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.

Sounding out the words

Just because a place is beautiful doesn’t mean you are perpetually happy. Just because a skyline is postcard-picture perfect doesn’t mean you know what your future holds. And just because sand, shore, forests and mountains form the boundaries of your home doesn’t mean your life is any less complex.

Because like its rugged and unafraid counterpart, human nature is unpredictable. You cannot harness the moon to pull the tides your way, neither can you by your own power pull circumstances in your favor. 

And subduing your own nature will in time grind and crush you like the shifting sand works a glass bottle into a shard of sea glass.

It is at once familiar and foreign, strange and beautiful, this place I thought I had known. But that was once upon a time, nearly two decades before today. Then I had lived in only sections of this city, bound by the neighborhood of the University where I was schooled for four years, earning a degree and by default an entry into adulthood. The highways I traveled back and forth from my home holiday after holiday, and the ever widening streets I traversed to and from an ever growing cache of stores were my own car mat rolled out for use during a time when I needed structure and security, when I couldn’t rely on my courage and imagination to get me where I was going.

When I left, it was to a place as uniquely seperate as this city and the home before it, where I began.

I would only come back specifically four times to this part of the sprawling metropolis built of towns and districts along the watery state border, that at a glance through a car window look photocopy alike. Two times were for weddings in one way or another, other visits we were pulled to the south, closer to a river than the sound.

Even years later when a trip meant packing a van full of baby conveniences and two young sons, this place was not a destination. It was only purposefully once, to visit my husband’s cousin and family.

More often, we took in museums for children, sat in children-friendly restaurants to dine in, and pushed strollers through zoos and aquariums set on piers. There was one lone time we found our way here, with sister and brother-in-law along to this point, to visit a zoo edged on both sides by ocean, a fort to tell the story of the part of one group of peoples beginings here, and a beach at the foot of the steep hills; a shore and brisk water for toddling baby feet to leave their imprints in cushioning sand.

And then, it was almost a decade until we returned. It seemed an odd choice to stay for the first part of our vacation; a second tier stop to the shining city north.

But, it held two destinations for us; one, the Museum of Glass, which as we took in the Chihuley Glass Garden by the Space Needle in the waning days of last summer, I had promised my middle boy we would visit the next year. Two, the Point Defiance Zoo, after having already conquered the Seattle Zoo and Aquarium, both in record time last summer.

And I knew I could find enough to fill in the spaces with a Tacoma Rainier game and visits to attractions Pinned on my trip boards or by searching TripAdvisor, and of course, an excursion to Whole Foods, a favorite for Haden and me.

The first evening we pulled into a hotel in downtown Tacoma, which I booked on a Living Social deal.  We looked like we were staying in a hotel used to much different clientele. No pool, strike one for me, my boys were horrified despite the gorgeous glass inspired skyscraping hotel. So we packed back into the van and headed to the very beach two of my boys played on so many years earlier. 

Descending the hilltop and curving along the waterway, I noticed the places that had been there two decades earlier; and the new. It felt less desperate, more like renewal. 

The shoreline gave way to mysterious heavy forest and a gentle looping road that led us down to the rocky beachfront at the very end of the trees.  

It was cold; but not yet sunset, just enough evening light left for us to join the community of families and friends, lone walkers and dogs on leashes all spread along the waterfront. Our shoes soon dotted the beach and the boys braved the wavy water in the clothes on their backs. 

I think then we all found a peace that we hadn’t expected to discover, or so soon.

The vast expanse of ocean-salty sound water was equal only to the broad canvas of sky on which the sunset painted a picture of eye widening beauty. Soft pink twilight bathed Mt. Rainier in an ethereal glow; reminding me how it is always a surprise for us from the east side of the state to re-encounter the mountain that defines the very word. 

We walked and gathered shells and driftwood and balanced on long bleached logs; catching our breath.

My promise has been kept, the glass museum seen; the zoo and aquarium visited and capturing the boys attention far longer than we had anticipated, and we have found beaches and parks and today a farmer’s market at which I purchased farm-fresh berries and wildflower honeycomb for us to try for the first time. 

Locally sourced and made ice cream was licked and gone too quickly, suitable cups of coffee consumed, and a full seafood dinner right on the water fulfilled. 

