Game on.

It was a sea of blue. Floating clouds of white. Shades of green. With an occasional glimpse of wolf gray. 

Today was the season opener for the Seattle Seahawks, at home, in Centrylink Field.

It was also 9/11.

I found myself lucky enough to be included in a trip to see the game with my mom, her cousin and daughter. We did this last year, but it was the end of September before the team had a home game, bruised and battered from coming this close to winning a second super bowl. 

It wasn’t pretty football then.

Wasn’t really pretty today either. And today had an undercurrent of loss of its own. 

I’m sure the NFL and all the teams had a pause when recognizing that the first Sunday of the 2016 season was going to fall on 9/11. This year, they had choices to make, more about honoring the memory of those who aren’t here to watch this season unfold than the entertainment value for those who would be filling their stadiums.

I felt uneasy, it all felt uneasy, for a bit this morning. Watching the children of 9/11 victims reading the names, so many names, of loved people who didn’t get to choose to see their kids grow up, or grow old with spouses, hang out with friends, or plan a future, while knowing I was going to something privileged. I felt split in two.

This is what makes life so cataclysmicaly heart rending. 

The tenuous balance of living and dying, joy and sorrow, breaking and mending of minds, hearts, souls, relationships.

The Seahawks have spent the week, and last, and more toiling over deep stuff. Issues of life and death, injustice and liberty. If some lives matter more or less than others.

They took the time to carefully pull apart thoughts and feelings folded into the shape of each teammate, listening to outside voices from all angels of an impossibly complex national debate, and then, made a choice of standing together in unity. 

Not because they all agreed. Because they didn’t.

It’s pretty great to walk among thousands and thousands of others who like, a lot, the team that you buy jerseys and hats and waste of money fingernail tattoos for. 

Makes it easy to feel one of many of a united force, with a common goal, an expected outcome. It can be a relief to just be part of a place where you can go unchallenged for a bit, relax into the social blanket of acceptance, follow the awesome shirt in front of you.

As long as you are wearing the same colors. 

It might be why my teenage son and Cardinals fan, who flew into Seattle for the game, made the decision to let Oma buy him a Seahawks hat, he for whom on any given Sunday finds the Hawks repulsive. He said he liked the hat, even though it is a Seahawks hat. I think he decided to honor his Oma’s favorite team (not so much mine), and at the same time, save the hassel of standing out as not a 12.

We all want to be noticed. We want people to look at us. To see us. To go out of their way to look in our eyes and take the time to show us that we are significant. 

And yet, so many times the shades of our situation, our pain, suffering, loss, hurt, insecurity color how we see those who cross our paths.

We do the very things to others that we would never want another to do to us. And it hurts.

Defense isn’t just played on the football field. It’s so easy to be fooled by the lie that protecting ourselves by being the first to hit will keep us from losing. Yes, sometimes having a strong defense is your best offense. 

But off the gridiron, in our jobs, on the road, at home, in our streets; making schoolyard teams based on who we like best and who can do the most for us just ends up costing us in ways we never bargained for.

What will we do now? Now that the anthem has been sung, the memorials spoken, flags unfurled and the brave honored. 

There are times, like when I dropped a glass bottle of (annoyingly expensive but super delicious) sparkling water on the concrete this morning, when I just want to be done with the people looking, watching, waiting to see how I fix my problem.

In those moments, their is nothing sweeter than a bystander coming forward to help, to empathize and smile and make the clean up process twice as fast, the embarrassment twice as short.

I love football, but I have no idea how it feels to play the game, or to coach a team. Standing on the sideline and watching from a stadium seat or a comfy couch are two completely different experiences. My perspective is formed by what I know of the game and the rules, my history of watching games, who I have watched with.

Our country unified after 9/11, maybe for each other, or maybe we felt had an enemy in common, a battle to fight to try to right the awful wrongs, a defensive line to build. 

It lingers, that fear. When a generation has seen nightmares in real time, there is no going back. 

Football has a season, it always feels too short (unlike baseball and hockey, yeah, I’m looking at you). It can be a brutal physical game, wearing on the strongest and healthiest of us all. We who love the game profit much from it’s intensity, but that always comes at a cost.

I think we have come to a time again in this nation of states united where people are ready and willing to take a deep breath and stand up for and against somethings. There’s only so much of being beaten that a person can take. There is a time when, if it comes to it, you choose.

This will be when we decide what to make a big deal of. What is no longer enough, no longer acceptable. 

This is when the game begins.

Haden’s Way Too Early Playoff Bracket Super Bowl 50!!

In the beautiful state of Washington, as flowers open, grass grows green and birds chirp in the trees,  schoolchildren and teachers in every town and city have set aside real and meaningful learning, and taken on stress and expectations, to instead take a new special standardized test. Don’t ask me the name, I will use a sentence with a curse word.  Of my boys, my sixth grader and my third grader have been testing. 

