Titans Never Stop

Today our Jr. Upper School Soccer Team had a match against another team from another school. Although both are junior teams, our team is mostly grade 8s and some grade 9s. The team they were playing had one grade 9 player and the rest were all grade 10 students. Needless to say the bodies of most 13-14 year-olds pale in comparison to those of 15-16 year-olds.
Nevertheless, our boys don’t let size determine their attitude or game. They go to the field and play hard. 

While cheering from the sidelines and when we were 1-0 to them, I heard the other coach prep one player with this: “One on one they can’t outrun us, they can’t compete with us”.

I could feel my blood boiling. At first I thought “oh it’s just my lion mama heart and brain wanting to kick the coaches b… because he was implying that my one and only, but most importantly fighter and determined son, could not compete with his big players”. That his team mates, many of which I have seen grow as players, were not enough for these “big boys”. Yes, I admit that my protective side may have turned on. However, after careful thought I realized that I was most upset about this coaches’ train of thought. Are you implying to your players that they could win just because of their size or just because their muscles would make them more powerful? Are you saying to your players that skill and hard work do not matter? That it was a piece of cake? How cocky is that? Instead of motivating them to give as much as they can and reach whatever their personal best is individually and as a team, you, their guide and coach, are telling them to rely on the other team’s apparent weaknesses? How about developing and growing soccer and team skills? 

The truth is that facts speak loudly than words and we tied one to one and had to go to a penalty shoot out to decide the game. 

Although our boys lost in penalties, we all know that what really mattered was said during the actual game. Size and physical power don’t make winners. Winners are made by fighting, by believing in what you have to bring to the table, by continuously improving, by supporting each other and never ever giving up because Titans Never Stop!

I am guilty too

For the last couple of months I’ve been thinking about writing a post on judging people.  I am very active online and I continuously see posts where experts – actual and self-proclaimed– judge, question and make absolute and rigid statements on the rest of the world around them.

I have to be honest, it really annoys me. But because I firmly believe that everyone is free to post and use their social media the way they want – it’s theirs after all– I’ve held my horses.

Until a few weeks ago when I realized I am also guilty of judging and criticizing based on what I think I see.

We live in a great city, a city full of growth, development and opportunities. But like any other city, not everyone is thriving. We have people that live on the streets, yes, even beautiful Vancouver has homeless people. In Vancouver, most of them gather in the same area, it’s called the Vancouver Downtown East Side (DTES).  If you do some research online you will find hundreds of articles, opinions and plans for the DTES.  But that’s not the main topic of this post.

One Saturday afternoon of this past August, a friend posted a call out for volunteers to serve lunch in Feed the Hungry (now called Peace Meal), a program that serves lunch once a month to homeless in the DTES.  They said young people were welcomed so I signed us up for the late Sunday shift.

When I explained to my son the area where we would be, he said he was a bit scared but agreed to do it. The boys (we had a cousin only 6 months older than my son visiting) decided to volunteer in the kitchen plating the meals and I chose to be a server.

The experience was so humbling. Almost everyone was very kind and thankful. They would all say thank you, most of them would look me in the eyes, and many complimented the food and thanked us for our time. Some went even further and told me how hungry they were and how good this meal would be for them. I saw all of them pack up some of the food for later or for somebody else. Everyone was very respectful, they would sit and wait for their turn, many of them engaged in conversation with us or with other people having lunch and a handful had their pets and they (the pets) also were very well-behaved.

I left feeling content but overwhelmed. I felt once again blessed not only for the material things that I have access to, but for the family and friends that have emotionally supported me in times when life threw me curve balls and when the mere act of waking up felt like a burden.  I had and continue to have a tribe of people that support me when I am down, when I need an extra hand. Don’t get me wrong, my life has been full of great things and people, I have no mental health issues, I am educated and have a body that albeit achy sometimes, serves me more than well. But seeing how lonely and avid for connections many of these people were made me realize how important it is to have loving arms and ears when we feel that we cannot make it on our own, regardless of the reason.

I was disappointed with myself. I was too guilty of judging. Yes, whenever I would drive by the DTES I would give them a cold shoulder, I would say that the mental health issues that many face are not excuse for the poor and terrible choices that landed most of them on the streets, I would state without room for error that they were all dangerous, uneducated and probably a threat to everyone around them. I would avoid the area, I would pull up my windows and use it as a teaching moment for my son.  Without even knowing it, I had also sat on my high horse judging those that were not sitting by my side. I did not give them the benefit of the doubt, I thought I had it all figured it out about each of them, about their past, their present and their future. As it turns out, I was wrong. Each of those people living on the streets are unique. If you are brave enough to challenge your convenient ideas and look further, if you look at them as human beings and are open to embrace who they are, you will undoubtedly see that we are all the same: human beings longing for acceptance and connection, a kind word and a judgment-free area.

