Fly Away.

 

Her name was Laura (Redmond) Ramirez, she was a senior when I was a freshmen, and my first memory of her was when she smacked my butt as she almost lapped me on our first fitness test ha. This undoubtedly took place on my very first day of college where I was a ‘walk on’ and well, Redmond (Red), was one of our senior captains.

You see at the moment in time, I felt as if my legs were going to collapse and that there was no way I could take another step. Yet there was Red, joking around, plus making the hard work look easy.

She knew no other way but to lead by example.

From the first moment I met her, her tenacity with an undeniable balance of humour, was infectious. She only knew how to be a fighter with a smile on her face.

That never altered. From the moment she found out, in 2007, that she had Leukemia until the very end. This includes, during those 10 almost 11 years, where she also lost her mother in 2010 (with leukemia) and then also her father in 2016 to liver cancer. 

Yet, even through all that pain and loss, pain that many of us cannot imagine, she was the same Red from college; one hell of a fighter with a smile on her face.

And when she passed away, earlier this year, and I could not make the funeral due to Futbol, writing was the only thing that brought me peace. These lyrics are to honor her courageous journey and that of her husband as well, who stood by her for every step.

You see, when John (than boyfriend, soon after husband) and her found out about her condition, there were recently out of college and had their whole lives ahead of them.

I am sure some people would think about walking  away from Laura, but not John.

John stood by her till her final breath and that was where our own tears fell. Our tears fell as we thought about their incredible journey together. What it must have been like for him to not only watch his wife, his best friend, fight this horrible desease but also to watch her lose her closest family members throughout that same time frame.

“Here we are.

The time has come

How do we say goodbye.

You said fight

To carry your joy

To find your strength

To Believe again …”

The lyrics were also written thinking about my father, about his own mother as we told her the news about losing her only son, about watching my mother go through the pain of losing her own mother, with watching so many of my friends, who I call family, try to deal with the pain of losing their mother’s, father’s, brother’s, and sister’s.

“Tears still fall

Ill find a way

You loved all my

Pain Away…”

This song, is for anyone that has ever lost someone, to try to allow you to have a little more peace than before.  To believe, to know, and have faith in that even though they are not with us now that the time we spent with them and the impact they had on our lives can never be taken from us.

“But you know

I am standing here

Smiling loving you.

Sunshine through the clouds

You’ve always been an angel….”

Laura was a type of human that even when she was suffering with all that pain, with all that loss, you could not help but leave her presence with a smile. And for that alone she will never be forgotten.

ALL PROCEEDS, OF THIS SONG, WILL GO TOWARDS HER INCREDIBLE SCHOLARSHIP.

Laura’s family and friends are aiming to raise an ambitious $50,000 to support an athletic scholarship fund in Laura’s name at the University of Illinois, her alma mater. The fund will be used to support future soccer players at U of I.

Donations can be made online at http://iamtheifund.com/makeagift.html. Click “Make a Gift” and indicate in the “Special Instructions” that the gift is being made in memory of Laura Redmond Ramirez. Or call the Varsity I office at 217-333-7777. The optional fund number is: 774623.”

ENJOY. #ForHim #ForHer #ForYou #ForUS

 

The Beauty of Our Anger.

Anger.

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What a scary thing it can be.

I am not talking about the surface anger. Like when you get a parking ticket or maybe your sister (okay wife ha) ‘steals’ your favourite shirt.

I am talking about the anger that boils deeps within all of us.

That you might not actually know exists until you are pushed to a limit where it finally comes to the surface.

The kind that can make you feel so passionate, righteous, in control, which actually makes us blind, disrespectful, and possessive of rage.

You see, I have that anger.

I can feel it coming up as I have written, deleted, rewritten, deleted, this very post.

Or how that anger can seem to rise simply opening up the news. How it makes me want to take someone by the shoulders and start shaking them.

That I justify this want by saying what I believe is the right thing to believe.

But is it?!

Isn’t that what those on the other side of the ‘fence’ are saying about my own?!

See they believe, just as I do with all my heart, that what they are fighting for is what is fundamentally right.

Phhhhhhheeeewwwwww.

Breathe.

Okay.

That might be one of the hardest things I have had to write. To actually admit that ‘they’ have every right and reason as I do, to fight for the things that they think will make a world a better place.

However, this has also allowed me to see the beauty of when I can actually see past my own anger.

To see where the challenge actually lies.

