So lately Marc and I have been watching a ton of World Cup soccer. This of course means that we’ve been hurtling back and forth from one crisis to the next, wrapped up as we are in the drama and beauty of this incredible sport.
(Seriously, I’m still not sure that I took a single breath during the last five minutes of the Belgium/USA game this afternoon. And I definitely didn’t sit down for the last ten.)
Because just when you think that a team has sealed the deal – KABLAM-O!
The soccer gods are right there to wipe any and all of your silly pre-conceived notions of victory straight from your mind.
(Or any silly, victory-assumed smiles straight from your face.)
Simple mortal! You thought it would be that easy? HAH!
But one of the great things about soccer (and there are many great things), is its constant inconsistency. The fact that you are never guaranteed a victory until those final three whistles is the very thing that makes it so thrilling.
Anything can happen.
And it often does.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes a little heart-pounding, “will they, won’t they?” action is just the thing one needs.
It adds a real spice to your otherwise vanilla afternoon.
The only real downside to this, is when a massive dump of paprika manifests itself in multiple late-in-injury-time Swiss crossbar deflections.
At that point I could really do with less drama and more equalizing goal scoring.
But I digress.
(And fully acquiesce to the fact that if there is anyone out there who really deserves to win a World Cup, it’s Lionel Messi. FO SHO.)
A few other notes about the beautiful game:
1. The Heat.
Watching athletes careen about a massive soccer field in the excruciating Brazilian heat immediately negates any excuse I might have for not strapping on my running shoes and heading outside.
I mean, these dudes are sweating. There is absolutely no reason that I cannot slip on a sweet pair of sunglasses and just go out and give ‘er.
Oh my goodness gracious.
That’s all I have to say about that.
(Oh, and I also like all of those blogs that just post pictures of the players hugging. Hugging each other.)
3. Costa Rica.
I nearly burst a blood vessel cheering for these fellas over Greece.
(Or Hellas, if you’re really into rhyme schemes.)
(Because let’s face it, who isn’t?)
Sometimes, you just need to root for the underdog. Especially when said underdog played the majority of the game a man down and has a goalie who dances like he’s got a colony of ants down his trousers in an effort to confuse and intimidate his opponents come penalty shots.
Because that – that is just excellent.
So well played sir.
And hard won boys.
4. Mexico’s Coach.
Is a Digimon character.
5. The jerseys.
They are awesome this year! What I wouldn’t give to get my hands on a Belgian-Swiss combo.
(If there are any enterprising and generous readers out there who may now be thinking “care-package”, I take a woman’s small. And thank you!)
I am also partial to how the fit of these shirts really highlights item #2 on this list.
Okay, now that I have officially outed myself as a creeper McCreeperson, I am wont to bid you goodnight.
But before I do, I must ask –
Are any of you World Cup mad? And who is your team of choice?
I’ll try my very best not to sit down with you for the next ninety minutes that they play.
Sometimes transformation happens quickly, and other times it is both painstakingly slow, and, well, just plain painstaking.
Sometimes changes happens and we aren’t even aware that it is happening.
Sometimes it happens because a judge has ordered it so (although hopefully not that often!) or because outside factors (non-court sanctioned of course) have come to dictate that the current path we happen to be travelling is no longer viable.
(Picture a giant Gandalf impersonater shouting, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” – or whichever knock-off literary reference you think most fitting.)
In the end, the result is the same: we as human beings change.
I was thinking the other day about just how different my life is from this same time last year.
Sure, at the root of it all, many of the larger pieces that make me “me” are still the same: I am still with the love of my life, living in the same house, with the same mad cat.
But I have a different job, different friends (although I am lucky that many of the same old friends are still bopping about!); I am running more, and running faster.
I started comedy, and am having a harder time sticking to a regular blogging schedule despite the fact that I am trying to do more writing.
I play soccer.
I play soccer.
Now, for those of you who don’t know me – well, this is quite the departure from where I used to stand in terms of this sport.
I used to think it was pretty much the worst.
And now I absolutely love it.
Please let me explain.
But before I do, I will present to you the formal title of a three-part rant:
Things I used to hate, but now I love: How I came around to soccer, coffee, and camping
Part 1 – Soccer.
Or “football” in the parlance of all you readers residing outside of North America.
(Funny side-note: I also used to hate watching our version of football until a few years ago, and now very much enjoy it.)
Sporting evolution! It happens!
