Pink Cleats and Salt (aka: Still a Soccer Mom)

I am still a soccer mom.

I know; that’s kind of a weird thing to say when none of your three kids even play soccer anymore. My oldest, who played soccer since preschool, quit after not making the high school team. My daughter, the former competitive gymnast, tried soccer for one year, then decided she was more into track and cross-country. The youngest kid detests sports of any kind. Go figure.

But I am still a soccer mom. I am as passionate as ever about the sport, and will happily spend an entire weekend shouting at the television, rooting for my favorite teams from around the world and here in the USA (while doing homework, of course). And though my kids no longer play the sport, I am currently on two indoor soccer teams and one outdoor team.

Yes, outdoor soccer. That’s my newest adventure, running around in the wet, muddy grass on a field that seems as large as three football fields by the end of the game. Here’s a picture of my favorite ball and my pretty pink cleats, which are now muddy and not-so-pretty:

Tiare Soccer Ball and Pink Shoes 2015 (2)

Am I any good at it? Well, if you judge the skill of a forward by her ability to score goals, then I’m not very good yet. And maybe I’ll never be quite as good as the other women I play with, many of whom have been playing outdoor soccer for years and have far more skill. But it’s fun. Mostly.

Here’s the part that’s not fun: all the running. I am just not that into running. I love to run fast, but only for like, ten seconds. After that, I’m ready for a nap. That’s why I’m not a midfielder (unless I have to be).

Here’s the other part that’s not fun: the salt.

Yes, you read that right. Apparently, whenever I play outdoor soccer, I sweat salt. Great salty beads that drip into my eyes and sting like soap. Salty sweat that crusts on my skin and clothes when it dries, so I look like I rolled in chalk after each game.

Yeah, I know it’s just salt, but IT’S SO GRODY!! Ew!

Apparently, salty sweat is a perfectly natural, healthy thing. It tends to happen to athletes who eat a low-sodium diet, which I guess I do (unless I’m eating my favorite food, popcorn). So I just have to wipe the salt from my brow, drink a lot of Gatorade, and suck it up until I can get home and hop in the shower (not a bath, unless I want to turn the tub into a mini-ocean).

More on this salty sweat thing: http://www.training-conditioning.com/2007/08/09/salt_in_their_sweat/index.php

Yesterday, I did something really crazy. I played in a women’s soccer tournament. That meant three games in one day. That also meant two small bottles of water, two large bottles of Gatorade, and a very, very long shower afterward. And then what did this soccer fanatic do? No, sadly, I missed the USA vs. Mexico soccer match (which we lost, thanks to Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez). Instead, I baked sugar cookies with my kids, then snuggled with them on the couch, watching Pitch Perfect 2. Because I’m a soccer mom. And the Mom part always comes first.

C Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

Being Weird (in a Culture of Sameness)

He who joyfully marches in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.

Albert Einstein

Imagine a world in which there is no racism, sexism, or conflict over religion. Now, imagine a world in which those things do not exist, because everyone is exactly the same. Sound like a theme for a dystopian novel? That’s because it is. The idea of sameness, a perfectly homogenous society, has been repeated in so many utopian and dystopian novels, that the novels as a group have begun to reflect their own theme. Sameness.   Swimming against the tide

We shudder to think of it. Because on the surface, we pride ourselves in being members of an enlightened culture, living in a time when our differences no longer divide us. A culture in which people can differ in appearance, in philosophy, in politics, and in socioeconomic class, and yet still coexist in harmony.

Or do we?

In a neighborhood where every house is painted a safe, neutral shade of tan, beige, or taupe, we cringe to see when a homeowner chooses to paint his home blue. What a crazy neighbor, we say. Doesn’t he know that his house is supposed to match the others? In a community where men wear their hair short and trim, and women wear it long, we are taken aback to come across the opposite. Oh, the woman with short hair must be a lesbian, we decide. And the man is probably a redneck, or perhaps a poor artist. And a family who owns a pet pig instead of the usual dog or cat or parakeet? How odd!

We shun what we cannot classify. We make fun of that which we do not understand. We alienate those who do not agree with the majority.