That we as a people need to take a step back, so we can see from another point of view, to then be able to take a step forward together.

That through our belief in others, we can in fact, strengthen are own beliefs in us: The people.

How?!

Lets start by walking in another’s shoes.

Christians. Maybe read a book about the virtues of a buddhist. I challenge you to see if you find a common ground, a common goal, a common belief of hope, love, peace, kindness, joy.

Or we can even go more extreme.

Trump. Why don’t you take off your suit, take away all your fame and security, and go live in the poorest part of the states. For one week go see what it is like to be a parent where you have to work two jobs and still can’t get ahead of the bills let alone food on the table.

Or for the people in Alabama who are trying to pass a BILL that allows their faith based adoption agency to not allow same sex couples to adopt a child. Why don’t you go and live in a home of two loving people. Two people that are not only committed to each other but to also raising a child that does not have a place to call home. Instead of judging them with the same book that says that your wife should … (plus 1 Timothy 2:11-14, 1 Corinthians 11:5 ESV)

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 ESV:
The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

My point is, why are we so quick to accept some things and yet not others?!?  Unless I am wrong and you not only uphold your beliefs on who has the right to help a child but also to all the women that go to your churches that they must sit silent and submissive to the men?!

As Justin Timberlake so graciously said:

“If you are black or you are brown or you are gay, or you are lesbian, or you are trans, or maybe you’re just a sissy singing boy from Tennessee – anyone who has treated you unkindly, it’s only because they are afraid or they have been taught to be afraid of how important you are.”

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I show you JT’s words because I was one them. One of them that were afraid of who I was and how important someone else could be. I was so afraid ,that I clung to words that I did not fully understand, and judged with them. I was so desperate to feel the love, grace, forgiveness, a fresh start, and joy that I never took the time to see from where ‘they’ were coming from.

I never took the time to fully grasp that. Even though I was being taught the Words of God, it was still interpreted from their lives. From where they grew up, from what they were taught, and from their experience.

I now understand why The Word sounds different in Malmo, Sweden thats it did in Champaign-Urbana, IL. Or how they sound different in Vancouver, Canada to Paris, France, and so on.

And instead of looking at in a hindering way I choose to look at it for what it is: the power of fellowship.

It is a very special thing to be able to find that strength, confidence, and safety away from ‘home.’ The reason why we all find different Churches that seem to speak just to us compared to another.  From the pastor, people, or overall community we are able to find ‘home’ in a way another person found it in the Church down the street.

But does that mean that Church down the street is less than the one we found?! Does it mean the words spoken there are less important than the words spoken here?!

Seems like a pretty easy answer right?!

(I speak about Churches because that is what I know. However, if you have another faith then please take out Church and insert the place that works best for you)

This is the beauty of faith.

Imagine the world if fear was not the reason to treat someone different.

Because the truth of the matter is that that IF you truly are a believer in whatever God, or whatever higher power, or in nothing, life should be about bringing everyone closer to them through love, respect, kindness, compassion, joy, and faith.

Learn. Live. Find. Search. Love. Enjoy. Fight. Encourage. Challenge.

The world is scary folks. It is a scary time but don’t lose hope.

Just because the one standing in front of you is spreading lies and hate, doesn’t mean the one standing behind you, to your left, or to the right are doing the same.

With love.

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More Than a Book Review…

 

You know I have read my fair share of “self-helps.” I have done my fair share of prayer, scripture, positive reinforcement and when nothing else works – the art of simply fighting the air. However, in 2016, I realized it was finally time for me to start cutting through all my baggage, that I had no choice with holding onto all my extra crap, and that it was time to finally stop running from my pain.

That through all my ‘running,’ I have actually created more pain, and it was actually the one place I need to go to find peace. Or as Mark Manson says in ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,’ “Many people may be to blame for your unhappiness, but nobody is ever responsible for your unhappiness but you. This is because you always get to choose how you see things, how you react to things, how you value things.”

Mason’s book has quite easily summed up the balance I have struggled to find.

His way of intertwining academic research, jokes, and his ability to make the complicated things simple, allowed me to comprehend his ataraxia. That through “improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better”

And let me tell you, my lemons?!? Well I couldn’t stand them! I was so afraid of their actual taste that I literally caused physical pain to myself instead of dealing with it.

How?! Why?! That doesn’t make any sense?!

Yeah, I hear ya!

