gratitude-a-thon day 2075: dinner roll feet and the last day of soccer

Dinner rolls, right?

When Ally was born, her feet looked like little dinner rolls. You know, those slightly rectangular puffs of flour that make your mouth water and always come to the table of an old school restaurant, warm and just waiting to melt some butter. Those. Those were Ally’s feet. We couldn’t imagine how she could ever walk on those adorable little toes attached to dinner rolls, let alone play a sport.

First official rec. game.

But pretty soon after she walked, much to our amazement, she was kicking a ball. And it wasn’t long after that, that she fell in love with soccer. From her u5 town rec. league, to futsol, MPS club soccer and high school soccer, Ally kicked that ball with abandon and glee through Florida, England, Tanzania and Zanzibar, not to mention all over New England, New York and New Jersey.

The Lions with Coach Marie and Coach Kelly!

Of course, it wasn’t just the soccer that captured her heart, it was the friendships she made, the laughs, the snacks, the unbeatable camaraderie. And this, as I’ve said before, is the true gift of soccer, that has nothing to do with the ball, the goal or the field. And during her college career at Trinity, this is where Ally really excelled.

While Ally still has fierce soccer skills, college soccer is fast and furious. Playing time has been hard to get, but no matter, Ally made her mark by being the heart and soul of her team. She has welcomed every freshman team member, encouraging, supporting and making them laugh. She has worked hard to make her soccer sisters their best selves. She has had a positive attitude through some very tumultuous team politics. This, this is what I’m most proud of. And for me, this is what is most valuable in all she’s learned in the 17 years she’s been kicking a ball.

Under the lights at Boston University.
Last high school game.
BHS Playoffs. A very big deal!
Maybe 6th grade.

This weekend we celebrated at the Senior Game, held during homecoming. It was a sunny, beautiful day, with our friends and family. Jake came in from California,one of her biggest fans,  Uncle Frank, her unofficial coach for her whole life and my sister Joni, who still can’t understand off-sides, never mind that her husband, Frank is one of the foremost experts on soccer (an amazing sports writer) were there and have always been there. We went out to a special toast-filled, gift-laden dinner with our favorite players and parents and back to her house for some fun. It was perfect!

Last BHS game!

Today is the last game ever. Whether she plays or doesn’t means nothing. Her dad, who has been Ally’s driver and number one fan and soccer confidante, gave an eloquent toast at breakfast the morning after, which soothed our hangovers. He said, “Ally, I’m ready for soccer to be over. I needed it all those years when I couldn’t talk to you about girl things and periods and boys.  I could always talk to you about soccer. It was how we bonded. But now, you and I have so many other things to talk about, like politics and justice and the world,  I don’t need soccer anymore.” And that’s right. Ally used to be only about soccer, but now, she’s about so many other things. She’s so much more than just soccer.

The Daddy Toast at Rein’s Deli.

 

And so, I’m raising my coffee to my girl, here this morning. She has taught this non-team playing mom a lot. Grateful for all she’s sacrificed, all she’s learned, and all she’s become.

 

(You’re so lucky my iphoto is not working, or this post would be a hundred pictures longer!)

The biggest supporters.

 

 

gratitude-a-thon day 1095: the girl with the ball(s)

 

22050128_1483625071722574_971191049338250229_nIt’s soccer season right now and we have traveled to Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, twice a week, to night games, morning games, tailgates with so much food, a small Italian village could show up and we could feed them.

I have a Grand Canyon of gratitude watching Ally play soccer. It makes me feel like I  could literally burst wide open and need an ambulance to bring me to Grace Memorial on Grey’s Anatomy. It’s not the usual pride a parent feels watching their kid on a field. This has to do with watching my kid on a field after not being on a field for two years. It has to do with the crushing blow of tearing her ACL senior year and the deep sadness that followed that event, the confusion, the pain, the surgery, the mental anguish, the endless rehab, the scar tissue, the wondering if she’d ever again play the sport she’d put enormous chunks of her life into, that she’d given up so much for, that she’d loved like a boyfriend. Nobody knew if she’d really make it back.

So, she worked. She battled. She pushed.