I am weird. At least, that is what people tell me. I have been told this so often throughout my life, that now I wear it as a label, even offering a warning to the people who dare to grow too friendly – “You should know right off that I’m weird. You know, just in case you only like ‘normal’ people.” I say it jokingly, in a better-to-laugh-at-yourself-than-let-words-hurt-you kind of way, but the truth is, the label still kind of hurts. Rudyard Kipling Conformity

And I have always wondered, what is it about me that people find so unusual? I certainly don’t go out of my way to appear different. I don’t dye my hair zany colors, or boast tattoos. I don’t have an intense or boisterous personality. I’m pretty sure that I have a healthy sense of humor, and can usually hold up my end of a conversation (as long as the conversation is not about celebrity gossip, golf, or reality TV scandals). But still, somehow, I am weird. Is it because of my classification of INTJ on the Briggs-Meyer personality scale (0.8% of all females in the population)? Is it my I.Q. score that makes me different? Is it because I am comfortable being alone? Because I enjoy alternative rock music, learning different languages, and geeky computer technology? Or the way I like to quietly take in the world, then reflect it back through stories and poetry?

non conformist

Whatever it is about me, it makes me weird. It means that other people do not know how to classify or relate to me. And so, in their discomfort, they slap on a hurtful label and cluster in their homogenous groups, where everyone gets along, because everyone is the same. They listen to the same music, eat the same foods, and share the same philosophies, or religion, or politics. “Want to join us?” they say. “Then you must become like us.”

We must be the same. It is the only way to achieve perfect harmony. Ironic, isn’t it?

Used to Be (aka: Seeking Community When You’re a Nonconformist)

colorful latex balloonsWe used to have parties. It is one of those observations, briefly uttered by one of my kids, marking the contrast between who our family is now compared to who we used to be. Or maybe it is less about our family, and more about who I once was. I used to throw parties. Big, noisy parties full of distant relatives or church group acquaintances. Small, intimate gatherings with close family friends. Colorful and silly children’s parties, messy with icing and confetti and cupcake crumbs.

Used to.

Back when I was a different person, I used to throw parties, which are now distant memories of music and laughter and food successes and failures. I used to receive invitations to parties, too (and not just the everybody-come-and-spend-your-money types, either). And every now and then, in moments of loneliness, or perhaps in a passing celebratory mood, I think, how nice it would be to invite a few people over! How nice it would be to have an excuse to cook some special dishes and mix up drinks and dust off the party games which have not been opened in several years. But then I think, now whom shall I invite? And just like that, my sense of enthusiasm for party planning deflates like a loosely tied balloon. friends party

Whom shall I invite? Who is my group? Planning a party was so much easier back during the days when I was part of a primary group or two. Now, I am no more than a drifter, skirting around communities of people which either change so rapidly that I rarely see the same faces twice, or are so large that I wander around, lost; or are so well-established, that I do not see how I can possibly contribute.

I recently tried to make friendship a tangible goal. Throughout the summer, I made it my personal growth project – like a mission, to try things that I had not tried, in order to change the situation. Make friends. Join the group. Be social in real life. And so, I attended Meetup event after Meetup event. When I met interesting people, I asked for their contact information, so that I could stay in touch. I said “yes” to going out on a few dates. I put away my iPad and forced myself to join the conversation, or even (gasp!) start a conversation with someone I did not know well.

The results of the summer project? Well, I had some enjoyable conversations with people I will probably never see again. I did a few fun things that I can now check off on my personal list of Neat Things I Got to Experience in Life. I learned some new ideas from strangers which continue to change me in small but significant ways. I learned that coming out of my cave is not always scary and disastrous. And I think that I even managed to make a friend (though at times I am still unsure if I have yet earned the right to use that term).

topsy turvy weird bird

But as positive as the results of my summer project may have been, I am still sadly lacking in the social department, with little more than superficial connections. Perhaps I could squeeze my way into some social group the old way – by watering down my personality so that I can conform to the norms of the group. As much as we like to think that our society honors the individual and celebrates diversity, the truth is that nonconformity makes us uncomfortable. It is human nature to form our social groups based on commonalities. Be yourself! We preach. But if “yourself” happens to be too weird to fit into a group, then learn to love yourself, be your own best friend, save yourself, date yourself, treat yourself, enjoy time alone, because obviously, you’re going to have to.