Trust me, I was telling myself the same exact things. However, all I could seem to find, repetitively was heart break compared to the right answers or antidote.

I was so out of my depth when it came to understanding what a monster anxiety can be. To recognize how strong and powerful the mind is. Especially, when it is fighting against you compared to with you.

That, to beat it, you literally must stop thinking about what you don’t really know you are thinking about.

Makes sense right?!

Okay, okay, a better example.

As I have stated before, one of my main anxiety symptoms was/is feeling like I have a swollen tongue or tingly tongue. Before, I would try and fight it or get scared of it, which would always make the symptom worse. Now, I know that it is my subconscious. That somehow my brain has created this loop where at certain times, even though I ‘feel’ that I am not thinking about it or looking for it, it is there.

My mind knows how to trigger these symptoms without any help from ‘conscious’ me.

(What a dick, I know) ha

Again, through Mark’s book, he breaks that down. He writes about how we shouldn’t always focus on finding the ultimate ‘right’ answer. That we should make it more simple. That we should chip away at the ways we were wrong today so that we can be less wrong tomorrow. 

That with some grace, compassion, forgiveness, and love we can truly start to master our sense of self. That does not mean you have to find yourself or figure out who we are to a T. It means that we have to realize, humbly, that we are just one being in this massive 7.5 billion being world. That we were raised in an environment that we did not choose and that we should have the honour and/or respect to be conscious of that.

 “Before we can look at our values and prioritization and change them into better, healthier ones, we must first become uncertain of our current values. We must intellectually strip them away, see their faults, and bases, see how they don’t fit in with much of the rest of the world, to store our own ignorance in face and concede, because our own ignorance is greater than us all ….. This means giving up your sense of entitlement and your belief that you’re somehow owed something by this world. This means giving up your supply of emotional highs that you’ve been sustaining yourself with for years.”

Entitlement, me?!?

Yeah its hard to look at yourself in that way right?!

It sure in the heck was hard for me to take an honest look at myself.

I mean everything that I have achieved, my story, my success, is because of me?! Right? It is because of my hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. It is because I didn’t give up. That I accepted and took strength in the fact that nothing was handed to me and that I am where I am now! That when people thought I was done, stopped believing in me … Welp, I found a way to keep going! I damn well deserve this!

This is what I am owed, is it not?!!

That was my dialogue on the rainy days. When my hope seemed bleak. That is what I thought would push me through to fight another day.

Can you relate?!

Have you never said?!  I want that or I deserve this?! Or I believe this, how can YOU believe that?! No, no what I believe is the ONLY way. Have you NOT read the bible?! Have you not studied His words?!

Yahweh of the Bible?! No no no, it is and ONLY Allah of the Qur’an. Allah is the TRUE God etc, etc, etc …

Those words folks, these arguments, these words are the foundations of so many wars, deaths, suicide, and gut wrenching pain. Yes, of course, there is also tremendous amounts of joy, love, faith, hope, and more. However, why does it seem we are so afraid to see and love each other from our neighbours eyes compared to our own.

To be educated, respectful, kind, and loving instead of hateful, judgemental, disrespectful, and violent.

I sure in heck have been on one side. I have never been physically violent, but let me tell you, my words, my judgements?! Well they might as well have been because I never understood the gravity of my words until it was too late.

Do you?!

Can you understand the truth, see the strength, and power of Mason’s Law of Avoidance:

The More something threatens your identity the more you will avoid it. This is why people are often so afraid of success for the exact same reason they’re afraid of failure. It threatens who they believe themselves to be. 

So as I said before.

2016 was a year of heartbreak. However, we should never forget that the beauty of heart break is also the strength (we find) when we reach the other side. To be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and have the faith that we can get there. That we will get there.

That you don’t get a day back. That finding yourself doesn’t always need to be right now. Because when you can keep striving for a better self, when you can learn of new cultures, new stories and journey’s, it allows us to remain humble in our judgements and accepting of the true differences of others.

“Just as one might suffer physical pain to build stronger bone and muscles one must suffer emotional pain to develop greater emotional resilience, a strong sense of self, increased compassion, and a generally happier life. “

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”

-by Freud taken from “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”

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Mr. Rob Williams.

Below is my family.