They are a microcosm of the vast differences between learning styles and test taking paces. That is to say that true to character, Liam takes much longer time to a. start looking at the question. b. actually read the question. c. re-read the question because they are written in secret code. d. write out the lengthy answer required.  Sometimes he also likes to doodle his name to add something extra to a paper. Haden, on the other hand, approaches the test as something to conquer, and be done.  In record time.

This is how Haden gave me a surprise (and welcome) blog post today.  He said he finished his test quickly, and so while the other students toiled on, he said his choices were to read, draw or well, just be quiet.  He said he’d been able to write the post because “I was so bored.”  Thus, he saved not only himself from jumping up and running out of the room, he saved me from coming up with and writing something that I even wanted to show anybody.  I’m full of words this week, however, they seem to be jumbled up and joined in a big messy scribble in my head. So, here’s Haden’s fun look into the 2015 NFL season. 

AFC Seeds

  1. Indianapolis Colts
  2. New England Patriots 
  3. Denver Broncos
  4. Baltimore Ravens
  5. Pittsburg Steelers
  6. Houston Texans

NFC Seeds

  1. Green Bay Packers
  2. Arizona Cardinals
  3. Dallas Cardinals
  4. Carolina Panthers
  5. Seattle Seahawks
  6. Detroit Loins

AFC Wild Cards

Texans @ Broncos-January 10th
Steelers @ Ravens-January 9th

NFC Wild Cards

Lions @ Cowboys-January 10th

Seahawks @ Panthers-January 9th
AFC Divisional Round

Raven’s @ Colts-January 16th

Broncos @ Patriots-January 17th

NFC Divisional Round

*Seahawks @ Packers-January 16th

Cowboys @ Cardinals-January 17th

AFC Championship 

Patriots @ Colts-January 24th

NFC Championship

Cardinals @ Packers-January 24th

SUPER BOWL 50 (thank goodness one number I don’t have to decipher)

San Francisco

Colts vs. Cardinals

February 7th

ARIZONA CARDINALS SUPER BOWL CHAMPS!

In related news, Haden has been playing after-school sixth grade flag football, and is having a really great time.  I’ve enjoyed that the games go for less than an hour, and no one really gets hurt. Except for the kid this week who’s nose meet another person’s knee.  Other than that, good, clean competition all around. And even more than that, Haden’s team is exactly why I love sports, because done well, you see kids grow in confidence and friendships and intangibles that pay off over time.  He loves nothing else like football; I’m deeply grateful that this time around, football has loved him back.

*If you’ve read any of my sports related posts, then you know that I am a Seahawks fan, a twelve.  However, I am still going through some relationship struggles with them.  I’ve been sick, then in disbelief, then mad, then sad, and now I’ve transitioned to a sort of acceptance.  But I’m disappointed, and after all we’ve been through, I am hesitant to trust again.  It’s going to take some time before we talk, much less have fun again. I’m done.

                                                       

21 Shades of Purple: Post-NFL Season or Moving on

The NFL season ended in a game that most think was a “good game”. It felt crushing to me (Seahawks fan), and to Haden, (11 3/4), who writes this column (sort of), it was a fitting and just end. (Cardinals fan).

This year, he has decided to embrace all sports; he has recently begun to watch basketball with far more interest, hockey with equally more interest (his uncle and dad love), and even tennis and golf. I will happily attend one out of four of those events with him.

He told me on our trip, when I suggested that he write about his favorite things we saw at the NFL Experience, that he “can’t write and isn’t good at it.” This is false, he has a fantastic imagination and huge vocabulary; I can sum up his desire to write only in lists in four words: Writing takes too long.

So, for now, I will continue to write his before and after pieces to his lists. And he will continue watch all sorts of sporting events and practice shooting baskets and saying he sucks at shooting baskets.

HADEN’S NBA TEAMS (FAV – LEAST)
1. Phoenix Suns (we went to our first NBA together in Phoenix!)
2. Chicago Bulls
3. New Orleans Pelicans
4. Miami Heat
5. Portland Trailblazers (surprised he listed this so low, they’re so close!)
6. Minnesota Timberwolves
7. Houston Rockets
8. Los Angeles Lakers
9. Oklahoma City Thunder
10. Cleveland Cavaliers
11. Toronto Raptors (wait, we can’t have a team in Seattle, but we can in Canada??)
12. Milwaukee Bucks
13. Memphis Grizzlies
14. Utah Jazz (He told me no less than five times that this is Utah’s ONLY professional team; and how could the state stand that?!?!)
15. Denver Nuggets
16. Charlotte Hornets
17. Detroit Pistons
18. Boston Celtics
19. Sacramento Kings
20. Indiana Pacers
21. Brooklyn Nets
22. New York Knicks
23. Orlando Magic
24. Los Angeles Clippers (whoa, didn’t I just type this; there’s two teams in LA?! This must all be about money.)
25. Philadelphia 76ers
26. Washington Wizards
27. Atlanta Hawks
28. San Antonio Spurs
29. Golden State Warriors (that’s four teams in sunny Cali)
30. Dallas Mavericks