Anywho, back to soccer.
Like 99.9% of West Coast kids, I played this sport as a youngster. This meant weekends spent driving around in the fall and winter rain, running up and down soggy pitches, and trying my darndest to keep away from any and all actual ball-related action.
I was terrified of the ever-clashing elbows and ankles and shins and knees, and preferred to steer clear of both my fellow teammates and adversaries alike.
However, I did really love running, so most of my time was spent sprinting from one end of the field to the other as far away from the scrum as I could non-conspicuously manage.
I distinctly remember overhearing one of my coaches remark to a parent, “Vanessa is fast – but doesn’t seem to do much else besides run.”
Too true sir.
So – not as inconspicuous as I had hoped.
After a couple of years of this charade, and hours spent toodling around on different rec teams, I threw in the proverbial soccer towel and concentrated on the sports I actually cared about – running, badminton, and volleyball.
Fast forward to 2003, when I met the man that I would eventually marry – a lovely fellow who absolutely loved soccer, having played it at a very high level all throughout high school and who still owns two pairs of cleats (best be prepared I am always told) to this day.
During our formal courtship, he inquired if I would ever had any interest in playing soccer with him.
I promptly responded no.
But my reasoning behind my decline was no longer my fear of getting of getting hurt, or receiving a rogue elbow to a lip.
It was everything to do with the fact that, at that point in my life, I couldn’t partake in non-regulated exercise. My eating disorder dictated everything in my life (including any and all physical activity) to such a degree, that anything outside of my normal “controlled” environment was enough to bring on a panic attack.
The few times that I did try and play, everything felt awkward and wrong.
It was almost as though I could feel my body rebelling the moment I walked onto the pitch.
My skin crawled, and my stomach cramped.
In the end I told Marc that I didn’t like playing, that I thought the sport was boring.
It didn’t help, I elaborated, that I wasn’t any good at it. If I couldn’t win at the game, I said, what was the point in playing?
I passed on years of Friday night soccer matches. I watched Marc would go off and play with friends, while I stayed at home.
After my health improved I still stayed away from the pitch, afraid that the ghosts of times past would come to haunt me, the second my foot made contact with the field, the ball.
That was until, at the end of this summer, when a friend (a new friend, but a fab friend) invited me to his birthday party, the first half of which was a pick-up game of soccer.
Amazingly enough, I knew that this situation was a no-brainer. I didn’t just want to go out and play that Friday night, I needed to.
And you know what?
Despite the fact that I was the only on there without soccer cleats AND was clocked in the eye with another good friend’s shoulder, I had an absolutely fabulous time.
Instead of feeling clammy and self-conscious, I felt exhilarated and at-ease.
I actually ran towards the ball.
And I have played at least one a week since.
Marc and I like to head to the many parks in our neighbourhood and practice passing, dribbling, and penalty kicks.
I have a sweet pair of cleats that make me feel like a superstar.
And heck, when I feel like it, for old time sake – I’ll go out and wind myself, sprinting the length of the field.
Well, the Scotiabank Half-marathon went down yesterday, and overall?
I finished with a 1:33 and placed 7th in my age group. Now while this is slower than I had initially hoped for, I think for the amount of time I actually put into my training, it is more than respectable.
Because, folks, that sub-1:30 time may have been a bit of a pipe dream.
Do you any of you other runner-peeps do stuff like that? Just assume that you should just be able to do something, without really thinking about what actually goes into achieving it?
I mean, thinking back to the Sunshine Coast half in April, I trained my butt off for that run, and it paid off – I ran a PB of 1:31.
And somehow, the outcome of that achievement was the (erroneous) expectation that come the next race I would just, well, run faster. Without putting in the proper work.
How silly can a gal be?
What it has made me come to realize is that while I can proclaim that “next time gadget, it WILL be mine!”
I just need to make sure I go for, you know, more than six or so runs to ensure it happens.
Anyways, I don’t mean to be making excuses for myself, it’s just something that I was really thinking about during and after my run, and speaking of which – IT’S RECAP TIME!
Sunday morning broke beautiful. I woke to the sunny, blue sky, freckled with the odd cloud. At 5:15am I was feeling well rested and excited.
I put the coffee maker on, and then washed my face, put my hair up, and slathered on a good layer of sunscreen.
I read a bit while I ate my breakfast – banana with peanut butter, piece of plain toast, cup of coffee, and two large glasses of water – before going upstairs at 6:00 to wake up Marc.