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As you can see, my mother couldn’t be more proud ha. She has the family that she has always dreamed of; one that is contrary to many social norms.  Aka she not only has a black son-in-law but also an unexpected (depending on who you ask) extra daughter-in-law. haha

I say that, because, since I was a child I have  been ‘forced’ or maybe better said ‘allowed’ to see what fighting for people’s equality really looks like. Yes, I will be the first to admit that most of the time, my mother, had to literally drag me out of our house to the numerous demonstration marches. However, now I realize how important those moments were. Just how important it was for me to see past my own incompetence as a ‘cool’ teenager and see some of the truths that many of us are not exposed to.

At that age, I never could have imagined, how powerful it would be for me to look back 18 years and say that I was apart of fighting for 5 young black men that were discriminated against in a local high school. Or why today, it would be so important to say I was a part of something that was bigger than myself.

That all lives matter.

My brother-in-law, my 2 beautiful nieces and nephew that are mixed, my wife, and so many more are the reasons are why this entry, why these powerful words, are important, and  why I hope you feel the same way after you finish reading this.

I hope that after this, you might be able to understand the truth about how we do not choose where we come from, who we come from, and what we are born into. Meaning that what we are passed on from our parents, whether that be to love everyone or to hate anyone that is different from us, we simply aren’t given that choice.

However, by CHOICE, we are all ALLOWED to find out what we believe in for ourselves.

So without further adieu, I am proud for you to see and meet my brother from another mother: Mr. Robert Williams and Rob, for what it’s worth, I hope you can also see just how proud I am to say that.

What you need to know:

I met Rob almost 10 years ago today.  I can still remember the moment when I walked up to him after one of my college soccer games. You see, at that time, all I really knew about Rob was that he was a Professional Indoor Arena football player and held the nick name ‘Black Super Man.’  Which actually still stands today in the weight room of the the University of UMass.

However what I have learned about Rob, over the years, has been humbling. Humbling in a way where I have seen a man not only be an incredible father, husband, but also a man of extraordinary work ethic and perseverance.

One that has allowed me to believe in hard work and faith through his own actions.

To him… its simple….YOU MUST EARN YOU RIGHT.

Rob grew up on the South side of Chicago, where most of his family still resides today. Now, to some of you that means nothing, but to those of you that live in Chicago or watch any News program, I wonder what your reaction just was?!

Head drop?

Head shaking?

A long sigh?!

You see, as of now, the south side of Chicago is in great turmoil. Not only the south side, but Chicago overall has their highest rates of shooting homicides in the country. I mean we are talking about a city population of 2.3 million people having more shootings than New York (8,5 million) and LA (3.4 million) combined.

(Below is the locations of shootings for 2016 – the clear circle in the lake – directly parallel to Broadview -is where downtown Chicago lies )

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Today there has already been, in 2016, more shootings than all of 2015. With over 2,588 shooting incidents, more than 3,173 people have been injured, and 543 confirmed dead. That is more than 50 percent higher than this time last year. (*Chicago Police Department Data)

I hope that helps you paint a picture.

A picture of where my brother-in-law spent most of his childhood. A childhood, where he will admit that he had more than most, but was still faced with the reality of having to navigate through the difficult times the the south side of Chicago has always been known for. Where his father always made sure that he had his pants up high and his hat on straight so he wouldn’t cause any attention to himself. Where he was taught, that even though he was allowed 4 people in his car, he knew that he should never pack the car because of the perception it could give a police officer. Or how, even today, he knows he will have to teach his son, my nephew, to make sure he is confident, his head tall, shoulders high, but not to be arrogant so people of authority don’t take it the wrong way. To teach him that he must always play two sides of the line.

Are you taken back?! Do you understand?!

Before this interview, I can honestly say,  I did not understand.

I mean I felt like I had grown up with the some of the same ‘disadvantages’ as Rob. Meaning I saw or experienced poverty. I had been involved with violence and discriminated against. I grew up fighting. Fighting to have what others were given and what I felt, in a way, owed.  I was almost upset with how he could not understand that. How could he tell me that  I don’t ‘understand’ when I grew up on food stamps (at points in time) and knew all too well about fighting for your right?!

But this is what I failed to comprehend until we had this hard, but much needed conversation, and all I needed to do was simply ask, “how can you help me understand?!”

Rob’s answer, changed my whole perspective …

“I joke with my wife that your family could be a perfect south side family, minus  

             the whole colour thing. I don’t doubt  you are non sympathetic with it, what you have   

             experienced. The biggest thing, or biggest difference, or even your family    

             wouldn’t get, is just the way we were taught the “way we were thing”. The way 

             we were conditioned to think. 