Sometimes I wish that there were some website for people seeking meaningful non-romantic social connections. Something like Linked-In for bestfriend wannabes, where you can post a personality resume. Something like:

Name:

Tiare (aka The Girl From Jupiter)

Roles You Could Potentially Fill in a Social Group:

Comedian

The Melancholy Intellectual

The Clueless Airhead who has no idea what is going on down here in the real world

The sweet, cookie-baking Nice Girl who still feels guilty when she says bad words

*The Storyteller

Things You Are Into:

Writing stories & poetry

Sports (esp. soccer and tennis)

Classic literature, films, music, and other esoteric shit

Silly memes, YA books, vampire shows, and other shallow things that keep life from being too serious

Camping, hiking, geocaching, nature

Cooking and baking

Talking in a British accent, like a valley girl, or in Spanish when the mood strikes me

Handicrafts

Daydreaming about world travel

 

Then, anyone who registers for the site can come along and browse one another’s Desperately-Seeking-Social-Group ads, and say – ahh! Just the right type of weird individual to fit into my ideal social group! And with a few clicks of the mouse, I have created an instant community of people to invite to a real-life party at my house. Friends Wanted Advertisement

Okay fine. Maybe the world couldn’t work that way, exactly. And maybe it would be foolish and dangerous to invite a bunch of carefully-selected strangers into my home for fun. People do lie about who they are, after all. But I suppose I am feeling nostalgic, or wistful, wishing that there were some way to fast-forward to the magical day when life will cease to be about who I used to be and what I used to do and will suddenly be what I wish it could be.

But some goals simply are not tangible.

 

 

 

24 Hours Without My iPad (aka: Willpower)

We are all addicted to something. Eating junk food. That morning cup of coffee. Shopping. Exercise (I know, right? How can I catch some of that addiction?). Some addictions are clearly bad for us (drugs, alcohol), and some are completely ridiculous (collecting ceramic gnomes, sex, collecting blog followers who never even bother to read a single blog post, etc.).

I only have one addiction. Okay, maybe two, if you count black licorice Jelly Bellies. You see, I am hopelessly, utterly, irrevocably addicted to my iPad. Yes, I am sadly aware of how much I sound like a character from a cheesy vampire novel. But it is true. My iPad is my addiction. My vice. My precious. I carry it with me wherever I go. I rarely allow my kids to even breathe on its screen. And yes, I will admit it – my iPad even sleeps on its own pillow beside me while charging at night (well, otherwise that huge King-size bed is just going to waste, right?). iPrecious

But a few days ago, I had a life-shattering and horrifying experience. I was forced to go 24 hours without my electronic security blanket. 24 hours! That’s an ENTIRE DAY, peeps. 24 hours of not staring at the world through my own little window. 24 hours of not constantly sliding it open to “check stuff” and browse the web and listen to streaming music on Pandora.

“You’ll just have to exercise willpower,” said my friend, who was holding my life support machine hostage until the next afternoon. (Okay, not really. The truth is that I totally left my baby in his car on the other side of town).

Willpower. Okay, I thought. I can do that. I excel at willpower. Willpower is my thing. Cue music: I Will Survive by Glora Gaynor.

Steve Jobs my superhero

Steve Jobs: aka my superhero and the birth father of my electronic “baby”

So I get home, ready to cook this great Potato-and-Chickpea curry recipe I had discovered. But then I remembered – duh, virtually every recipe I use ever is online, and I usually prop up my darling iPad on the kitchen counter while cooking (and streaming music, of course). Ugh. I was forced to use my laptop computer, which just Is. Not. The. Same. At. All.

I had to use my laptop to access my eTexbooks and do homework, too. And to “check stuff,” and to browse the web, and even to watch a television show on HuluPlus. But I refused to let my laptop sleep on the bed next to me.

The next day was tough. Still no iPad. I had no choice but to use my iPhone to take my turn on Scrabble, my iPhone to check email, and my iPhone to browse Tumblr as I drank my morning coffee. I even had to plug my earbuds into my iPhone in order to listen to music during my train ride to work. Sadly, the Kindle was basically unreadable – how the heck do you phone-addicted people manage with such a tiny screen? I was practically cross-eyed by that afternoon, and going through clear withdrawal symptoms. I’m pretty sure that my hands were trembling and everything when my friend finally placed my electronic drug back in my arms. I may have even kissed the screen or something, but I was too out of it to remember.Ran_Dumb

But I learned a couple of important lesson during 24 hours without my most prized material possession:

  1. iPads are waaaaayyy better than iPhones.
  2. It actually is possible to survive 24 hours without an iPad provided you have a couple of backup drugs – I mean, computers, available to fill in temporarily.
  3. I’d still rather be an iPad addict than a ceramic gnome collector.
  4. That curry recipe was really delicious.