And while the second hotel where we have rested our fresh air and sunshine weary heads for three nights also had no pool, we have slept over the water; and our boys have discovered the delights of tides and beachcombing, scuttling sideways crabs and barnacles.

By far this is the most relaxed we have started a vacation. Maybe it is the pace of the waterfront; while busy and teeming with activity during the day, the sea is always beckoning and there is always a moment to stop and take in the blue-green of water, white and grey of cloud banks far over other bays, the texture of rocks and sand.

And I think it may be the most of it too; less concrete and more earth, less indoors and more under the sun and trees, less distractions and more face to face time.

Of course we are on vacation, no truly pressing schedules but to check into places to stay along the route. But it is more than all of this too. There is something to visiting somewhere you thought you knew or imagined you knew about, but seeing it for what it truly is that can capture your imagination, recapture your hope.

I will be sad to leave this place, and the little routines we have carved out on our own. I think I won’t be the only one either. 

But as in life, an adventure, a plan, must continue and be completed to discover what it is we have set out to find.

So as I take in a last deep breath of sea-salty briny air, I feel that spirit stir, and I know.

I won’t be saying goodbye to this place; I’ll just be heading out braver and more than ready to go. 

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

The Road to the Super Bowl is I-90

Driving home to Spokane on I-90 took four and a half hours, two quick stops, two Grande Salted Carmel Frappachinos with an extra shot, one Oreo McFlurry, one NFL football game broadcast, one hour of Seahawks sports radio podcast, and frequent head shakes to keep drowsiness at bay – because while Washington state can be beautiful driving scenery during the day, it’s flat-out black-out early in the winter, for miles and miles, many miles.

If that was the price I had to pay for my 12th girl perfect weekend in the heart of Seattle, well, then it was worth the price of admission.

I remember all of two things about the game (or two-my mom didn’t remember any) I went to with my family in the KingDome; noise, (lots of it), and doing THE WAVE. That was THE thing to do as a fan in the eighties era of Seahawk fandom.

This game, twenty five-ish years later, oh my how things have changed. And how things are the same.

When Pete Carroll took the podium, immediately on the heels of the Seahawks NFC West win over the Panthers, it took him a second to gather his thoughts. (That’s a long time for Pete.)

“That….that was really an extraordinary night here at Century Link.  I don’t know how you describe the power of the twelves…and what the fans did tonight. That was amazing. Every player could feel it, throughout the game; the support, the backing, the noise, just the craziness, in the stadium…makes it so much fun, such a great event to a part of.”

I do love events, experiences, adventures.  But what makes them stories worth retelling are the cast of characters and the seismic impact they imprint on my heart and memories.

There just isn’t a more compelling sports team in the NFL today. And this story, like all the best ones, started with a gaping hole.  An emptiness.  An unknown and possibly bleak future.

Before the 2006 Super Bowl, there were some desert years for Seahawks fans.  Dry, brutal, taxing years.  It seemed possible, even though we lost (contentiously) to the Steelers that year, that we would come back the next, regroup, and hit it again.  Except we didn’t. We excelled at not being a team. So after Holmgren left, and Mora was barely here, the answer lowest on the list, the one left after crossing off all of the expected answers, showed up.

Losing isn’t fun. But you can get used to it. In fact you can get so stuck in the mindset of eternal suckage that the shovel appearing right in front of you, holding a twelve’s flag of hope, ready to dig you out, makes you only grasp your Flynn jersey even more tightly. We love success and formulas, quantifiable and proven methods. Old school, the good old days, the we-used-tos, the security blankets.

At the beginning of each new year, I have a habit that has developed out of necessity. (Necessity is the Mother of invention, right?) I like clothes. I like design and words and art and music. I like discovering. This all means that I’m an incredible-research-locater-of-amazing-good-people-places-and-things. That’s my working title. And it means I (and my sisters) can shop the hell out of any store and come out having saved more than we spent as well as made a friend or two. And sometimes, on occasion, with a bit too much in our bags.

After Christmas sales are the best, for literally anything. And last year after the football season I found some major deals online, green and blue and delivered all wrapped up in cardboard brown. So I had to clean out a few Seahawks items before I located this years models.