I cannot seem to say it enough, but seriously, he is SUCH a good husband. For all of my runs, he’s up with me, driving me to the start gate, and meeting me at the finish line. I know he’s super happy to come out and cheer me on, but he told me today that my speediness on the courses definitely helps. This cracked me up.
I LOVE HIM, TRULY.
He dropped me off at the start line at UBC around 7:00. My immediate thought was to find a bathroom, for one last pee break. My one note for the organizers is that there were not NEARLY enough port-a-potties. The line-ups for the facilities were monstrous, even with a little subterfuge on my part, I barely made it out before the firing of the start gun.
Anxiety – it’ll get you going!
Because of the long bathroom waits, I didn’t get to start as close to the start line as I would have liked, which meant that for the first 2 – 2.5 km I was bobbing and weaving in and out of people like Cassius Clay. At kilometer three, my attention briefly switched from finding my spot amongst all the runners to the AMAZING tuba band playing at the side of the course.
They were playing My Sharona.
ON THE TUBA.
I cannot really begin to describe just how epically amazing this was.
All in all, over the first 5k I was feeling pretty good – my strides were long, and my breathing quiet.
Up until I reached the six kilometer mark, and encountered five young men, each holding up signs with Forrest Gump quotes. Normally when I am running, I don’t respond much to supporters on the sidelines. I mean, they really pump me up, but I try not to channel my energy away from concentrating on the mechanics of my run.
However, if you know me, you know that I love this movie, and can pretty much quote the entire film at length.
I couldn’t help myself. As I ran past a guy with a sign that said, “RUN FORREST RUN!” I turned and yelled at him, “I GOTTA FIND BUBBAAAAA!”
He burst out laughing, and yelled right back, “JENNNNNNNNAAAAYYYY!”
I was past him by then, but I raised my hand and gave him the peace sign.
NOW. While this was all well and good (and hilarious, and I loved it) yelling out that quote really winded me, and it look me probably 1.5 km to get my stuff – breathing, stride, etc. – back in order.
“No more funny stuff Vanessa,” I told myself.
Running down the hill to Jericho beach I felt like I was flying. My mood was boosted even further when to my surprise, we ran past a bagpipe band at one of the parking lots, just up the road from Spanish Banks.
My “no funny stuff” plan was going absolutely great until about kilometer 10, when, down at the beach, I ran past two course photographers and without really thinking, I just catapulted myself into the air, and made the craziest, happiest face I could possibly muster.
The two of them laughed and thanked me for a great shot.
Great shot maybe, but that second burst of energy only served to zap me all over again.
Then I saw the split times at 10.5 km.
41 minutes!? Holy Dinah, I was moving, and most definitely too quick at that.
I told myself not to think about it, and just concentrate on moving as it felt comfortable. As soon as the pace started to hurt, I made sure to adjust accordingly.
Around kilometer thirteen, I zoned in on a few women who were running ahead of me, and made a point of trying to keep them in my sights.
I cannot lie, it was over the next three km that things really began to hurt. I could feel blisters forming on both of my feet, and overall, I just felt tired.
I tried to keep my strides as short and quick as I could, especially with every uphill (no matter how minor) I encountered.
At kilometre fifteen a young woman spectator yelled out, “I love Big Sisters too!” in response to my shirt. This definitely served to lift my spirits and put a bit of a spring back in my step.
Unfortunately, this pep was relatively short lived, and even just trying to grab water at the seventeen km station was difficult.
I felt like my arm was moving in molasses and I had to really slow down to make sure I even managed to grab the cup.
From there, all I could think about was getting over the bridge and getting to the finish line.
It’s strange. I love running. I LOVE it. But there are times, I tell you, when I cannot understand what the heck it was that compelled me to take part in this absolutely bonkers pastime, and everything in my being is shouting at me to just STOP.
Walk. Go lie down in that cool looking grass. Make this madness end.
But somehow, I just keep trucking.
I just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Amazingly, once I got to kilometre nineteen, things started to actually fall back into place. Nineteen to twenty flashed by, and that very last kilometer, although painful, was over before I knew it.
I wasn’t surprised when I saw the timer as I pulled into the finish line.
There was no way I was going to pull off a sub-1:30 with the pace I had held for the second half of the race.
But in the end, it didn’t matter.
Marc was there, cheering me on.