             You might have been raised to question things, even be tuned in, but there is no 

             questioning, there is no beating around the rules for me, from where I come  

             from. Because if I do question, I feel that could be singled out of as an African  

             American. The rules are there for us to follow, rather right or wrong. We don’t 

             get the opportunity to ask those questions of why. 

             The research actually shows that there are more white Americans in   

             poverty than black Americans, but that doesn’t change how we are looked upon 

             differently.

             This set of rules – a reality – is something we (the public) don’t really talk 

            about. 

             That goes back to when my parents who were born in ’61. Things weren’t great then 

             but things were becoming less segregated. The way that they raised me was all that I knew. 

             My father never wanted me to take a chance that I would mouth of to the wrong person.

             They really raised me with a “don’t talk back, don’t mouth up” to people of authority. He

            raised me in a way that would allow me to understand the way the world really works. Do

            what I am told and don’t argue.  To conform was a way that they thought we would be the

            safest. 

           The main thing – we just had to do things slightly different. Make sure I do them 

           the right way and staying off the radar, even if I am doing it the right way.

            I will never use being African-American as a crutch, it’s just the truth with having 

           to grow up with a different ‘set of rules.’

           And lastly, unless something changes, it presents a very scary time to raise 

           children because there use to be a time where you felt as if  you kept your head 

           down, got an education, moved to the suburbs – did things the right way – that 

          would keep me safe, us safe. 

          But now, with all the attention that’s going on, who knows how an officer will 

          approach me – whether right or wrong – it is scary time bc you just don’t know 

          what people are thinking. Everyone is on edge. I don’t think a police officer needs 

         to be afraid to walk up to the car but now, you never know what they are thinking 

          or in their mind, what they are thinking. It could get better, but we have to 

          navigate now. It’s not easy. “

        You see what his words made me see, for the first time, is that every morning when I get in my car, I never think ‘what if.’ It has never crossed my mind, that one day, when I am driving my kids to school that an officer will look at me and pull me over just because of my skin colour or even because I am driving with my wife. Or that when I was 16 years old and driving all my friends around that I had anything to be cautious about because why would I?! I was following the rules, right?!

Our world, our world is one where we have not yet broken free from the hatred of the ones before us. You see no one is born racist, no one is born with a love for Jesus, or for Buddha, or for maybe no God at all. We are all taught. We are all taught and molded from the ones that brought us into this world. Meaning, we all have the power to change this! To finally being able to say, “no I do not understand what it’s like to walk in your shoes but I can start to try. Allow me to see and do everything I can to help.”

So how do we start the change, how do we start to understand?!

“We have to talk about it. We start to ask the hard questions and then humbly 

           accept the answers. We don’t try to change them, we have an open dialogue     

          about it and no matter how many conversations about it, unless you walk a mile in 

           someone else’s shoes – its hard to sympathize what they are going through. But    

          the bottom line is, if you haven’t walked in their shoes, you can understand it but          

          you are not me.” – Rob Williams.

      So, yes I know that I am not an African American, but I am still a minority.

I am a minority in the right that I have a wife and that I face discrimination almost everyday. Some of you may never understand that or even care to try but why?!

Why do we continue to allow our past to dictate our present?! How can we say we are changing when the truth of the matter is we still believe what our fore fathers taught us.

I mean, its like saying we all accept the flip phone instead of the iPhone 7.

You might laugh, but it is true.

We allow ourselves to be ruled by our history instead of the courage, mistakes, losses, and gains to who we have all become today.

And so, I leave you with this, from THE Maya Angelou

“I have had so many rainbows in my clouds. I have had a lot of clouds but I have had so                         many rainbows in my clouds and one of the things that i do when i stand on that stage, when i stand up to translate, when i go to teach my classes, when i go to direct a movie, i bring everyone who has ever been kind to me with me. Black, White, Asian, Spanish speaking, Native American, gay, straight, and everybody. I say come with me, Im going on the stage. Come with me I need you now. Long did, you see. So I don’t ever feel I have no help. I’ve had rainbows in the clouds and the thing to do it seems to me is to prepare yourself so that you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call god the same name you call god if they call god at all. You see I may not eat the same dishes prepared the way you do. I may not dance your dances or speak your language but be a blessing to somebody. Thats what i think.”