Saturday, January ten, found me and my mom (my 12th mom role model) in our Silver Cloud hotel, nicely situated on the corner of Safeco and Century Link. Eating the best French Toast ever at Jimmy’s, conveniently located right outside the lobby door. Also, oatmeal and bacon and coffee. Twelving really builds a girl’s appetite.

My mom had long wanted to visit the Seattle Sports shops on CLink lane before a game, before the suffocating crowds, but had never been able to, what with all the flying in and out and traveling with all male family members on game day.

I said, this time, let’s make your dream come true, mama. So, Seattle, you are welcome for our rather large impact on your local economy. (Maybe if the Spokane Shock would up their design saavy I might be able to purchase some fan-wear at home also.)

After that, our day in Seattle is a lovely memory of walking SODO, Pioneer Square, Occidental Park; photographing every 12/Seahawk display we came across, searching back alleys for the famed tailgating spot (no luck), and eating a Seattle priced, delicious, organic, free range, locally sourced small portioned “lunch” at a cafe, and topping it all with taking a pre-game festivities nap; all under the fantastically staged foggy, steel-gray and cold Seattle skyline.

The reason we were even here, for a playoff game, has everything to do with Pete Carroll. It was in 2010 that Pete Carroll arrived. He brought other people. Some people left. Well, there was ALOT of traffic. The Hawks played their first season then, then the next, and then the 2012 season began. That’s when I (recently out of sleep deprivation, mommy, and work fog) began to watch every game again.

I was enthralled. THIS is football, I thought! For the first time in Seahawk history, I don’t feel worried sick when our QB is on the field, I said! Pete Carroll, Paul Allen, Jon Schneider and Russell Wilson became my heroes, their super-hero rings had united, and ignited the power of THE Seattle Seahawks, 2.0.

If you have just joined our program, welcome aboard new 12’s! I’ll let you in on a non-secret; you are just now, in January 2015, witnessing the result of four full years of Pete Carroll’s Win Forever way of life. Enjoy every minute; there will not be another time like this in Seahawks lore, for the man at the epicenter of this earthquake of championship football is a one of a kind.

On our family trip this summer, we made sure to pen a tour of Century Link Field on our roster. It was pretty great, I do recommend for twelves. For the CLink suggestion box: how about a huge part of a practice field area for the kids to (be left at) run on for the hour plus of the tour with an energetic Seahawk-y type of person so that the adults can get more from (actually enjoy)the tour. I’m sure my mom was happy I’d done the tour too, as I was able to reference a part of it for EVERY place our feet touched in the stadium that evening game last Saturday.

Sure, I’ve heard the detractors (my 11-year-old son); any sport, any game, can be a physical feat to be admired, and calculated and enshrined on the top ten list of whatever forever.

But that alone isn’t going to draw my attention, much less find a meaningful connection with which to bind me to a team, much less a movement.

Behind the scenes. Pulling back the curtain, that’s when things get interesting. It’s really the cast of characters in the game that color the field. And it was exactly those players who Pete and Jon wooed to Seattle.

Coach Carroll doesn’t force players to conform, to change who they are; instead, his focus is “what can I do to help you be the best you.” Pete has his guys play fast and loud all the time, practice or game time, with an expectation of individual inner focus, built on trust and confidence in themselves and in one another, wrapped in excelling at a high level, for the good of the team.

His belief says; when each person is given what they need to thrive, they will excel in what they do. And the surprise, at least for the NFL? He makes it fun. That’s the phrase I hear most repeated by players, fellow coaches, media writers, tv special highlight shows. Yep, even more than “championship mindset”.

Reflecting this week, preparing for the NFC Championship game, Pete said,

“We’ve had the opportunity to really experience the best of the NFL, our guys are really getting a full experience of it and it’s wonderful to see these guys grow up and find out what this thing is all about. It’s about the hard work and the sacrifice and the giving to one another and what you can get out of that when you really give of yourself. This has been a wonderful experience for all of us. I’m thrilled to be part of it.”

The anticipation was building all day. I know, a grown woman, super excited to just enter the stadium, head to toe in Seahawks swag. I may have had some mini-quakes in my stomach, a moment or two of social anxiety, but after our requisite Hawk selfie, after I pocketed my phone, I looked around and noticed I was not alone. That is the most understated thing I may have ever said.

