From my limited viewpoint, nothing earth-shattering or life-changing happened for my family and me in 2013. More seemed the same than different — something like twelve months circling for a landing. It may be the impact of aging: when you’ve seen about 60 years, at times they seem to blur together. But most of life is lived in small movements, routines and commitments. So in the midst of another year I will attempt to draw out some of the special moments and happenings from my corner of Planet Earth.
(My) book of the year and favorite gift find. One day while filling in as an elementary school librarian, I found my favorite book of the year, The Gift of Nothing (2005) by Patrick McDonnell. The book is a short, simple, sweet reflection on life and what really matters. While I may never be able to fully live into the message, any progress along the way is worth the effort. I gave a copy to my wife for Christmas. We have often talked about what we “really need” in the way of life and gifts and the book was a perfect symbol of our shared values and journey.
A new volunteer opportunity. Through connections in the local school community, I was asked to volunteer with Special Olympics. I helped with basketball, bowling and soccer. The human-interest stories about kids in Special Olympics have become such common news fodder that they may have little impact for many. Do not be fooled. Through helping with Special Olympics I am able to be present for, and in a way share in, moments when athletes and supportive family and community members experience the fullness of life and joy that transcends what most of us drift through on a daily basis.
A new learning opportunity. I became a referee for middle and high school girls’ basketball. I have always loved basketball, I like helping kids and I thought I could benefit from the extra exercise. I went through the training, testing and began calling games. I soon found myself to be the proverbial deer in the headlights. The pace of the game and pressure of responsibility overwhelmed me. I dreaded each assignment. I learned that I am not good at refereeing and don’t like it. Not one little bit.
A surprise reconnection. I was asked by a denominational leader to be a coach for a church in a transformation process. I was initially matched with a church about an hour away. At the last minute, a call came requesting I switch to another church. That second church just happened to be one that I was on staff with from 1985–1997. It has been a bit surreal. I have enjoyed reconnecting with some friends and meeting new members. The congregation has become something very different and I hope I am different as well.
Best decision: I quit refereeing basketball! The coordinator tried to talk me into sticking it out for a second year with promises of “it gets better” and “you’ll start to love it.” I was not convinced. I hated the pressure and the possibility of negatively impacting a game. Now every time I watch a game or walk through a gym, I am assured I made the right choice.
(My) movie of the year: Closure. “Closure is a documentary about a trans-racial adoptee (Angela) who finds her birth mother, and meets the rest of a family who didn’t know she existed, including her birth father.” We know Angela and her family. She grew up in Bellingham and worked with my wife for a period of time. Adoption is a significant part of our family story. Closure a great movie!
Two are better than one. It has happened innumerable times over the decades we have been married, those moments when Connie (my wife) and I draw together and overcome a challenge, big or small. There were two situations in late 2013 that quickly come to mind — moments that had unforeseen beginnings, in which emotions could have been irreparably damaged and relationships severed. Together we chose to keep breathing, be proactive and avoid cheap interpersonal battles. We found time and space to process and support each other and make shared decisions. Listening and laughter replaced disastrous moves that might have derailed significant relationships and brought a shadow over our future days.
A lesson learned. I work as a substitute teacher to supplement my self-employment income. Having taught middle school in the 70s, I decided to give middle school physical education a try. Part of my teaching involved PE and coaching. I wanted to see if the current reality was as bad as I presumed. After the one-day experience I choose to honor mothers everywhere (”If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”). I will say nothing more on this subject.
“You’re telling me there’s a chance.” Sports fans in the Pacific Northwest have an inferiority complex. We believe in the east coast bias. We feel ignored (if not abused) by referees, league officials and other fans. Listen to announcers try to say “Oregon.” This year brought some vindication through the rise of a number of Northwest teams into the national spotlight. Here is an overview of “my” teams in 2013. The Seahawks came through big time (so far) and the Timbers and Trailblazers (so far) exceeded my expectations. The Ducks crushed my hopes in football (by not going all the way), but are showing promise in basketball. Lastly, the Mariners were once again…the Mariners.
Best moment of 2013. For about 25 years we have gone camping on Orcas Island. It started with our boys, spending days at the lake and scouting the island. As the boys grew, we invited other family members and friends, although Connie and I were the only two on the trip for a couple of years. In August 2013 all of our kids and grandkids were there, except for our youngest son. He had been through a recent job transition that impacted his vacation schedule. We considered various options that would allow him to join us, but the travel difficulties (getting to the island requires driving and a ferry ride) and time constraints (he had only one day off) eliminated the possibility. In mid-week our daughter-in-law returned from a trip “get groceries” only to surprise us with Kyle stepping out of the car. The momentary joy of being together, even for a short time, made the week and memories that much better.