HADEN’S NHL TEAMS
1. Chicago Blackhawks (one of the original teams, I know that)
2. Arizona Coyotes (we visited the team shop and saw the outside of the stadium in Phoenix; it’s across the street from the AZ Cardinals stadium)
3. New Jersey Devils (Uncle MIke’s fav team; he’s from Jersey)
4. Pittsburg Penguins
5. Montreal Canadiens (wins least creative team name award from me)
6. Minnesota Wild
7. Tampa Bay Lightning
8. Vancouver Canucks (didn’t find anything Canucks for sale when we were in Vancouver last summer)
9. Colorado Avalanche
10. Boston Bruins
11. Detroit Red Wings
12. Toronto Maple Leafs (those maple leafs are ferocious fighters, ya know)
13. Calgary Flames
14. San Jose Sharks
15. ST. Louis Blues
16. Carolina Hurricanes
17. Florida Panthers
18. Anaheim Ducks
19. Ottowa Senators (seriously, these Canadian teams need better names)
20. Buffalo Sabres
21. Winnipeg Jets
22. Edmonton Oilers (really)
23. Columbus Blue Jackets
24. Nashville Predators (scary)
25. Dallas Stars
26. Los Angeles Kings (what, only one NHL team?)
27. Washington Capitols (ok, that’s as bad as the Canadian team names)
28. New York Islanders (sounds far more exotic a location than it is)
29. New York Rangers
30. Philadelphia Flyers (I give up)

And so, you have it. And I’ve had it with sports for the day.
-Hollie (& Haden)

Super Losers

I really hate losing. It took me awhile into adulthood to realize that I was really a competitive person. It’s part of who I am, and the intensity ebbs and flows with who, what, why, when and where.

Having children has tempered the display of my competitive side, knowing that three sets of little eyes are watching every move.

My boys have changed how I watch team sport events. It poses a challenge at times to keep the ratio of emotion:intellect even. It is a constant swing between who I am as Hollie, woman and Hollie, mom.

Sometimes I give up and go watch the game alone, in my cozy chair, where I can focus and let whatever comes out from my lips during the game come out. It’s been that way much of this season due to my son’s Cardinals team steadily losing in the end of the season, and my Seahawks steadily rising.

I didn’t actually get to watch the entire Super Bowl. Watching with four boys under 12; my sister, bro-in-law, Mark and I were on constant “shhh” patrol as well as redirecting traffic to the basement. Then at half-time, like dominos, the party fell, on a course to epic breakdowns of four tired boys.

I caught pieces of the first and second quarter; my husband and Mike missed part of it too, fixing my flat tire (on my van that had just completed a 2,500+ mile trip with no issues) so that I could drive home. They were selfless and giving, and it made missing that part of the game sweet.

Mark and I drove our crew of three done with the Super Bowl home in separate vehicles, in the falling swirling snow near the end of the half-time extravaganza, slowly winding down an icy road that took longer than usual.

Home, between settling the boys and unloading the van from my road trip, Mark watched pieces and gave me quick updates; when I was done, there were two minutes left in the game.

Only a few feet here or there and the confetti would have been raining blue and green, and we would be having a very different dialogue. I can’t write that ending now.

The time clock hit zero and I turned off the TV, couldn’t bear to see the pain on the faces of our boys. Let the emotional fallout begin.

I had watched the ending in my soft chair, cuddling with my middle guy; when I knew it was over, I told him gently (I think) to please let mom be alone for a bit.

And as soon as I could, wiped from a challenging seven-day road trip and wrecked from the gut wrenching awful moment of the end of SB49, I went to bed and closed my eyes, eventually drifting off to sleep.

The reverberation of that last moment will echo for many years, and every twelve watching will have their own unique version of that story to tell.

What I remember most painfully, is Richard Sherman’s face crumple as he watched the ball fall into the hands of the opponent. Russell, walking off the field, carrying the weight of the Seahawks world with him. And Pete Carroll’s face, with a look I’ve never seen before, and hope I don’t have to again, etched with the knowing it was over, there was no more to be done. They had fought until the end, and finished, but they had not won this battle.

I take defeat and failure hard; one of the gifts of feeling everything intensely means really feeling the pain of grief in every way, from every person. If I’ve been the one who makes a mistake or error or judgement call, I am the hardest on myself. As much as I imagine the players pain, I can’t imagine how it really felt from their angle, their position, their experience.