Twelves, well, we aren’t easy to define. We are NOT like other NFL team’s fans. Never have been. And the past year’s Super Bowl run and win only served to not only cement our reputation and identity, but to welcome unheard of numbers of new 12’s to the fold.

I’d wondered how I would feel, react when I saw the players on the field, there in living color, for the first time. After all, I’d had a close relationship with the team (in my head) for years; but seeing someone in the flesh, well, goodbye pulled together, articulate adult.

Hello, reduced to tears twelve. That pre-game you see on TV at Century Link? Yeah, it’s about a million times brighter, louder, intensified there. And when I saw Russell run out on the field, with his trademark point-to-the-sky move, I cried, and my mom, probably the best person on earth to be there beside me, got it, and hugged me, as we watched our guys prepare to battle.

When we lost Mebane, Wagner, Unger, and then when the next man up meant saying “who??” to the starting lineup, and we were staring at a painful 3-3 record in the face, I didn’t cry. I was mad, frustrated, confused, developed a bit of a colorful vocabulary, and took lots of walks during the tough quarters. But whatever I was worried and all bothered about, (and I know most twelves and the team themselves were feeling it too), is now central to the story of this season; instead of falling apart with third and fourth depth chart replacements; the Seahawks IMPROVED.

Not immediately, not measurably after one game, or two, or even three. But by the time the injured soldiers returned and other players healed to full strength, and the team leaders came together to get real, to shake off the emotional residue of Super Bowl hangover; they did not just jump in and kick out their back-ups. Instead of subtracting both ways, with the loss and gain of players, the Hawks under Pete and his incredible, unparalleled coaching staff, and with the guiding mantra of Always Compete, managed to multiply their power players and rebuild a stronger team.  All of the things that were against them; injury, early bye week, ‘tough gauntlet’ schedule, personal conflict: none of those irreparably weakened them.

Legos are a very big deal at my house. Three boys under twelve and an Adult Fan of Legos (my husband), have built a Lego empire. “It’s a very simple idea,” says Knudstorp of LEGO. “All bricks are complementary. They all fit together. Which creates a system that you can be endlessly creative in.” Put simply, any brick from any set can be used to build with any other brick, as long as it’s LEGO.

Pete’s Seahawk organization is much the same; the Win Forever message permeates every piece of the system; everyone speaks the same language, so every person is complementary to another. They all fit together. Unique, but part of a ‘system that can you be endlessly creative in.’

After a meteoric rise to the top in 2013, capped with winning the Super Bowl in the shape of an exclamation mark, it seemed as if nothing could stop Pete and his players.

But truth and courage and leaders will always be tested, and the first half of the 2014 season played out like any sequel in an epic tale; complete with villains, adversity and heroes.

Pete is a rare kind of person. Equally optimistic and enthusiastic. Engaging and brilliant. But at the heart of it, is, his heart. Someone real and true to who they are and what they believe will hold up to the test of time. He’s the real deal. And we in Seattle are beyond lucky to have him.

He finds creative ways to rally his troops. He’s found the key to get in the very minds and hearts of his players, and what is in their heads and hearts when they take the field, any field, that’s not something forged of formulas and mass production. The deal is, Pete Carroll runs a major, highly successful and powerful corporate entity with a relationship driven bottom line.

Walking to the tunnel post game, Kam Chancellor, who in this tribe of personalities has lit up the stage this year with his inborn mix of charm and physical power, passionately explained, “It’s about playing together, for each other, the same beat, same play, same heart……”

This team you see, these guys, they have been in the trenches together. They’ve faced the worst of themselves, the embarrassment of failed attempts and tumbles from pedestals. They’ve been questioned, maligned, doubted, underrated, quietly moving the chains, play by grueling play, game by meaningful game, making their way into a place very few could have predicted when they were 3-3. Having been tested by fire, walking through hell, coming face to face with truth and identity; nothing status quo is going to do. These are the times and the people who know that it is exactly the unorthodox that is their salvation.

It wins. Every time. Forever.

Many have been waiting in the wings, waiting to see how this all played out.
Would this be a story with an unbelievably good ending, or a cautionary tale?

