Friday, June 29, 2012

Stepping into the Sky

June 28 and June 29 always inspire me to reflect because these are the anniversaries of my mother's death and birth, respectively. Instead of dreading these days as I have in the past, now I welcome them. I like the calm introspection that wells up inside me. I like walking around, going about my day, with eyes that see the delicate, temporary nature of things. I like getting a rush from something as simple as inhaling deeply and sitting back in my chair and just watching, noticing, everything.

Yesterday when I was training, I embraced the fact that my 41-year-old body was breathing hard, sweating profusely and straining to "stay in the fight," as my coach says. As my heart pounded and it became harder to catch my breath, I thought of my mom, who didn't live to see her 45th birthday because her body quit on her. I relished the feeling of my beating heart and I dedicated every breath, every step, every effort to her.

She can no longer, so I will.

I am of her blood and her bone; she continues to live through me and through my sister who has since given life to three little boys who will never know our mother, but will understand how amazing she was because we will tell them stories and show them pictures. And when they're old enough to have such awareness, they'll come to understand who she was because they will recognize her influence in the way their own mother and aunt treat others and embrace life. They will say, "She must have been a remarkable woman. I wish I could have met her."

My grief is bittersweet. More than anything, I just feel tender. My heart feels weighty in my chest with a sorrow that will always be, but it's also heavy with gratitude for having Mom in my life for 19 years.

Have you ever listened to a song countless times and then suddenly one day you hear the lyrics for the first time -- I mean really hear them? That's what happened to me this morning with this song that's been on my starred playlist for months. I looked up the song lyrics today and then found a homemade video on YouTube that serves as a perfect visual metaphor for how I often feel when I think about Mom. This lonesome, dark road I sometimes travel is also wondrous and beautiful. And even though I can't see what lies ahead and there are moments of total darkness, I always find myself back on solid ground -- the lines of the road clearly marked and beckoning me to keep moving. And so I do. Gladly.   

That Knot Unties
David Karsten Daniels
If you close your eyes
do you see any sky?
If you close your eyes
can you make out any skies?

Is there a sky when that knot
that knot unties,
as you close your eyes?

When you close your eyes
will you step into the skies?

As you close your eyes
do you step into the skies?

Is there a sky when that knot
that knot unties,

as you close your eyes?

When you close your eyes
I will resist
I will not cry.
When you close your eyes
I can resist
I will not cry.

I will not try
to know why

to know why

why all things die, die, die.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Inventory Of Events That Indicate I Am Not Present

1. Cashier: "Debit or Credit?" Me: "Crebit."
2. Upon returning from a walk with my dog, I threw my house key in the gumby trash bin and then walked to the front door with Martha's bag of poo.
3. Halfway through shampooing my hair I realized that I had already shampoo'd my hair.
4. I noticed a woman in the coffee shop staring at me, and it occurred to me that -- for who knows how long -- I had been making facial expressions that corresponded with a hypothetical conversation I was having in my head.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Having a ball for Marbridge

The first thing I noticed about Dan was his size. The guy is grizzly bear big; my hand disappeared into his like a ball in a glove as we introduced ourselves with a firm handshake. The second thing I noticed was that he is a good listener and almost always has something helpful or kind to say in return. I also noticed very quickly that he is a sure shot on the basketball court.
Adam, Dan and me.
I met Dan while participating in a 3-on-3 basketball tournament at the Marbridge Villas & Ranch, a semi-independent living community for adults who are developmentally disabled or mentally challenged. Marbridge is trying to raise enough money to construct a new gymnasium that will be known as the Victory Hall Athletic & Event Center. Marbridge’s existing gymnasium, built in 1959, is a 1,200-square-foot cinder block building that could pass for a sauna in the summer and a meat locker in the winter. The heavily worn equipment likely was the latest on the market when Arnold Schwarzenegger was considering a career in bodybuilding, and there’s only enough space for half a basketball court, which makes for an extremely tight and fast-paced game. When completed, the 19,000-square-foot Victory Hall Athletic & Event Center will not only be a place to host sports, fitness and wellness programs for Marbridge’s 240 residents, but it also will be accessible to the public for athletic competitions, workshops, performances, you name it! It’s a grand and noble vision that will benefit the residents of Marbridge, as well as the surrounding community.
So, back to the 3-on-3 tournament, which unfolded on the half court in the Marbridge gymnasium over the course of a Saturday afternoon.