“I think it’s the nature of competitors that they think about the things they’ve done wrong far more than the things they’ve done right.” Kurt Warner shared in an interview today. And who are some of the strongest, biggest, most proud competitors in the NFL? They have to carry this memory in a far different way than the fans.

My method of Seahawks Post Traumatic Stress recovery yesterday was to engage in avoidance behaviors; no social media, no national media, just listening to 710ESPN Seattle, Brock & Salk. They have framed this painful game so well, and it’s a testament to the fervent love of Seattle teams, the Seahawks, and the power of the twelves that we feel we have an intimate connection with each other, a community to share this pain.

Today I managed to listen to two of the post game interviews from the locker room; and It was painful. We can say whatever we want about people’s behavior on the field, pontificate about the route, the call, the tackle, the missed opportunity, it’s easy from the stands and from our couch.

The thing is, these are real people, in most cases young guys, playing in an excruciating game of physical and mental endurance, under unbelievable expectations.

So if someone cracks at the end of a brutal battle, after hearing trash talk about one of his brothers, I have to say, I don’t blame him. There are always two sides to a story, and until we hear them both, it isn’t our job to pass a guilty verdict. Hearing the pain and shock and grief in these two voices was enough for one day.

I’m a bit of a fan of Pete Carroll, maybe I need his jersey? And I’ve been saying that this year, this team, this season, it’s not just about football, there’s more to this story. Pete spoke today on The Pete Carroll Show on ‘Brock and Salk” about how the team is dealing with the disappointment, and how he wants to go through this pain with the twelves as well. He didn’t disappoint. This losing is all part of Win(ning) Forever.

“I think the resilience of our football team is unmatchable, and the character of the guys that we have, that’s what makes the difference.”Russell Wilson

In this game, we thought we were going to win, but the story happened for the other team. It’s not so great being on the other side of that page. And the Seattle Seahawks are now being defined by a single play call.

When I make a call that fails spectacularly, I’m so thankful it isn’t very often in the presence of a million people.

I still hate losing, especially in this way. After this season, after all of the hard work, and the rebirth, to come to the end where the loss is measured in feet and seconds is simply heartbreaking.

How we deal with defeat, losing, loss is the biggest test of our spirit. I don’t need to see anymore bad losers, sore losers, I’ve done that on my own.

But Super Losers…that’s something I’ve rarely seen.

In the second half of the game, while unloading my baggage, I talked to God (nice to have someone listening). I said, Okay, God, these guys have a story that is unbeatable, please help them win, for their story to end with victory.

After my whispered words evaporated in the snow filled air, the thought immediately followed, (God’s answer), -oh, but sometimes it’s through losing, that the greatest victories are won.

#GoHawks

Why the Seattle Reign in Phoenix(?)

When I pulled this last minute trip together to Super Bowl central, I didn’t really know what to expect, in any way.

Reading about Phoenix, (not the forecast I guess), I saw that typically they experience 325 days of sun a year. That sounded perfect for this fogged in, cabin fevered girl from eastern Washington.

It’s rained two of the full four days we’ve been here, but the days we did get sun, we got sun, and a mild case of heat exhaustion; no joke. 70 degrees is a huge jump to take from 30 degrees in two days!

I’d never been to Phoenix, and the fact that my oldest son, Haden (11-3/4) had wanted to come here as long as he could remember, was a big pull.

I remember early in the season, knowing that my team, the Seattle Seahawks, would be here in January. There was also a chance, at least then, that the Arizona Cardinals, Haden’s team since he began watching football, would be here.

They both couldn’t be there. It was one or the other. But we could.

I’ve written about the struggle Haden has had this football season seeing his team peak, and then tumble and seeing my team start strong, then tank, and then slowly climb to the top of the football heap.

This trip has been more about mom and son than about football.

Yes, it’s been almost entirely about football. Minus the travel days (4 & 1/2) on the road together, (in our minivan, to give us some space), and my one choice of hiking for an afternoon, it’s been football.

And that’s the genius of sports. On the surface, it appears to be just a game. And with football, a brutal sixty minute contest that ends in victory and defeat. All centered around a leather bound Wilson.

It’s always more than meets the eye. Even my years as a mothered/fathered-in 12th fan, I knew I was part of something, something as big as my state, and my geographic area, the Pacific Northwest is best.

I became more of a fan of the game when I picked up where I left off watching the games in my own home. When our boys were born, one, then, two, then three; football became a family event again.

The seasons have come and gone, and Haden is now in sixth grade, on the cusp of becoming a teen. If there was ever a time for me to get Haden away from the noise and chaos of home, school, family and friends, to just spend some time together to clear the air between us, this was going to be it.

And like every good thing in my story, I had a feeling about this for a long time before we arrived.