Watching, no being part of, the playoff game against the Panthers last Saturday was something I’d really only dreamed of before. I love a good story. I love a good football game. And being in Century Link with the twelves at their best was, well, epic. An incredible, never to be forgotten experience, made even sweeter by those who I shared it with, on and off the field.

Sometime during the week of constant press conferences, Pete shared some of his thoughts on the culmination of this season, and the past four seasons.

“It’s been an amazing experience to come here and embrace a whole new environment, a whole new culture of fans and the history of the club and ownership and all of that,” he said. “It’s been an incredible journey. It’s been so much fun. More fun than I ever could have imagined.”

And Russell Wilson, in his laid back, born for this role way, gave his take on the 12th man.
“There’s nobody as loud, that’s for sure,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “There’s a certain feeling when you step onto the field. Like I always say, ‘If you haven’t been to a game here, you’ve got to go. It’s one of those bucket-list things.'”

I recently read an article showing the dramatic rise in women who are watching NFL games, and in particular, who are fans of the Seahawks. It has occurred to me this season, watching the dramas and lies, closed doors and hidden secrets and agendas, if the NFL really wants to keep it’s future audience secure, it needs to take a really close look in the mirror.

Women like to have fun, we love our players, and we’re not dumb. We have the power and every right to sway and pull not only our viewership, but that of children’s, our family’s and our friends’. Take a very careful look, and listen up National Football League: women are individuals, just like your male audience, and it looks like a very large majority of us are really paying attention to a franchise in Seattle, led by a man we admire, in a way we that we love, boys.

There are many who get it. And Pete just seems to embody the spirit of the Northwest. A couple of those guys do a daily Seattle Sports radio show on 710 ESPN, on the Brock and Salk Show. I spend several of my hours a day tuning in, getting my sports fix, and it’s dance club music to my ears in football season. This week they have had some big time industry names on-air to interview. Tom Jackson caught my attention the other day talking about the Seahawks and Championship time:

“For the most part, we watch a football season and we’re so attached to the numbers…and when it gets down to the reality of winning a championship, it ends up being somebody playing really good defense, running the ball, and moving another man against his will.”

In the end, it comes down to the small things, done well, together, in love, for one another, pursuing a greater purpose.

#GoHawks!

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#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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21 Shades of Purple: NFL Award Winners & The End of A Dream

It seems fitting to have my first post of the new year be one on football. The game continues to be a tie that binds my story. Some days, in a casual conversation, started by my Seahawks swag. Others, in a life changing way that I never saw coming. That, however, is truly a story for another blog.

This one, written by my 11 year old son, Haden, makes me smile, makes me proud and breaks my mamas heart. The one thing that football isn’t in our family, is boring. And by far the two most passionate in our family about football and our teams, is Haden and me.

Me; Seahawks. Haden; Cardinals. And therein lies the tension and drama of the past few weeks in our household. Whereas last year, we were all united in our fandom, 12 strong; this year, has a wrenching twist.

Haden was following his Cardinals with a renewed intensity and excitement this season, and for good reason. And I was following my Seahawks during the first half of the season with a growing knot in my stomach, and for good reason.

I knew all of the things that Pete Carroll was saying about the season were true. It’s just that no matter how much I believed, it’s hard for this girl not to get emotionally invested, to ride the wave of the locker room. And then mid-season hit, and things for both teams took a dramatic turn.

For the Seahawks, an internal change, a season saving week of people and choices and a redemption story that cannot be ignored.

For the Cardinals, external change hit hard, and then hit hard again, when they lost not one, but two of their quarterbacks to season ending injury. They managed to keep their record strong, almost to the end of the season, momentum only stalling when it was needed the most.

Haden’s team, filled with such promise at the beginning, ended in a way that only to a sixth grade boy, was disappointing, embarrassing and crushing. He identified with them so much that every loss felt like losing a best friend.

And as for me and the Seahawks, it’s been bittersweet to cheer (quietly, and privately) on my team, in the same conference as Haden’s, knowing one team was going back to the Superbowl, and one was going to have to watch the Superbowl from the stands in their very own stadium.