Still, she came up short freshman year and didn’t play during the season. Too much scar tissue dogged her with pain. Still we went to every game just to see her warm-up because seeing her run on a field is better than Caribbean blue water and if you know me for one second, you know  I want to marry Caribbean blue water. Seeing Ally run with the ball at her feet lit us up, since we so intimately knew what it meant for her to be doing so. It mattered little that she wasn’t playing. She had fought. She was still fighting. It wasn’t her cleats we loved, it was her spirit.

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And this year she plays. Her strong powerful legs run back and forth, and her eyes dart up and down the field assessing and strategizing. Her passes can look effortless, leaving me to wonder how they can make it across a field of opponents and find her teammates feet. Her mistakes cause us to gasp, but really, we just feel punch drunk that she is is out on that field, the place she has run a million physical and mental miles to get back to. Never matters whether she wins or loses. She’s already won.

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gratitude-a-thon day 900: 24 hours of travel takes you to another world

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Zanzibar from the rooftop of the Emerson Spice Hotel, a gem of a place filled with antiques and a gorgeous courtyard where we ate lunch.

 

I thought I would be able to blog.

HA!

I went on a jam-packed two week trip to Tanzania and Zanzibar, and I thought I would be able to blog, on not one, but two blogs while I was there.

HA!

That so did not happen (but you already know that). Between our schedule being rigorous, and the internet service, and my computer telling me my start-up disc was full, which didn’t allow me to download my pictures, and the runs, and general exhaustion, blogging was just impossible.

But my gratitude meter was on! Like, SO ON.

This trip was extraordinary on 1,394,571,398 levels.

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Taking the ferry from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar (an adventure in self-preservation) here’s a taste of the colors you see everywhere.

It was the first time I had ever visited a third world country, and it didn’t disappoint in terms of BLOWING MY MIND RIGHT OUT OF MY HEAD. There are pockets of poverty that are unimaginable. I started to feel like I was in a Sally Strothers Save the Children commercial. This is a heavily populated Muslim area, so women wear hijab, and their colorful mix of patterns against the dingy, dark colors of downtown Dar es Salaam was especially stunning. (The way the weather hit my hair making it look look like so many dry cornfields we saw later in our trip, I considered pretending to be Muslim for a few weeks, with all due respect, of course).

Here are some sort of random pics of the trip. I have yet to sift through my almost 1,000 photographs!

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Taking PK’s at the National Stadium.
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Fabulous dinner at Fatma’s house. I kept thinking how my dog Riley would be in the center of this meal!
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National Stadium.
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Masai hanging out in Stonetown.
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My new friends.
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A boy writing his name at The Big Tree School.
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Three out of 11 of the only white people at the game of Young Africans against Ghana.
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A beautiful bridge at the Protea Hotel in Zanzibar.
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The Masai village micro-lending program group.
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Some of Fatma’s family, including her grandmother.
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Goat lunch with the Masai village.
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Soccer with the New Generation Queens.
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All of us at the Mbweni Ruins in Zanzibar.
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Ally with one of the Young African players.

The city of Dar is a chaotic mix of commerce and traffic, with every kind of vehicle jetting around, including women and men carrying everything from garbage to bananas on their heads, not to mention the occasional goat or cow. Traffic lights are a few, and when they are encountered they’re treated like a suggestion more than a law. Oh, and did I mention they drive on the other side of the road? Yeah, you not only feel disoriented by the vastly different surroundings, but also by the fact that you think you’re going to crash into oncoming traffic every few seconds.

There were eleven of us. Four adults, and seven kids ranging in age between 13 and 18. The trip was planned by a teacher Ally had for a class called Global Leadership. His grandfather began an organization 70 years ago called Pathfinder International, which helps women worldwide with sexual and reproductive healthcare. It’s an exceptional organization, and we were allowed to visit several sites to see the kind of work they do. We visited a small village outside of Dar es salaam where we sat in on a 20 year old woman getting counseled on her birth control options (she had a four year old at home and a five month old in her arms). We then visited the hospital she would get that birth control. We had a raucous party with the Dar Pathfinder staff, visited their office in Zanzibar, where we were taken to a six week parenting class for parents and caregivers to learn how to talk to their kids about how to stay safe. The kids were there for this particular class and it was very emotional to see the conversations take place (even though we couldn’t understand them because they were in Swahili). This was a group of people trying to change cultural norms. It was moving. We also visited a Masai village to learn about micro-lending, where we were greeted with the most joyful song and dance number EVER! We planted trees together and ate goat (well, some of us did). We met with religious leaders in Zanzibar, where we exchanged questions and answers. We visited a maternity ward named for Ally’s teacher’s wife, because she and her husband helped build it many years ago. We met women who had just had their babies a day ago, and the amazing doctors and nurses who worked there. We went to a private school in Zanzibar that rivaled an American private school and which had a beautiful orphanage attached. We met with the kindergarten class, who gave us so much attention and pure unadulterated joy not one of us could stop smiling. We went to The Big Tree School, which a passionate teacher opened in his brother’s house, where three year old’s and five year old’s learned the basics in a bare bones building without many supplies (you will hear more about this, as I am interested in helping this school build a new building and offering them supplies).