I thought I had empathy for Haden being a Cardinals fan in a 12th Fan Land. I got a whole new appreciation for his angst the moment we arrived in Phoenix.
A typical exchange has looked something like this:
“Wait, you have Seahawks on, and he has Cardinals on. What’s up with that??” I pull out my polite social laugh to answer, “Ha, ha, ha, yes he’s loved the Cardinals since he was nine, and I’ve been a Seahawks fan my whole life.” “Well,” they will say, “I like you-” pointing to Haden with a smile/fistbump/high-five, “but not you.” glaring my way quickly.

Ok. Well, I get, Arizona is bitter. Just a heads up though, there are more and #twelves descending on your city by the day. I was just an early warning.

Have we had any life changing moments? Maybe. Haden has had experiences in Phoenix and in the NFL pre-Super Bowl festivities that he couldn’t have had in a hundred days at home.

You know, you can’t always see what you are in that will become in retrospect, the fabric of who you are, or a split in the road of your story.

I set into this trip with my eyes wide open looking for God to show up for Haden, and for me. And He has. I have stories and moments I can point to later, when we need a flesh and blood example that things do work together for good.

We also have several bags of NFL and Arizona booty.

Yesterday as we climbed the red rocks at Papago Park, Haden said that we should bring the rest of our family back here sometime. We’ve both fallen a bit for this city and for the Southwest.

In fact, I need a month road trip just to explore all of the spots we drove by on the way.

We leave today to head back North. Super Bowl tickets were never really an option, just a maybe. My husband and sister pulled together to cover my other two guys (9 & 6) schedules for a week, so it’s time to get back home.

My hope is, that as we drive the thousand plus miles home, tires pounding the endless concrete ribbon, this time the scenery flashing by outside our windows changing from desert, to forest, and back to snow in Spokane, that memories and conversations, encounters and adventures sink their way deep into Haden’s heart and soul and memory.

That’s what football and this trip is really about for me. To see played out in front of you, all of the adversity, obstacles, and tricks that a game, and life, will throw to you, and to see that with a switch of perspective, how a problem becomes just another puzzle with a solution.

And that you are never truly alone. That even when you think you are the only one wedged between a rock and an rockier place, there is something bigger than you, just waiting to lend you a hand.

(Shout out to the kind, twenty something Patriot fan guy that caught me on my seemingly short jump/fall on the last part of the climb yesterday; you rock! I ended up with just a sore ankle and a minor flesh wound.)

Haden’s going to miss this place, and traveling. He has that wanderlust in him. He comes by it honestly; I need to get out and go somewhere, anywhere several times a month, a week, a day.

I’m going to miss it too. The truth is, I needed this trip just as much as he did. It won’t be easy to go home. But a trip not long enough is sweet, a trip too long is not.

We leave different people than we came, the great gift of travel is that it never leaves you the same.

About that game on Sunday, I have alot to say, it’s just that I have a tween urging me to get going!!!

I’ll summarize.

The Seahawks will win, but it will be more than that. This season has been a lesson in persevering and being true to who you are if nothing else.

It won’t be in a conventional way, it won’t be at all like last year, but they will triumph. They will make mistakes, fall behind, pull ahead, fight for all they are worth, and play until the very last second.

That’s just the genius of how they do it in Seattle. They aren’t just along for the ride, they are road tripping this journey for all its’ worth, with the guys they want to be on this road with, and while the destination is sweet, it’s the miles that make them who they are.

#gohawks #together

#NoTime2Sleep

I originally posted this pre-season (Aug. 2014) now it’s post season (Jan. 2015) and tomorrow eve at 5:15, the Hawks will play to a packed house bent on causing an earthquake – and I get to be there. My first game at Century Link looks to be an epic one. This season has been as hard fought as any, complete with villains, adversity and hereos. And here in the northwest, we wouldn’t expect it to be any other way. #gohawks!

It’s far past my bedtime, not that I’ve had a consistent one in the past decade.  I just can’t go to sleep.  I’ve got my boys on my mind.  No, not the three that I’ve carried and held through countless nights while they couldn’t sleep. ( I think it’s very possible that the moment I became I mom I gave up my pass to ever have a good nights sleep.  Ever.)  Tonight it’s my boys in blue and green, and/or white and blue, or gray and neon green–all good choices. Tomorrow night is their first pre-season game. In Denver, no less.  Many will say these games don’t count, it’s not the “real” players or the finalized team that will spend sixty brutal minutes on the turf.  My eleven year old son, whose knowledge of football and its’ every minutiae prompted me to suggest he start his own YouTube football show, tells me to relax every pre-season game. More like “Mom, you don’t have to yell at every play!!” However, I tell him every time (-and seeing this pattern I think maybe I need to come up with a new comeback) that this is only his third year as a real, invested fan, and that this is in my DNA.