Also, Haden has taken on the Seahawks as his arch nemesis. Everything bad and wrong about everything football he credits to the Hawks. Now, he is grieving, and revenging, and hoping that whoever plays the Hawks in the Superbowl (his prediction) will crush them. I told him, sorry, that’s not going to happen.

So, Super Bowl party plans are waiting in the wings, and in the meantime, the Seahawks have a playoff game to play this coming weekend.

In Seattle, in Century Link, and guess who’s going to be there?? Me!! When I heard the day that the tickets were going to go on sale, I mentioned to Mark that I was just going to try and see if I could get any, any cheap enough that was. So that morning I booked a hotel room in a place down the street and at 10:00 a.m., I logged in. All the tickets released were gone. In seconds. But I’d done my research and went immediately to the re-sale page, and on the second try, I was the proud owner of two tickets, way up high, in row Z.

It took some praying to figure out who to take with me, I was agonizing over which family member, but in the end, God made it pretty easy, so my mom and I are heading over for our game in a couple of days! Go Hawks!

So, finally, here is the post Haden wrote out for me on his college ruled paper, in orange pen, in his sweet eleven year old handwriting….

NFL AWARD WINNERS
2014 SEASON

Walter Payton Man of the Year:
Philip Rivers, Chargers

MVP
JJ Watt, Texans

Offensive Player of the Year
Le’veon Bell, Steelers

Defensive Player of the Year
Justin Houston, Chiefs

Coach of the Year
Bruce Arians, Cardinals

Offensive Rookie of the Year
O’dell Beckham, Giants

Defensive Rookie of the Year
Khalil Mack, Raiders

Comeback Player of the Year
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots

Fantasy Player of the Year
Le’veon Bell
(And Haden won our Fantasy Football league, beating out Uncle Mike in the final playoff!!)

Solid picks, all. No Seahawk players, but that’s to be expected now. And really, this kid knows his football stuff. But more than that, he loves the game. And I love him. So don’t be surprised if along the way we have some pretty amazing adventures and stories to tell that all begin and end with some birds and a ball.

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Fantasy Football?!

It all started out so innocently.  We made our accounts at NFL.com.  Me, my husband and our 11 year old, Haden.  We did this way back in June or some month like that.

Fast forward (because sometimes I wish I could do that in real life) to two weeks ago.  The ‘real’ NFL season was about to start (featuring the Best Team Ever and some team from Wisconsin) in beautiful Seattle, WA.  My son and his best friend, who lives two doors down, had been planning their fantasy football league for months.  They had people to be in the league, they needed eight.  Or so Haden thought.

The days leading up to the ‘official start of the football season’ were a bit nerve-wracking for my guy.  He said he kept telling his friend to make sure he and his dad were all signed into the league.  Then he said that one of the kids on the block said that he couldn’t be in because his parents didn’t want him to, for whatever reason.  It was only and hour before the big game when Haden checked again and realized his friend’s family weren’t signed into our league.

I could barely stand to see the disappointment in his eyes.  Worse, I came down to the kitchen later to find his Fantasy Football draft paper ripped into pieces and lying on the floor.  And this is the moment I became the biggest proponent of fantasy football in the history of well, fantasy football.

I convinced him that I could easily find five more people to make the league happen. I was able to get my mom (I signed her up without her knowing), my dad, my brother-in-law, and my sweet sister who said she would do it too if we needed her.  We did.  We just needed one more.

Haden was ready to give up.  I was not.  There are times in parenting when you know it’s ok for your kids to experience disappointment, and even sometimes, pain.  This was not one of those moments.  A.  He’s 11 and a boy and he loves football with his whole being.  B. I was mad.  C.  I couldn’t imagine waiting an entire year to start this whole agonizing process again.  So, as I often do, I jumped in.

I wasn’t able to make the first or second week of the Fantasy Football season.  This last week, I knew there had to be someone who could be our last team.  How hard is this people?  So I sent out my plea on Facebook. And waited.

And then in the proverbial 11th hour, one of my friends said she would sign up and her husband could help her pick her team.  If I could have hugged her I would have.  Maria, you are so awesome!!!!!  And then I thought, I’m done.  I’ve saved the day, I’ve patched Haden’s little boy heart back together.  Now he and his dad could take over.