I received a lovely medal, and all the water, bananas, cookies, and yogurt that I could get my hands on.
And I raised $1,165.00 for Big Sisters, an organization that is near, and dear to my heart.
So while I chase the ever-elusive personal best, today I will sit on the couch, drink some chocolate soy milk, and enjoy.
When we were sixteen, my doubles partner Kristy and I were invited to compete at that year’s Boston Open which was being held at MIT.
Important background information: I used to play competitive junior national badminton. YES I AM AWARE OF HOW NERDY THAT IS SOUNDS – YOU DON’T NEED REMIND ME.
This invitation was very, very exciting news for us.
One, the tournament was taking place on the cusp of Spring Break, so our attendance was basically guaranteeing us an extra long vacation from school, plus the opportunity to spend said extra days IN BOSTON BLOODY MASCHECHUSETTES.
(OMG! I JUST SPELLED MASCHECHUSETTES CORRECTLY ON MY FIRST TRY!)
Ed. update: Okay, obviously I didn’t spell it correctly. But why the fresh hell did it not come up on my spell check? What weird Canadian word of ours is MASCHECHUSETTES!?
Two, we were just at the point where our parents were letting us go to away tournaments by ourselves, and we couldn’t think of anything more fun than bopping about Harvard in between our matches SANS CHAPERONES.
And third, as highly competitive athletes, we wanted to bring our special brand of Canadian kick-ass States-side and see just what kind of damage we could bring to old’ Beantown.
I honestly cannot describe to you how excited I was when our parents gave us the okay to go.
And when I say that the trip was totally bonkers, that, my friends, is no lie.
1.) Flying to Boston on the redeye Wednesday night, deliriously tired, I turned to Kristy and said, “Look how close the moon is!”
She just stared at me, before responding, “WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT THAT IS THE WING LIGHT.”
Good times! Also, this trip took place pre-9/11 so we actually got to go visit the cockpit and chat with the pilots. Can you believe it?
2.) When we arrived in Boston we were picked up by our homestay family, only to quickly learn that we wouldn’t actually be staying in the city proper, but a suburb located approximately forty-five minutes (to an hour) outside of the downtown core.
This was a surprise to us.
3.) Normally homestay families provide meals (usually breakfast and dinner) for the entirety of the athletes’ stay. We were gifted a bag filled with a dozen frozen bagels and a giant fruit salad from Whole Foods.
I ate quite a bit of dried cereal bought from 7/11 over the length of the weekend.
And by cereal I mean penny candy.
4.) Upon arrival at the house we were told that we would actually be driving ourselves to the tournament. Our billets had recently won a car in a fundraiser raffle, and we were to use this car to transport ourselves to Boston and back. We liked to refer to it as the cardboard car.
We had two pages worth of directions, one “new” drivers license (Kristy) and one “learners” license (me) between the two of us.
Driving in that first morning was harrowing and a half.
Oh, hello giant semi-truck encroaching in our space in this turnpike!
5.) I forgot all my shorts at home and had to play the entire weekend in the spandex shorts I would normally wear under my regular shorts to keep my muscles warm between games. Because of this some guy wearing a “YALE” t-shirt sat at the back of every court on which I played, watching my every move.
To this day I just refer to him as the YALE CREEPER.
6.) One afternoon we went to a coffee shop at MIT and the flirty barista gave us a GIANT plastic bag filled with six years of Canadian coinage.
7.) I beat an ex-junior national champion in my quarter final singles game and she threw one of the most impressive post-game tantrums I have ever witnessed. Broken racquets and everything.
8.) On our last night at our homestay, their son Don asked Kristy if she wanted to go down to the river and watch the moon with him. She politely declined.
9.) I started reading Catcher in the Rye while in Boston and finished it on the plane ride home. This EXPLODED my brain and as such, I spent the next three months pretending to be Holden Caulfield anytime I wrote ANYTHING.
10.) I made it to the semi-finals in singles, and we also made the semis in doubles. All the rest of our time was spent shopping (I bought a number of sundresses and peasant shirts – remember them? – at Target), walking around the campus, laughing at everything possible, and just generally being the silly, sixteen year old girls that we were.
Twelve years later I remember this trip like it was yesterday. We still laugh about it anytime we get together, and goodness knows the myth of the cardboard car will live on and on for the remainder of my days.
I would also love to return to Boston.
But this time, I’ll stay right in the heart of the city.