It was 1976 when Seattle got it’s first pro football team.  I can tell you with full assurance that even though I don’t have memories of that year, being that I was four, that I couldn’t have cared less.  My parents, though?  My dad had played football in high school, at Lewis and Clark in Spokane, and graduated to spend his time at Eastern Washington College (before it became a U) split between playing football, working, and earning his teaching degree.  Once my parents became an item, my mom then spent her time at EWC split between watching football, and earning her teaching degree.  So when 1976 rolled around, their once upon a time became a family past-time.  My first memories of Seahawks football games all revolve around one sense: noise.  You could not have convinced my mom that a large and looming mountain range separated our home in Eastern Washington from the fledgling Seahawks home, the Kingdome.  Her cheers (screams) and coaching points (yells) bounced and echoed through our home like a pinball machine every Sunday, every quarter, every fall,  through my tightly closed bedroom door.  A little secret here, though a Seahawks fan by blood, born into it, sports (of any kind) had no hold on me until I turned 13.  Then I liked basketball, for a long time; the pace, the noise, the excitement, what’s not to like?

The Seahawks of 2014 little resemble the wild west days team of the era of the 80’s.  Ah, the good old days, with heroes like Largent and Zorn, Kreig and Ground Chuck.  That’s when football caught my eye.  It was a combination of the old school tough as nails but heart of gold coach and the no holds barred talented charismatic West Coast underdogs story that had me.  At least at the national level.  The draw of the game at every other level however, including high school, in which my dad coached defense at my alma mater, that eluded me.  Here’s where I may lose some of you, I was a cheerleader from 7th-12th grade. I loved it, and being part of that squad made some of my favorite memories.  The whole concept of team and community and the deeper analogies of fighting through adversity that I embrace as an adult began then, on the sidelines.  So though we didn’t get much R-E-S-P-E-C-T for our work, we rose and fell with our teams just as much as any fervant fan in the crowds.

I chose to go to college on the west side (that’s Washington lingo for Seattle-ish) at PLU.  A treed oasis nestled in urban Parkland (basically Tacoma), Pacific Lutheran U had a (winning) football program unrivaled in the area, due to an iconic coach, Frosty Westering. Those sometimes rainy, sometimes sparkling sunny Saturday afternoon fall games made football personal to me. With EMAL (Every Man A Lute) and ‘attaway’ cheers, Frosty had a way of injecting joy and love and sportsmanship into a collegiate contest, making it- more.  Everyone knew Frosty, and loved Frosty.  In many ways, Pete Carroll and Frosty’s legacy have much in common.  Sunday afternoons if I was in my dorm room, and later in California in my home, newly married, I had the Seahawks on, or whoever was second best in my estimation, simply because the sounds of the game were the sounds of comfort, home and family.  And, yeah, I’m still talking about football.

I get that not everyone is as emotionally invested in football, and that my experiences with the game cast a rather lovely glow around our national pastime.  But that’s the draw, isn’t it?  That in a room of ten Seahawks fans, watching the same game, there will be ten totally unique opinions and feelings and perspectives.  And if you have fans of another team in the same room, it may be worthwhile to watch separate TV’s, depending on the rivalry.  Speaking of which, I cannot convince my son of the fact that growing up in my era forever made the Raiders (big meanies), the 49ers (just because they had Joe Montana doesn’t mean everyone had to pick them as their favorite team in school; where’s the loyalty people?), the Broncos (sorry, John Elway bugged me), and Dolphins (can’t remember why) forever rivals of the Hawks in my estimation.   And yes, I do know that everyone called them the Sea-Chickens behind their(my) back until very recently.  I know who you are.

This is not a very good bedtime story, now I’m all caught up in the glory days of seasons past, reliving the memories of…..well, actually, here’s been the hardest part about being a Seahawks fan.  (Not as hard as being a Mariners fan, someone reminded me last week).  That is the low self-esteem complex that previously shrouded the Northwest national sports teams.  Our state motto:  “Maybe next year.”  Along with: “We started off so strong.”  And:  “I can’t bear to watch.  But I must because I. Am. A. Twelfth. Man.”  So cut me a little slack that I’m excited and nervous about a pre-season game. Bear with the Twelves, fans of the other teams, and non-fans of sports.  We’ve hung in there, stuck around, believed, agonized, had a Super Bowl win within our reach and lost.  So we’ll have our fun, and we’ll have it our way: Pete Carroll, John Schneider and Paul Allen are bonified celebrities. Throwing “LOB”, “Beast Quake”,or “You mad bro?” into a heated football conversation is our way of saying, “who was it that won the SuperBowl this year?”.  And singing “da-da-da-da….”Wilson” to anyone in a #3 jersey, well, we’ve earned this.