No.  That did not happen.  Because I knew everyone I had recruited (willingly or not), I had to make sure they all were signed up with their own accounts and team names and were entered into our league of eight.  Me. Possibly the least technology savvy person in our group. The one voted most likely to be easily frustrated very quickly when technology doesn’t do WHAT IT’S FREAKING SUPPOSED TO DO!!  The one putting on a garage sale that same week.  (These are time-consuming, messy, dirty, exhausting, mentally sapping events.  Don’t do it unless you need the money.)

But I am Haden’s mom.  I’m the one who cried when we learned about his food allergies at nine months, I knew the limitations he was going to face.  I’m the one who held him night after night and read him tons of board books when he couldn’t go to sleep, or sleep through the night. I’m the one who baked him allergy friendly corn bread for his third grade class “thanksgiving”, and I’m the one who talked him through the painful way most of the kids acted about the taste of it.  I’m the one who listens to his anxious thoughts and works to help him build the courage he needs to fight them.

It was up to me.  So I asked my husband on Sunday for the league ID.  He said, it’s somewhere on my computer.  Okay I thought.  So, we’ll just get everyone signed in by Wednesday, our draft day, so that we can officially start on the third week of the season.  It wasn’t until Wednesday that I begged Mark one more time to please look for the ID.  In about four minutes, he re-appeared with a printout containing the secret password.  Seriously, I could have done without the three days of stress while waiting for this.  But regardless, it was a relief.  I sent it off to our teams and now our draft could commence.

Wednesday afternoon, my parents came over to draft their teams with Haden.  While I tried to get some garage sale work done, I sat Haden down at this very laptop and said, here you go! Have fun!  Except that he didn’t know what to do. I also did not know what to do.  So I got to spend some special time googling how to do an offline draft.  NFL.com:  your draft is so un-user friendly.  So un-navigable.  So irritating.  So it took me a half hour to find out that I still didn’t know how.  Haden and my parents hand wrote their picks on a yellow lined pad of paper that my dad brought.  Then I texted Mike and Angela, and my super friend Maria, and asked them to please text back their picks by that evening.

That night, I handed all the picks to my husband and Haden and asked them to get it done.  Now.  And I didn’t care who they picked for my team.  By the way, that was the most fun part for me, picking my team name.  Football Girl.  I know.  So clever.  Maybe this would all be more interesting if I knew some of my players (thanks Mom for taking all of the Seahawks), or if I could design their uniforms and logo.

It was finished.  Haden had his league.  Some teams played Thursday.  I had my garage sale.  Today the Seahawks play Denver in a re-match of the “fake SuperBowl pre-season game”.  Haden, Mark, Mike, my dad and my mom are all flying over to be there.  I was ok with not going months ago.  I’m not now.

I will be watching this real game with far more interest than I’ve viewed this Fantasy Football thing.  But that’s the thing about love.  You do things you don’t like to see the light come back to someones eyes.  You do anything in your power to redeem seemingly hopeless situations. And you enter places you would never go on your own, just to walk through there with this one you love.

Haden’s advice for me about my fantasy team was this, “Mom, remember, it’s not about the team, it’s about the individual.”  I hope someday when he remembers this crazy taped together fantasy league of 2014 that he will see that truth of that for himself.

9/23/14~Postscript:  Ouch. I just revised several parts of this story.  It was brought to my attention that parts of it were not necessarily fact, but just my emotions reacting.  I never intend to use my words to hurt.  And yet, sometimes they do.  I’m thankful that I was called on this, and it gave me a chance to step back and re read this post with Jesus’ eyes.  It hurt to see my mistakes; if there is anything I hate, it’s being on the wrong side of the gospel and the truth.  Not to mention the fact that I didn’t catch this myself.  It’s always my own insecurites and pain that prompt the blame(someone else) and shame(myself) game.  And neither of those is what God wants us to play.  I love words and stories so much, and I really hate when I’m imperfect, so this is a double yuck.  I’ve apologized to the ones I hurt unfairly, and asked God to repair and redeem the damage I’ve done. Now I am again brought to the foot of the cross, humbled by my weakness and His grace, and asking him to tape back together the torn pieces of my paper containing my words.

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