When I asked him to sum up his fascination with the man, he responded:
“BECAUSE HE MAKES IT RIGHT! COME ON!”
As a journeyman carpenter, he also enjoys the practical aspect of Mr. Holmes’ show.
“I never really got to see the construction of a house from beginning to end. I like how much I learn watching him, and I like seeing how Mike has grown as a contractor, how much he’s learned over the run of his show. He’s obviously committed to helping people, but also encouraging others to perform the best possible work – not only among the people he works with, but within the industry in general. They just do really good work.
“It also gives me lots of great ideas of what I would like to do with our house.”
I too like Mike. Not necessarily for the same reasons that M does, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t pretty darn affecting to see how grateful people are for the help they receive from Mr. Holmes and his crew.
(I may or may not cry regularly during the last ten minutes of the show.)
For reality programming, it’s certainly not your run-of-the mill “how desperately can one person embarrass themselves over the course of fifty-two minutes?”
(Aka it’s one of those exceedingly rare “positive” breeds of reality tv.)
I mean, other than highlighting all the shoddy work being down by crap, pass-the-buck companies, episodes are enough to make the hardest heart grow three sizes (plus Mike probably has a tool for that.)
And at the very least hopefully viewers be extra careful when considering having work done on their house.
Remember: References people, REFERENCES!
This weekend we trekked up to the Sunshine Coast for a mini getaway.
We were gone only two days, but the weather during this time was all over the map.
(This is, depending on your taste, one of the best or worst qualities of life on the west coast of British Columbia. For my part, I like the variety.)
At the ferry terminal, I espied these two birdies, hanging out, having a chin-wag together:
These two feathered friends stirred something in me. The morning of M’s and my wedding, he sent me a beautiful bracelet to wear with my dress. This was the card that accompanied the gift:
Whist on the ferry we encountered some insane fog. I went out to take some photos and the gentleman standing to my right turned to face me as I snapped away.
“It’s like we’re heading into Narnia,” he said laughing.
I nodded. “Either that or the Gray Havens. Being on a ship and I all.” I answered.
“Of course the Gray Havens!” He exclaimed, almost as if he was sad that his brief lapse in nerd knowledge was intensely disappointing to him.
“We’re not exactly crossing walking into a wardrobe here,” he muttered.
This was taken facing Horshoebay:
This was heading towards Port Melllon:
Driving past Sechelt, up towards the cabin, we encountered a lot of fog.
The route all of a sudden became a little bit more mysterious, and a little bit more exciting. While the mist gave our travel time more character and a decidedly more somber moo (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), needless to say that the views were not what you normally get when heading up that way.
Not that I’m complaining.
As soon as we arrived, I took some photos of the dock, before warming myself in front of the wood burning stove.
Later that evening, I froze my feet taking photos of the how spooky the water looked, lit-up amid the night boat lights and fog.
That is some exorcist stuff, if I ever saw it. EEP.
For the rest of the weekend we ran, cooked, watched Eli Manning and his compatriots (no double entendre intended) run over New England’s defence, and played more rounds of Trivial Pursuit Genius Edition (released in 1981!) than we could count.
I was seriously on the verge of peeing my pants at some points, I was laughing so hard.
Every time one of us drew a history card, and it happened to be something like, “Who was Truman’s vice-presidential running mate?” we’d lose it, before guessing some random “American” sounding name.
“Ummm, Harold Williams?”
Although, my favourite of the night was:
Who lived at Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, with his pet duck named Dab Dab?
Good grief, I was crying with laughter as I attempted to choke this question out for M. For serious, I now know my life will never be complete until I acquire a duck and name it Dab Dab.
This morning the water was completely frozen over (and again I froze my little feets when I ventured out to take these photos at 7:30am. The clouds looked like milk, frothed, and spotted pink in places, making candy-coloured striations fly across the length of the sky.
As I ran my favourite ten kilometre route (in the whole wide world) my breath hung close, suspended in the frigid air. Couples out walking their dogs nodded to me, and I smiled and waved back, concentrating on my breathing, and stride length.
At one end of the loop, the fog clung to the tall firs, and spindly pines, the air smelled like fresh sod and salt cod, my cheeks stung cold, and my hands burned hot.
My feet, legs, hips, arms – back and forth, one and two, sprinting to my finish line, where freshly strewn pine needles, and the contented call of water fowl mark my place in my self-timed race.