Wait…I think that I was supposed to learn some sort of valuable lesson about self-sacrifice and willpower, so that I, as a writer, can enlighten my readers (all two of you) about the benefit of giving up addictions. But what I actually have to tell you is this:

  1. Willpower is really stupid unless you need to use it for something worthwhile, like weight loss or increasing exercise, or getting your homework completed (which I did not, because I was too distracted by the 24-hour hole in my life). So don’t waste your willpower on giving up your addiction if your addiction actually adds value to your life.

Enough writing. My Precious and I have some serious catching up to do.

 

The Serial Killer Next Door (aka: I Dare You)

First of all, I am a big chicken. That’s probably obvious, since here I am, writing yet another blog post from my quiet little cave, where I observe the world without interacting. But anyway, it’s true. I could use a trip to see the Wizard about acquiring some courage.

That said, here’s the thing: I have a new neighbor. I discovered this as I was coming home from a soccer game the other night, and to my surprise, there was a car parked in the carport next to mine, and a stranger with his arms full of boxes. He greeted me and explained that he was slowly moving in. Summer Girl With Home Baked Ginger Cookies

“A new neighbor!” I cheerfully announced to my kids. “Should I bake some cookies for him?” My kids were enthusiastic, and for the next few days, we kept an eye on the house next door, waiting for an opportunity to pounce with friendly greetings and home-baked treats. However, the neighbor did not appear. Days passed. No neighbor, no car in the carport. Nope, not even at midnight. Once, we spotted the car and got all excited, but half an hour later, it disappeared.

We began to form outlandish theories. Maybe the new neighbor was a ninja. Or the ghost of someone who used to live there, but died. Maybe he was a psychotic serial killer who was only hiding bodies inside the house every few days. (And yet, I still wondered whether psychotic serial killers preferred chocolate chip or snickerdoodles).

good-neighbor

What if my new neighbor is actually a psychotic serial killer?

Then my son said, “I dare you to peek in the windows to see if anyone’s in there.”

A dare? Oh wow. Suddenly, the urge to do it was overwhelming – the urge to part with practical wisdom and become the crazy stalker neighbor who peeks in windows. Did I dare make such a bold move just to prove that the new neighbor was not Jeffrey Dahmer? The fact that I was even considering it made me think, what is it about dares? What is it about the words, I dare you, that burns away our common sense and turns perfectly rational people into thrill-seeking daredevils with little fear of consequences? Sure, I’ll stick my tongue to a frozen pole! Sure, I’ll go skinny-dipping in the hotel pool! Sure, I’ll play Chinese Fire Drill at the next red light with a car full of people! (I may or may not have accepted at least one of these dares before). Is it only that we give in to peer pressure? Is it that we seek to prove that we are brave and capable people? Or is it that we really want excuses to be wild every now and then, and it is easier to blame our ridiculous actions on an external challenge than on our own dumb choices? Double Dog Dare You

Maybe it’s all three.

No, I did not accept my son’s dare and invade our new neighbor’s privacy. Because yeesh, what a poor example I would set. Instead, I will continue to peer out of my window to see if the car mysteriously appears again. Then, if I do not see the new neighbor dragging any corpse-shaped plastic bags out of the trunk, then maybe, just maybe, I will knock respectfully on his front door and welcome him to the community with a dozen homemade snickerdoodles. If I dare. Gladys

 

 

The Unwritten Rules (aka: Young-at-Heart)

image Do you know what I really felt like doing today? Skipping. I mean, there I was, walking downtown in my cute, professional-looking dress, when I was suddenly overwhelmed with an urge to skip to the train station. Why? Oh, I don’t know — because the sun was shining, and the sky was so blue, and because I am still young and coordinated enough to skip instead of walk.But I did not skip. I took a deep breath, then continued to walk at a dull, steady pace, like the rest of the grownups. Because skipping is one of those things that just isn’t done.

As far as I know, there is no grand master list of written rules for things which one mustn’t do after the age of 21. But nevertheless, the rules exist. It is not proper to show up at a friend’s house uninvited. It is not appropriate to grow vegetables and flowers in place of a square, green lawn in many suburbs. It is not okay to go about speaking in a fake British accent (and definitely not in PigLatin). It is okay to feel young-at-heart, as long one does not wear a bikini over the age of 35, or blow bubble-gum bubbles, or eat Lucky Charms cereal, or watch cartoons.