The Rules
  • Each team consists of two volunteers and a Marbridge resident.
  • Each game lasts 10 minutes (with the clock continuously running).
  • A coin toss at the beginning of the game determines the winner if the game ends in a tie. The loser of the coin toss in-bounds the ball to start the game.
  • Any time you get the ball on the rebound or intercept a shot, you must take the ball back to the 3-point arc before starting your offensive possession.
  • All baskets made from inside the arc are 1 point; any made beyond the arc are 2 points.
  • I’m sure there are more rules, but I never understood them.
I volunteered to participate in this tournament upon the request of a client of mine whose son is a resident at Marbridge. My initial thought was that it didn’t matter that I’d never played basketball; it was for charity after all. Just showing up is good enough, right?

Enter 6’2”, goggle-wearing Mike, a Marbridge resident who embraces the game of basketball like I embrace my morning espresso – with intensity, mister! Joe’s arms and legs have no beginning or end. He had a freakish reach that enabled him to grab the ball away from anyone, anywhere. He was like a Go, Go Gadget Globetrotter. But wait, there’s more…

Joe was matched up with a quick-footed father-son duo that could communicate intricate plays with a slight raise of the brow or nod of the head. Oh, did I mention that the son plays high school basketball and that somehow I ended up being the one to cover him? And let’s be clear about this: When I say cover, what I really mean is “run in circles underfoot like an untrained, excitable puppy.”

But enough about the opposing team. Allow me to introduce the Park Place Piranhas. We had 5’9” Adam, my Park Place Publications teammate who knows his way around the court and can talk strategy like a pro. Adam and I were fortunate to be matched up with Dan, a point-scoring Marbridge favorite with fast footwork and a singular focus. He also plays on the Marbridge Longhorns Special Olympics basketball team. (I asked Dan how tall he was and he told me matter-of-factly: “I’m 5’11” but I play basketball like I’m 6 foot.”)

And lastly, there was me – very enthusiastic, occasionally spastic, mostly ineffective. I have to hand it to my teammates. Adam and Dan played really well together -- so well, in fact, that I often felt like a spectator who had a courtside seat that was really, really close to the action.

Court Highlights

I think the funniest thing about the game was my attempt to cover and block the high school kid. Wait. Am I even using the right terminology here? Do people cover and block in basketball? I’m suddenly self-conscious about my b-ball lingo. ANYWAY, you know what I’m trying to say.

Despite High School Boy’s speed, power and ability to change direction so quickly that I swear he was pulling a G-force, I did manage to stay in the near vicinity of him at all times. I mean, we were on a half court. I could have never moved and I’d still be within a few feet of him.

The only time I really got to handle the ball (which is a Court Highlight, thank you very much) was when the ref called “Piranhas ball!” and I got to stand on the sideline and throw the ball to Dan or Adam to start the offensive play. Yah, that was really cool. Sometimes I’d delay throwing the ball just to relish the temporary power I held over everyone in the Marbridge Gymnasium. Will I throw it to Dan? Will I throw it to Adam? It’s anyone’s guess, people! Only I know what will happen next! Bwahahahahahaaa!

It’s the little things in life, you know.

Other highlights include Dan making several amazing, crowd-pleasing shots from all angles of the court and Adam intercepting the ball and scoring several times too. At least I think he did. I know I should know these things. I mean, I was there and I was on his team, but I was so caught up in trying to be the best Piranha I could be that frankly many of the details of the game were lost on me.

Here’s what I know for sure: Whistles were blown, baskets were made, baskets were missed, passes were blocked, passes were caught, a ball was dribbled multiply times, there was gratuitous sneaker squeaking on the floor, High School Boy called me “mama” at one point (as in “Come on, mama! Whatcha got?”), and then suddenly the 10-minute buzzer rang.

Final Score
Piranhas          9
Hidden Talent 12

It was a nail biter, folks. You should have been there. Although we didn’t make it to the playoffs or win a trophy, Marbridge gave us medals and treated us to a Rudy’s BBQ lunch. Best of all, we got to meet some really sweet people who live and work at Marbridge. If you ever have the inclination to learn more about Marbridge’s dream of building the Victory Hall Athletic and Event Center, contact Michelle Levy at (512) 282-1144 or