What would the world be like if we all thought this way?!

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Never Give Up.

This blog is my first entry for themotivenation.ca

This website is one that Erin has created to help motivate the world.  It is where she will have monthly features on different ‘motivators’.  She will help tell their stories and share a quote that the live by. Then by those words, she will create many different avenues for their quote to inspire others, and the truth behind why they do that for them.

For example, starting September, she will doing her first feature piece on Benoit Huot who is a 19 time Canadian Para Olympian Medalist and whose quote is “Never Give Up.”

My part in this project, is to take their quote, and help share stories that bring out the power of those words.

So, without further adieu …

NEVER GIVE UP.

As an almost 10 year Professional Athlete aka veteran, I can understand those words. I can understand the weight that comes with them. The tears that come so quickly to the surface as I think of moments where I almost gave up, where I thought there was no way I could possibly keep going.

However, that is not what comes to my mind now.

All I can think of is the last 4 month, as a wife, to a 4 time World Cup participant and 2 time Olympian who has just had her third Olympics taken away from her due to a 3rd ACL.

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A third ACL injury, where she actually played through it to help her team qualify for the Olympics.

Yep, you read it right! Erin McLeod, Canada’s #1 keeper, played through a qualifying tournament without an ACL. Not only the game vs Coast Rica, where they won, but also a Cup Game and ten minutes of a quarter finals match in Champions League.

How do I know this?!

Well as her mother and I sat in the waiting room in Malmo, to hear how her surgery went, the doctor came out to ask us when exactly did she think she tore it? He asked that because the greatest damage of her ACL, that he found,was not from 3 weeks before from the Champions League game. He said the damage would have been from a month or two before, or even a couple months before that. (The CL game was just the final push on her knee)

I won’t even even get into details how she was asked to play with it wrapped up! Yeah I know it sounds nuts, but that could have been an answer to get her through the Olympics, but ultimately that would be (most likely) ending her career.

So, like I said, never give up.

My wife made the decision to do just that.

She chose faith. She chose a path where the pain would be unimaginable, not only from the surgery but all the other thorns that come with it. She chose the decision which would allow her to continue on this crazy journey of chasing her dream. That has so many unknowns, sacrifices, defeats, but also joy, courage, honour, and fight.

So here she is, almost 4 months into her ten month rehab process, and trying to find her way. Trying to find her way while the team she has called her “family,” (for 15 years) is playing in the Olympics. A team, where she has sacrificed everything, to become a medal contender.

The best way I can explain it, from the outside, is like coming up with all the pieces of an app like ‘Twitter’ and then a couple months before you launch it, this million/billion dollar app, you have to take sick leave.

So as you watch, at home, you see the product. The product where you have put everything into it, with your teammates/friends/family, and then what them enjoy all the success.

You hopefully even do feel a part of it, in some way, but the world, and you standing on the podium is a dream you simply have to just let go. A dream that has pushed you through the grueling workouts, the time away from your family, the holidays missed, the birthdays forgotten, etc…

That does not meant that you are not happy to see all the people who have sweated, cried, laughed, and dedicated most of their lives (with you) to succeed. It just means there is no remedy.

There is no answer or words that can be said to make it okay or easier. It is just a pain that you have to find a way to work through, a pain that can be shattering, and humbling all at the same time.

A pain where a wife can only really grab a box of tissues and say; it will be okay …

Now, of course, there are good moments. There are days were we can, she can, understand the journey and power of faith. Where the pain can turn into inspiration and pure grit. Or maybe even better with a new tattoo;p (Moms that was for you ha)

In summary.

Life, as we know it, is a roller coaster. Like any journey and dream is in life. Its about riding the ups with incredible joy and then holding onto those moments as you go through the crippling downs.

I know in my life I have gone through some downward spirals, where I just wanted the day to be over, because I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know and can respect that that is where my wife is now.

Where she is in a place of asking why a lot more than saying thank you. These moments, we can all see in our own lives, and as hard as they are then, if we hold on, it usually turns into the moments we become incredibly grateful for later.

This month, to me, is about finding a way to lift your head when you feel the chains won’t allow you to take one more step. That whether you are an Olympian fighting for your chance on the stand, a veteran fighting to find her way without her sport, or a wife trying to simply be a number one fan.

It’s simple: Never Give Up.