Washington people (the state), and Seahawks fans are good people.  Born and bred, or relocated and indoctrinated, this is our team. Win or lose.  Though now that we’ve had a taste of Win, Pete’s “Win Forever” philosophy has a bracing, bold Northwest sort of new motto feel to it.  I’ve heard the way the NFL is structured in modern-day makes it nearly impossible to repeat a Super Bowl win.  But all the stats and charts and polls in the 24 hour a day NFL world cannot account for this: What the Seahawks have done since Pete arrived in 2010, day in and day out, cannot be copied, though many will try.  This is why I just want to hang out at Century Link and the VMAC during the season. Maybe the off-season too.  This is why I clutch the edge of my seat, or pace, watching every game. They’re onto something there in Seattle, onto something big.

“That’s the interesting thing about the philosophy,” Carroll says. “To accomplish the grand, you have to focus on the small. To exist in the eternal perspective, you have to live in the moment.”

Here we go…#GoHawks….

 

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Thanksgiving: Food Family Football, what’s not to like?

THANKSGIVING.  No matter how you carve it, it’s more American than most any other holiday.  Ok, so it’s actually uniquely American, like it’s buddy Fourth of July and exists because of the “Birth of America”.  Land of the free.  That’s why the Nina, Pinta & Santa Maria came to our bountiful shores, right?  Wait, the Mayflower.  That’s right.  It was the clever joke of my childhood that cemented that ship name. April showers bring May flowers, what did the Mayflower bring? Pilgrims, ha!

The Pilgrims were leaving Europe, in search of a land of freedom when they set sail.  They must have been desperate to leave the only land they knew, for one unknown. But leave they did, to find one different from the squalor, poverty and confining constraints of a country bent on prospering the few at the cost of the many.

It had to require something as strong as hope to sail across a seemingly endless ocean, crowded together with 132 travelers and crew for sixty-six days and nights.

And then they landed, diminished in strength and health but revived in spirit, stood on the rock, and named their new home from a city in their old, Plymouth.  They had been driven there by something bigger than even they knew.  Now, they searched the Wampanoag homeland, “unpeopled” in the eyes of the Pilgrims.  And set up home in a place inhabited by the Pokanoket village of the Wampanoag people for thousands of years.

Was it worth it?  Living on the edge of an unexplored continent, wild and vast? Did they feel free?  What did it cost them, those Pilgrim followers with a mission to live in a place where they could practice their religion freely? Did they share that notion of freedom with the First Peoples they encountered?

What did it cost the Native Americans?  To not only share the land, but to join with the travelers in a new way of life.  We know Samoset and Squanto visited the settlers, which led to sharing their knowlege of the land in order to grow sustenance.  And we know that both groups of Peoples celebrated harvest in the fall.

And we know that, while later the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims signed a formal agreement to protect each other from other tribes, there was still the wary, guarded suspicion of one another at this fragile beginning.

The reason for their joint celebration, the one we call Thanksgiving, happened because Massasoit sent 90 of his warriors to the Plymouth settlement to investigate one day, because of the sound of rifles from the settlers hunting, for their own harvest celebration.  The Wampanoag realized the Pilgrim’s intent, and wholeheartedly joined the party planning; adding generously to the feast.  They threw a party, danced, drank, ate and made merry that First Thanksgiving.  And we have learned this in school while making Pilgrim and Native American hats ever since.

There are not that many Thanksgiving movies.  Of course, Charlie Brown, a rite of passage for every American school kids, and Planes, Trains and Automobiles.  But last year, a flick came out called “Free Birds”.  If you didn’t see it you probably either don’t have kids under the age of 12 in your life, or you chose to steer them elsewhere.

I admit, I had little hope going into the theater, I guessed it would at most be a 90 minute time killer.  The thing is, I loved it. I know it’s animated, and yes, (spoiler alert) I get that there are a race of talking turkeys.  But if you can suspend belief for a brief time, (remember my kid’s movie rule Heidi?), you may find that there is more to this than it first appears.  Full disclosure: I love Owen Wilson, who is the main (turkey) character.  I pretty much enjoy anything he’s in.  And, he’s Lighting McQueen people!!  Also, I like kids movies, almost as much or more as ‘grown-up’ ones.

Free Turkeys is smart, laugh out loud funny and my favorite part; it twists the narrative of Thanksgiving all around so that we can view it from a fresh (admittedly crazy) perspective.  Because where else but in America can you build an entire holiday around food and the bonus package of football (not to mention the new addition of shopping)? #Go Pilgrims!!

So, I wonder, at that feast, where the guest list was composed of two nations still in the new and tentative stage of friendship, what was the atmosphere like?  Who brought more to the table?  Whose relative made everyone think maybe this party was a mistake? Did they share anything in common outside of land-did language or experience create a thread thin bond?

Or, was the usual dynamic of unequal indebtedness that has invited itself to dine at every  bursting table since at play?

In typical American fashion, we have embraced a holiday and built traditions on our version of a story, and in some cases, made its retelling epic in its distortion of the truth.

I’m pro-Thanksgiving, all the way.  I vote stuffing and canned cranberries, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and pumpkin pie for dessert, like any other American with gravy running in their veins.