We went to a soccer game in Dar where we were literally the ONLY WHITE PEOPLE. Heads swiveled when we arrived, but everybody was incredibly nice to us. It was eye opening to be in the minority.

We also worked with Coaches Across Continents, who uses sports and in particular soccer to instill educational messages. For instance, they will put together a soccer game where boys will come to play and slip in messages about domestic violence, and rape, and birth control. We played soccer at The National Stadium of Zanzibar (where we saw many young people running without shoes, which prompted me to pledge having a sneaker and clothing drive when I arrived home), and soccer with The New Generation Queens, the only girl’s soccer team in Zanzibar. We also played with several other groups of mixed age boys and girls. We learned about how girls playing soccer has not been acceptable because of it being thought of as a “masculine” game. But we saw and heard first hand how it empowers girls and women when they play. There were also lots of pick up games with little kids, who could charm the clothes off your body.

Lastly, we went on safari at the Ngorongoro Crater. It was INSANE! Lions, zebras, wildebeasts, wart hogs, elephants, hippos, gazelles, monkeys, ostriches, and a very distantly visible rhino.

And of course, we learned to bargain (some of us learned to bargain better than others). We swam with dolphins (sort of), and we ate a lot of Indian food.

The people of Tanzania were generous, warm and welcoming. All the Pathfinder staff were incredibly nice to us. We all wanted to bring home our guide in Zanzibar, Fatma, a 22 year old biochemistry student at a University in India, who was the epitome of warmth and grace, and who even invited us to her home to have an enormous dinner with all the things she’d witnessed we’d eaten during our time with her. Her extended family greeted us warmly and treated us like part of the clan. We have invited  Fatma to come visit us. We know we’ll stay in touch with her. She is a bright star and we’ll never be able to thank her for her presence or the wonderful gifts she gave us the last day we spent with her.

This trip was something I will be processing for months to come. It was mind expanding and changed my perception of what I spend money on, and how that money could hugely impact a life in Tanzania.

You will hear more over the weeks, but the gratitude I feel about having this adventure (and missing the Republican convention) is YUGE.

gratitude-a-thon day 507: she didn’t get it from me

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Having not been an athlete growing up (I was a cheerleader, but Ally says that doesn’t count), I’m always wowed by my daughter’s soccer skills. It’s not just that she knows what to do with a ball on the field, it’s that she actually has balls on the field. Which is to say that she’s brave. She goes out there and has to listen to trash talk, play against girls bigger and better, and not bow underneath the intense pressure of a team that’s relying on every player to do their best. Some games are such high intensity, I barely have what it takes to watch from the sidelines.

Team play is as good as any class you can take. You learn things you couldn’t learn anywhere else. And lots of them are about yourself. Ally has given up a lot to play at the high level she chooses to play at, but she lives for the rush, the camaraderie, I think maybe even the stress. Nothing I’ve ever done (except maybe watch all the seasons of Lost,which took a huge emotional toll, let’s face it) compares to the commitment that she’s given to sports. I had to learn about hard work, resilience, and tenacity elsewhere. But Ally has been practicing those skills since she was five. And she’s actually had a lot of fun and made a lot of friends while she was doing it.

As the college thing approaches (we just came back from a college showcase tournament), soccer will be a huge consideration for Ally, as she chooses where she’ll spend her four years. Soccer, which has been such a big part of her life, will now become an even bigger part of her more adult life. I marvel at her strength. I envy her love of the game. I am grateful to be able to have watched her grow up on a field. Turns out fields are really good at helping you grow up. I wish I’d known that when I was a kid.