Because if is truly your dream, you will always find a way, to simply lift your head …

1/2 Way There…

I am going to blame this on the jet lag but all I can think about right now is, “half way there, ohhhh oh, living on prayer…” That puts the first half of our season into perspective ha.

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Even though we have been here for 7 months, we are now officially half way, with finishing in November. I think the best way for me to describe me on the pitch so far is this…

“Doubt Me. Hate Me. Rate Me. Shake Me. Break Me. NOW Watch ME.”

That was posted by my friend Ms. Carli Lloyd. Now her and I might be fighting for different things but I think it all comes down to respect, respect for our craft, and something we have dedicated our whole lives too. Granted, she could probably fund my career with her Nike contract alone ha, we have both made sacrifices that only our “inner” circle will ever truly understand.

I say that because a couple weeks ago I was approached by a reporter who said (give or take), “Do you have anything to say to those people who said that you were only picked by Rosengard because you were Erin’s wife?!”

At first, I was angry, then I was proud. I mean my wife must be a pretty big deal for a top 5 team in Europe to sign me to a two year contract just because “I am her wife” and don’t forget that that means year round pay ;p

I get it, I have no ego with admitting my wife is a bigger deal than me, but here is the truth of the matter.

I am 30, I am married, I (now) have a family to help support, and I know that I am worth more than a 3k pay check for 6 months.

And that 3k is before taxes and includes the money needed for paying rent, making my car payment, cell phone, groceries, etc …

I don’t mean that in a way where I am not thankful for being a Pro, but I disagree with the NWSL on how we had NO negotiating rights to our contract. Meaning that when I signed my rookie year I was locked in for as long as ‘they’ saw fit.

Every year it was a one year plus one year with a 5% increase of pay, no matter what. I had no rights to say IF i wanted to leave a team or stay. Oh and don’t forget we only get paid for 6 months but get told what, where, and when we can play for 12.

So let me rephrase. . .

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Malmo needed a defender. So when I came in September for my tryout, that was the position they saw me at. However, after an injury to a forward, I was moved up top and took full advantage of it. (10 goals, 4 assists, in 13 games)

Yes, I was sad to leave Houston, especially when I was so invested in the team and really believed in the girls around me. However, after 6 years Pro in the states, I realized that I would rather try and fail in Europe or simply be just a wife than to play in the states where the NWSL has made a living of making non US players feel unwanted, replaceable, and unstable.

It was simply too much. It was too much for me to be a part of a league where the  US national team players seem to be the ONLY focus. Where 16 players, give or take, on each team get over looked continually when they should be getting incredible praise for keeping the league alive!

Don’t get me wrong. I completly understand how important the national team girls are to the fans, but you can’t use the statement, “they put fans in the seats.”

You can’t say that as you see Portland pull  in 17k plus with not one national team girl on the pitch.

You can’t say that because the clubs choose to focus on them for media coverage compared to the inspirational stories of so many others that stand in front of them.

We all know that maybe 5 of the NT players change crowds by the hundreds… the rest… well lets just say I have been mistaken at least 5 times for Meghan Klingenberg ha. I mean, I’ll take the compliment, but come on, my bangs make up her hair ha. #thickhairmatters

Again, I am not taking away from the US players, because honestly it is not their fault.

They are put there because of the ideology of many of the clubs, when now, with being away, I see that it can be such a different way.

Now I see, how ALL over the world, leagues have been successful having the club be on the same level as national team. Where you have to be there to earn your right, where only international breaks is when the NT girls are gone, and where club training is just as respectable as the national team.

Not because of the price behind it, but because of the women that we call teammates. The women standing shoulder to shoulder,with you, who are getting paid 6k for 6 months but choose to sacrifice everything to have the opportunity to tie up their laces with their name on the back of a Professional jersey…

To so many, that is their dream, and they would do absolutely anything for them to live it.

I mean who wouldn’t?!

I will end with this.

FC Rosengard is by far the most professional club I have ever played for and it has nothing to do with the BIG gestures (ex stadiums) but because of the little ones. It is because they believe in the details a full time Physio who believes its his honour to help us out, who wants to be there and has years of experience, a full time massage therapist, a gym membership, a locker room at our field, our laundry washed, and in an environment where it’s not just about 1 or 2 players, but a roster of 18 who believes in the team first not the name on the back.

It is because we have a coach, an assistant coach, a GM, etc who shows up before us and leaves  way after us. A coach who believes in the group over an individual and takes the time to treat us as the same as the men’s Pro team he coached before.