It’s just that, well, how do I put this delicately, I’ve always been a bit embarrassed by thing.  Some years more than others, and always at the same time while embracing the basic message and celebrating of the holiday.

I have, over the years, decorated my homes with turkeys and Pilgrims and Native Americans.  Which makes me even less comfortable with things.  Far be it for me to say how one can and cannot adorn their own abode, and I certainly can’t find one ounce of me willing to judge anyone’s interpretation of a “Great American Tradition”.

I’m just asking myself some questions.  Some that have been begging to be asked.

What am I really celebrating?  Why does my family gather as we do? Why God, do the Seahawks have to be playing the 49ers, our arch nemesis, on Cali soil no less, on a day I will already have major heartburn and indigestion?

So here’s what I’m thinking, in my own rather small worldview lens.  I think that what the Pilgrims did, for the reasons they did, was astonishingly brave, especially given the odds of survival, both at sea and on land.  They were convinced the freedom of expressing their faith was worth any cost. And I think that the actions of the Wampanoag were beyond admirable.  More like, selfless, and just as heroic as the Pilgirms.

Their feast of celebration of thanks to the Creator and of giving to each other was hard fought. The best of people thrown together in circumstances and decisions that little resembled their dreams.

Which is why I get confused about exactly what feast we are celebrating sometimes, and why.

What I love about Thanksgiving-the long weekend, the colors of autumn, leaves, pumpkins, football uniforms.  The gathering of family together from near and far, the glowy version in my memories, and the glowy expectations in my head every year.  And I even love the inevitable moment we skid into an uncomfortable conversation.

“Get off your cornucopia!” you say.  “The true meaning of Thanksgiving is in the word itself!” “Thank you,” I say, hopping off of my gorgeously arranged cornucopia centerpiece, “of course it is!”

I’ve had a new favorite “thanks” tradition that started in our house three years ago.  We get a branch from the backyard-always at the last mintue-write our thankful-fors on cut out leaves and hang them on the Thankful Tree in the middle of our table.  We’ve had some pretty notable thankful leaves penned over the years, like Haden’s, the first year of being in our new house and for him a new school at third grade: “I’m thankful for our old house.”  And my brother in law’s heart warming, “I’m thankful for bacon.”  While thinking about this, I started imagining the thankful leaves my word gifted boys (11,9 & 6) in their current stage may scrawl this year.  I may scrap the tree this year.

That leaves the “giving”.  Now we’re talking; speaking my love language!  And do I love giving my family a huge meal, leftovers and food comas.

Giving thanks is really so personal; it’s personal to us, the people and events and things we are thankful for, are the ones that directly hit home. It’s personal to the ones who receive thanks, because it opens and emboldens hearts to believe and receive the spirit of humbleness and grace given. And then, if we are able, we multiply that grace.

My sister Heidi is in Syndey this year.  I told her that I’m just a little overwhelmed with the work of this week.  She replied that she would not miss Thanksgiving at all.  Of course not, I replied, you ate, drank wine and passed out for an extended afternoon nap every year-what’s to miss??  We enjoyed our laugh over face-time, but I can say, I am really going to miss you, Heidi, this year.

Here’s the deal.  We do big in the US of A.  What we do now, or don’t do, bears only a faint resemblance to the First Thanksgiving.  I imagine it looked and felt less like the fourth Thursday in November twenty-first century, and more like the Hunger Games in many ways.

And maybe that’s why the whole forced concept of gorgeous home, fantastic decorations, happy family, and Pinterest worthy food (that was free with all the coupons you used) feels off to me.

I’ve spent more of my life coaxing the spark of hope than in whispering thanks to the Hope Giver.  And truly?  I feel guilt.  And shame.

Too much.  Too much food, not enough I can ever give to those without enough.

Too much health, not enough basic needs to save all the suffering ones.

Too much freedom, never enough keys to unchain prisoners locked in their own personal cells of addiction, mental disorders, fear, abuse.

The older I get, the less I can hide the truth looming behind a painting of a battered ship, with a glowing sunset and a rock.

So it is the very juxtaposition of reality vs. folklore, our country’s, our family’s, our own, that is this holiday in 2014.

Whatever way you and yours are privileged to gather together, whichever version of giving thanks you choose, I pray blessings for you and the people around your table, or on the computer screen, or in your thoughts.

The secret to the meaning of the First Thanksgiving is that all of them were doing the best they could to live out their story, in freedom from fear.  The Pilgrims, the Native Americans, and us.

Freedom is not just rallying cry; true freedom shakes off shackles of despair, poverty, and hatred and lights a spark, a flame of hope.

Do not let hope be confined.  Be dangerous.  Give the traditions that don’t deserve to be passed on a flip, and make a new version of celebrating the freedom to give thanks in your life that means what it needs to mean.