 

 

gratitude-a-thon day 413: the girl has balls

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After-goal glow. Ally’s the one with her whole face visible. The happiest one!

To be a good soccer parent, 9/10th’s of the law states “NO GLOATING. EVER.” But just for today, just this once, I’m going to have to break that law. So throw me in jail. Go head.

Yesterday Ally’s team was playing the rival team of Newton North. Last year they won the State Championship, and crushed us. They’re always, in fact, crushing us. What with their giant, gorgeous new school, and their great sports teams, they are usually, in all sports, the team to beat. Anyway, this is always a big game. And it’s always even bigger for Ally because the coach of Newton North has been her Club Team coach for the past three years. It was super beautiful out, I crutched myself there, along with the boy’s Varsity soccer team, and a pretty big crowd of parents and kids. N.N. had a slew of graduating seniors last year, so we knew their team was not going to be in its usual kick-ass form, and  with our awesome new coach, and a bunch of strong new freshman, we had our fingers crossed.

We dominated, but we couldn’t seem to score. Our goalie got knocked out by a deep cut, which required stitches, so we had to use a field player as goalie (the other goalie had a possible concussion). Things were tense, when Miss Ally Lansbury made a left-footed goal. OH YES SHE DID! The crowd went wild and I totally wanted to abandon my boot and dance, but realized that would not be a smart move, so instead I screamed more loudly than I ever have. In my life. Like, ever. I tell you, the parents in Newton who weren’t at the game, must have heard me. (I’m hoarse today). For a moment the world actually stopped. Seriously, I’m fairly certain if you check your watch, it is exactly one minute slow today. It was just a perfect confluence of things that came together to make a memory that will be with my family until the day we breathe our last breaths, and then some.

Here’s why it was extra special cool: Ally’s Club coach has always given her feedback about “finishing,” that she’s a great player, but she has to finish. So the fact that she did and that it “finished” his team was just as good as it gets. Ally’s goal was the only goal of the game, which, if you haven’t already put two and two together, means we won!

So, sorry for gloating, but that one perfect moment is too good not to share. It’s funny how sometimes things come together like they did yesterday. And when they do, you gotta take notice, on account of how much they don’t. So, Gooooooo Warriors. And congratulations to my rock star daughter.  OH YES I DID.

gratitude-a-thon day 398: soccer season: it’s on

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Go Team!

Aaaaaaand the Brookline High Girls Varsity Soccer season starts today. Chairs in the trunk. Check. Sweatshirts in the trunk. Check. Raincoats, umbrellas, sunscreen, baseball hats. Check, check, check, check.

We had a rather rough(read: all kinds of BAD) season last year, but with a brand new coach, who seems to worship soccer the way my daughter does, this is already a better season (and it hasn’t even begun).

Peter and I try to go to every game. Hopefully, my bunion surgery will not prevent me from watching (how would it do that?) I just mean that I hope that I’m not in so much pain that I’m yowling and all sorts of cranky pants, making the other parents scared, and maybe making them want to call, like, Animal Control, because I’m such a beast.

Anyway, soccer is good. Soccer is great. And with any luck, we’ll get to the playoffs this year. And I will have a brand new foot by the time the season ends. That’s the goal. Hahahahahah.

gratitude-a-thon day 426: small bites friday

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I can’t believe they waste this place on baseball.
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Charlie and his estrogen tsunami entourage leave Fenway happy.

Billy Joel rocked Fenway Park last night, and kicked off my summer with a big gosh darn bang. After having to call in sick for my Madison Square Garden birthday gift from Peter, I got a re-do last night and it was effing awesomeness. At 65, the piano man’s still got it going on, and well, Fenway is a super cool place to see live music. They should really turn that place into a concert venue.

My sister is back. My sister is back. Gratitude times a bajillion.

I am going to the happy place tomorrow for two weeks. No, not a wing at McClean’s, the Vineyard, silly.

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Ready for some major league beach time.

Ann Coulter continues to amaze in her profoundly inane and uneducated rant on soccer. She calls hating it America’s favorite pastime. Hating her is mine.

And in other soccer news, the US survives Group of Death. Take that, Ann.

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GO USA!

Bucket list vacation spot. ooooh la la.

Excited to see The Leftovers starting this Sunday on HBO. My friend, the amazing Ann Dowd, is in it.