In summary:

NWSL does matter for the generations to come, but maybe, maybe the little things (gestures, people) will finally start to matter so it CAN be a league that is an honour to play FOR not just with.

Til next time …

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Anxiety.

I figured, you guys, are used to me getting to the point and with this being one of my newest blog posts, I figured I would …. “start it off with a bang”

You see, my life right now is … well … the best it has ever been.

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I don’t mean this in a cocky way, so just bare with me …

In the last 6 months:

– I have been able to experience Newly Wed bliss

– Signed with a top team in Europe – along with my wife nonetheless

 – Played Champions League

  *and one of the most estranged facts of my career

– for the first time, after 8 years Professionally, I am getting paid year round.

I can’t remember a time in my life where all of this lined up, meaning professionally and personally where I have absolutely no complaints.

That is exactly why none of this makes sense …

It started around the beginning of December with chest pains.

At first I thought it was because I had some sort of sinus infection plus a bit of neck pain. However, after the chest pains started to subside, the headaches came, then the nausea, which turned into weight loss and sleepless nights.

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Bless this fan, she had no idea, but to me… well I don’t look like “me”

For the next four months, the symptoms above, became my world. My days turned from joyous moments into ones constantly searching for some type of pain. Trust me when I say, after a week of feeling any of those symptoms above, I was ready for them to be done. I just couldn’t understand how my “own” mind was the thing that I was in a battle with. How I could be sabotaging myself even as I told myself I wasn’t. How as a Professional athlete, someone who knows her body inside out, every little tweak, every sore muscle, and nothing seemed to make sense.

You see as an athlete physical pain makes sense.

It makes sense in the “off-season” to show up at a pitch, on a treadmill, and know that you are about to attempt to push yourself past exhaustion. That you are going to have to dig deep within yourself to find the strength to go a step farther than last time. That you will continue to do that for as many, weeks, months and/or years that you have the honour of calling yourself a Pro.

So, again, what doesn’t make sense to me is this: Anxiety.

It doesn’t make sense how I can’t “fight” it. How I can’t tell it to just go away or shut my brain off when all my “symptoms” come in full force. How after 29 years, it seems all my emotional “junk” is starting to finally come to the surface. That for some reason, for the first time in my life, I can’t seem to “run”anymore.

That I have been humbled, beyond belief, these last couple of months and all because I have finally seen the power of my own subconscious, good and bad.

For example.

About a two months ago, I was again, on my couch (at night) suffering from the feeling of a swollen tongue. At this point in time, with help from the club, we had ruled out all physical aliments, and I was given the task to start trying to understand the root of my anxiety. So as I began to feel my tongue, I turned to the steps I was given to help ‘control’it …

breathe deep

focus on the in and outs of your breath

close your eyes, relax …

Unfortunatley, almost instantly it felt like I got punched in the chest. My breathing started to get more and more laboured and the pain in my chest seemed to be almost exploding.

So my instinct!? My instinct was to fight, I mean I have fought my whole life and as dumb as it sounds, I got up and started punching the air. It sounds so funny now, but to me, at that moment, it was the only thing i knew how to do.

And yes, to my surprise, it just got so much worse. I collapsed on the floor and started to sob.

You see, there I was. No complaints remember?! And yet, everything seemed so out of my control.

I just didn’t understand, how could this be me?! How could I be so helpless to my own mind?!

That night will be a night I never forget. It was a night that broke me but yet, it also allowed me to start to realize how much I needed help.

Over 40 millions adults in the US, 18 and older suffer from what is considered the most common mental illness in the US and only 1/3 actually seek treatment. We are all human and anxiety can be one ugly beast! A beast that shows many different sides and shapes, but one that YOU can overcome.

I am not too proud to say I am seeking help. I know that I am one of the lucky one’s that has an incredibly wife, family, and friends that will always pick up if I call, offer me a hand when I need it most, and be there for me at a drop of a hat.

I have started the process of staying present, understanding, and respecting “my” symptoms when they come. I am finding myself back in prayer and meditation to simply allow myself to sit with it all.

Below is a quote that one of Erin’s customers asked for with a piece of art. I can’t help and feel empowered with reading it.

“May your heart be kind, your mind fierce, and your spirit brave”

Never stop believing you are worth every moment of true inner peace.

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My rock. It feels good to have my smile back 😉

 

Til next time…