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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In The Bubble

Owen Brown Tennis Club

Owen Brown Tennis Club

One of the advantages of being a blogger in Howard County (HoCo), Maryland is the wonderful network of bloggers you can get to know. Many of HoCo’s bloggers know and blog about local events and happenings, and etc. I was happy to catch up with one such knowledgeable blogger at the Nalley Fresh Blog party a couple weeks ago. Duane, of HoCoConnect blog fame, has shared lots of newsy tidbits on things to do around the county. Today, I had a chance to check one out. I went to Drop-in Pickleball at the Owen Brown Tennis Club bubble. Since I’m not a tennis player, it was my first time at this Columbia Association facility, which currently offers drop-in pickleball twice a week. Wednesdays from 1-3 PM and Thursdays from 12-2 PM. There is a nominal fee of $3.00, and they have paddles to use if you don’t have your own.

 

In the Bubble

In the Bubble


It was not my first time attempting to play Pickleball. But, it was my first time playing with folks who know the rules. I have a lot to learn, which is really easy to do with practice. And, while I can say I played real Pickleball, I cannot say it went real(ly) well. In fact, suffice it to say I will not be representing the USA in any World Pickleball Championships any time soon. Or ever. Just judging by my games today.

The good news is, I am back into the whole idea of playing and can now set about to get some drop in sessions on my calendar. Many thanks to Duane, his wife and her teammate for today for teaching me the ropes (and for having lots of patience!). With spring right around the corner, look for more opportunities to learn to play this fun game that has elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong at different locations around the county.

 

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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.

#hocoblogs

 

New Bike! New Trail!

Fall Day on the NCR Trail

Fall Day on the NCR Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My husband and daughter surprised me with an early birthday present–a new hybrid bike. It hasn’t been very long that we started our biking adventures, and the need to have more trail options than a road bike can handle had become apparent. There are just too many trails that are calling our names, but that would be too dicey to ride on my road bike. So, fatter tires it is.

I wanted to give the bike a test spin, so we took a little 5.5 mile ride in a local office park area. My initial reaction was 5.5 miles on a hybrid made me about as tired as 20+miles on my road bike. John decided my degree of exhaustion was due more to the fact I had had an early morning and eight hour work day, than the fatter tire size. Maybe, but I did notice a difference.

The Restored 1898 Monkton Train Station

The Restored 1898 Monkton Train Station

 

Our first trail with my new bike was the Torrey C. Brown (TCB)/Northern Central Railroad Trail (NCR Trail) from Ashland, Maryland to York, Pennsylvania.  We jumped on the trail at the Ashland Trailhead, which was about a 35 minute drive from our house. It was a chilly – low 50’s, but a sunny and bright fall day. There were lots of walkers, joggers, and bike riders coming and going. We set off and were immediately impressed with the scenic and serene trail vibe. The trail was alternately narrow and wider. The surface alternated between packed gravel (almost paved) to loose gravel; with lots of leaves. I was very glad to not be trying this trail on my road bike. There were several muddy areas that my new bike handled like a charm. As we traveled north, there were fewer people, but it was still a well-used trail. I was freezing. I decided I need earmuffs that fit under my helmet. And gloves that fit over my riding gloves. And, I could have used warmer socks. But, we were delighted by the trail, so we kept pedaling, hoping to warm up.
The trees were not in full autumn glory, but there was some nice tree color. The part of the trail we rode was probably 90% shaded. We entered Gunpowder Falls State Park and spent a good deal of time with the Big Gunpowder Falls in view. It was so nice. Talk about a great way to disconnect from reality. Just nice scenery and no sounds, but those in nature.

Position Light Signals, NCR Trail

Position Light Signals, NCR Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benches and picnic tables dot the trail. There were also some cute scenic points of interest. We stopped a couple times in sunny spots to warm up and enjoy the views. We went about 8.5 miles, just past Monkton, before turning around and heading back. This is another one of those long, beautiful trails that had us planning our next ride before our first one was finished. John was so taken with this ride, it was one of the big reasons he bought me the new bike. I agree with him. It is a great trail. And, it’s close to home. We will be back to try to get to Pennsylvania next.

Sunny Spot along the NCR Trail

Sunny Spot along the NCR Trail

  For our review and more photos of this trail, see my post on my bike trail blog here.

 

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

 

 

 

 

#MyGlobalLife

 

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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Very Empty Nesty of Us, Again

This is an amazing photo of the Big Dipper Taken by John Kozlowski, August 12, 2015

This is an amazing photo of the Big Dipper Taken by John Kozlowski, August 12, 2015

Sometimes you just have to step out of your comfort zone and say, “What the heck.” Or, in our case, “Who needs sleep?” For years, many of them, I have wanted to see actual shooting stars during a Perseid Meteor Shower. I thought I had a great opportunity two years in a row when we vacationed at a dude ranch in the Adirondacks. But, despite the comfortable lounge chairs and the uber dark setting, we weren’t able to see any either of those weeks. Zero shooting stars. Last night’s meteor shower was getting the pre-event hype of a World Cup soccer match. At least according to my Twitter feed. So, since we are still working to regain our top Empty Nester form, we made an impromptu decision to have a date night under the stars in hopes of finally seeing the elusive shooting stars. Clearly, we are on a empty nester roll!


At 10:00 PM, I had packed a bag of water, snacks, a sweatshirt, and bug spray. The chairs and blankets were already in the car. And, we were heading off to the Howard County Conservancy, which was having a Perseid Meteor Shower viewing party. We found a spot among a large group of folks that we couldn’t really see, in a field that we couldn’t see. It was very dark, except for the cars streaming in and out of the grounds. I was really excited. It seemed like a great night for some meteors!  And it was. We saw our first shooting star within 10 minutes of sitting down. It appeared to us almost in slow motion and took its time sailing across the sky. We were both shocked that we saw it so easily. Then, we missed a couple, as evidenced by the oh’s and ah’s from the folks who were looking in the right place at the right time. After waiting minutes on end without seeing any, we became a little frustrated at the sporadic nature of these buggers. It’s definitely not as easy as sitting in a crowd for a fireworks display, where most people are unlikely to miss any of the pyrotechnics. Especially, because of the telltale “whump” sound that gives you a second to look up. There is no warning “whump” with these meteors. You’re either looking in the right place or not. We did manage to catch a couple more and a couple that may or may not have been ones.

Actual Fireworks That are Easy to See and Photograph

Actual Fireworks That are Easy to See and Photograph

The wisps of light flitting fleetingly through the night are a joy to witness and, frankly,  annoying to miss. Our need to be able to function today prevented us from staying too late, but we had a great time staring off into the beautiful night sky. We appreciate the Howard County Conservancy for hosting this event! It was a great date night and very Empty Nesty of us.

 

 

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