoying the monuments in DC. Some points along our route were trickier to negotiate on a bike than others, but for the most part, we were able to enjoy the city and monuments and the trail with no problems. This time, the restrooms at Fletcher’s Cove were open and I was happy to find they were air conditioned.

Fletcher's Cove

Fletcher’s Cove

The area was teeming with folks enjoying both the river access part and the canal part of the Cove. We got into DC and the line to rent kayaks, paddle boards and other watercraft was the longest we’d ever seen there. So it looked like the Potomac River was as busy and crowded as the bike trail.

View of Trails at Fletcher's Cove

View of Trails at Fletcher’s Cove

John was commenting about what a great ride it was given the variety of sites and effort level required. We were rather tired by the time we started back to Bethesda, as the ride back is mostly up hill. But it was a great day and a great way to Empty Nest. 

Capturing Two Monuments in DC on Memorial Day

Capturing Two Monuments in DC on Memorial Day

Painting (in) the Town

 

I love it when I discover something really fun to do close to home. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may have seen some of my paintings. And, I know I have a long way to go to be an artist, but I'm trying to not let that deter me. I have never been good at art. In fact, I intensely disliked elementary and middle school art classes growing up. I couldn't draw or create to save my life. Well, with age comes a certain willingness to try new things. I was invited to a painting party at my friend and fellow blogger, Terri's house last year and it awakened my inner artist. Since then I've hosted a painting party and then set out on my own…with mixed results. I'm pretty critical of my own artwork. And, I still fall into the trap of wanting everything to look like a photograph. But, today, for Mother's Day, my daughter and I tried a new paint party studio in Turf Valley called Pinot's Palette. It was awesome. We both loved the atmosphere and the music they played. We were able to relax and be guided through painting a pretty spring scene. There was a wide selection of beverages and some snacks available for purchase. The room was filled with mothers, daughters, sons, fathers, grandmothers, and grandchildren. The two hour time slot flew by, as we were intently focused on our canvases from the moment we started. We were pretty brave to pick the painting we came to do (painting butterflies is trickier than it sounds). And, despite our butterflies over painting the butterflies, we did just fine. It was such a delightful way to spend the afternoon – surprisingly relaxing and yet exciting at the same time. I think we will both be planning to paint at Pinot's Palette again soon.

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