20140711-213602-77762423.jpg

Adults playing

But why do we have so many rules? Why, in order to be accepted in society, must we dress and speak and move a certain way? Now, I agree that some rules are necessary. Rules that keep people safe, for example, or rules created for ethical reasons, or to keep order in society. Clearly those are useful and necessary. But what about the unspoken rules — the ones which tell us what is and is not socially acceptable? I mean, yes, we should all look down on people who wear socks with flip-flop sandals, because ew. So déclassé. But if, while standing in line at the supermarket, I were to break out singing Seasons of Love (and secretly hoping that everyone else would join in, like in Improv Everywhere), then I’m pretty sure I’d get a lot of oddball looks, and maybe even kicked out.

So, I do not break out singing in the supermarket. Or wear flip-flop sandals without socks. But you know what? Tomorrow morning, I may just kick back with a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal while I watch an episode or two of Adventure Time. Because life is short. And some rules are just stupid. And maybe it is the giving in to those occasional bursts of feeling young-at-heart that actually do keep us young. Not to mention happy.

And so, when I stepped off the train today, I chose to give my inner wild child permission to break the rules. I tilted my face up toward the shining sun and blue sky, and skipped, carefree, across the parking lot. And felt a lot better for it.

 

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Chess, Life, and Other Games (aka: Taking Risks)

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

super crazy stuffI saw this on another blog, to use as a sort of journaling prompt. My mind immediately began to rewind back to a number of crazy things I’ve done – stupid choices and embarrassing mistakes. But then I stopped myself. It is too easy for me to focus on the negative crazy things I’ve done. But what about the positive crazy things?

Some people dive into life headfirst. I’ve browsed through dozens of blogs and social sites showcasing the lives of the brave people who walk among us, or skydive above us, or fly past us on motorcycles, setting the wind on fire, on their way to the next grand adventure. I stand back on the sidewalk, staring in awe, knowing that I can never be that person, but admiring their courage and spark and zeal for life all the same.

I take so few risks in life. It has usually been my habit to think and analyze and research the heck out of every possibility before finally deciding on the safest, most practical path. I suppose it is like playing chess with life. There is no way to avoid being defeated (as every one of us will eventually face the Checkmate), but at least I can protect my pawns, bishops, and knights for as long as possible. Chess is Life Bobby Fischer

Okay, enough with the metaphors. What’s the craziest positive thing I’ve ever done in life? Okay, well, maybe this one is only semi-positive, but here it is. When I was a senior in high school, I worked as a student assistant in the school library. It was a great job for an introverted book lover like me, with access to tons of books and, well, some private student records, too. So one day, I became curious. At the time, I had just turned sixteen, which made me the youngest senior at the school. And I wondered – who was the absolute youngest student in the school?

ninja_girl

It took a lot of research. There were around 2,500 students in my school, and the student records were all on paper, stored in file boxes. Whenever the library was quiet and there was little work to do, I pored through the records, scanning birthdates, until at last I found him. Let’s call him D.W. He was a freshman, and had just turned 13. The youngest in his class.

 

I could have let it end there, having satisfied my curiosity. But that’s when I got a spark of crazy. I copied down his school schedule, then wrote my first note.

Dear D.W.,

You don’t know me, but I am hoping you’d be interested in playing a little game. I know that you are the youngest student in the school. I am the youngest senior in the school. Let’s see if you can figure out who I am.

Sincerely,

A Mysterious Stranger

BU009237

I folded the note into the shape of a frog (because, why not?), then used my student assistant powers to have the note delivered to D.W. in one of his classes. The game had begun. During the days that followed, I had several other notes delivered to D.W. containing small clues about my identity. I also learned that he was friends with a friend of mine (weird coincidence), and that he spent his lunch period playing games with a group of role-play gamers (what!). According to my friend, this kid was very into the game I had created, and was doing everything he could to figure out my identity. Ohmigosh, so fun!

Nerd Games

Eventually, he won my little game. He learned my identity and became an instant friend during the last few months of my high school years. So I guess that makes it a good kind of crazy thing. Of course, it could have ended up completely the opposite, with him getting all creeped out by this senior stalker and me getting in trouble with the library staff for misusing private student records. But maybe there was something about our shared experience of being young, somewhat-nerdy, so-called geniuses that put us on the same wavelength and kept the game in perspective.

So there you have it. Nothing exciting like swimming with sharks or bungee jumping (*shudder*), but definitely out-of-the-ordinary and risky.