So I pledge that the next time I feel like judging someone, I would take a deep breath and think about the person I am about to judge, I will try hard not to get stuck in their past decisions and would try my best to only look at who they are today. I would ask myself: what do they need? what do they want? how can I help? What can I learn from them? I would work at making a connection from one human being to another human being. Want to join me?

 

Wings are not so easy to handle

We constantly repeat and hear things like “we want our children to be independent” “you only learn when you make mistakes” “give your children wings“.  But as one of my best friends said once: It is easier to call the devil than to see it coming.

Anyway, we have a very independent teen in our house. He is 13 but due to safety reasons in our home country, he never walked to school or rode a bike alone or took a bus. Things have changed though, now we live in beautiful BC and it was only a matter of time for him to want those things. For those of you that don’t live here, riding a bike in BC means being on the road, some have bike lanes but not all of them, so you basically share the road with cars. It took as a while to let him bike by himself, we studied the best roads for him to get to a specific destination and he’s been out 5-6 times alone. It is nerve wrecking I admit, but soon he’d be legally able to drive a car so it was hard to delay the biking.

And then the bus thing just happened. Last week with friends, but yesterday he wanted to go a specific soccer field by bus by himself, back and forth. Both my husband and I could have driven him, but we decided to zip it and we said ok. We checked the bus lines with him, agreed the best stops and the time to catch each bus. He made it without issues to the field. Coming back I called to check on him when I knew he was supposed to be on the bus and he says: “Hey mom, well I took the wrong bus and I am in downtown, but don’t worry, I already asked, I know which bus will take me home and I am just waiting for the bus to arrive”.

My whole body went into PANIC mode, the one triggered by your amygdala. It took all the self control possible to utter this words: “Ok, call me when you are in the bus“. I hung up, told dad, who surprisingly was even more concerned than me. We looked at each other and tacitly agreed that we should let him deal with this and do not even think of offering to go get him.

10 minutes later we decided to call to check on him and he was getting on the bus to come home. I decided to wait for him at the stop because it was getting dark. I told dad to stay home. When he came off the bus, he had a huge smile on his face, said FINALLY and gave me a big hug. He apologised for taking the wrong bus (to which I proudly responded, no worries son, that’s how you learn and you solved your problem) and he started telling me all about his bus adventure.

It was hard folks, it was hard not to come to the rescue and solve his mishap, it was hard controlling our protective instincts and let him handle the situation. But we are sure that this is what was right for him, it will strengthen his confidence, his self-esteem and the feeling that he has the resources to solve things.

This parenting thing becomes harder by the second, so if you have young children, hold on tight, it’s a scary but great ride!

 

 

Baby Luca

Luca is my first nephew. The first son of my not-so-little anymore brother. The first cousin of my son.

To the casual reader, these statements may not seem very relevant but they speak loudly to me.

Before I begin explaining them, let me just state the obvious: Luca stole my heart in a matter of seconds. His tiny body liked my chubby arms and chest while I loved feeling his heart beat, his breath and just watching him. We spent two weeks together and I cannot wait to hold him again. I am already addicted to receiving pictures and videos of him and sharing some of them with you all.

But let’s go back to my initial train of thought.

Luca is my first nephew and the first son of my not-so-little anymore brother: Man, I am 41, my brother 38 and it took him VERY long to decide to become a dad. I have practically begged him to make me an aunt since I can remember. So I guess the big thank you goes to my sis-in-law. Anyway, if you want to experience true mother-type love but without the constant worrying of “Am I doing it wrong?” make sure you have a nephew or a niece. It is loving someone with all your heart but without any anxiety or concerns. It does not get better than that. It is loving with freedom and feeling like a super hero.

Luca is the first cousin of my son: If we were a traditionally-formed family, I would have been a bit concerned that my son, now 13 and the youngest in the family, could feel some insecurities and even some jealousy. In our family, my concern was heightened because my son became a part of our family when he was 4 through adoption. So that made him not only the youngest but the only child that doesn’t share a biological bond with us.  I thought that perhaps he could be jealous of me deeply loving a baby with whom I do have a blood link or of my mom holding his first biological grandson or of his uncle whom he loves blindly.  When queried about feelings of jealousy –as we openly speak about feelings and fears- my son said: Yes, I am very jealous, because you and granny are always holding Luca and I want to hold him more.

So here’s to your birth and your life my dear Luca. Thank you for reminding us that family it’s about love, nothing else.

Auntie.

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Here we come again

Grieving is perhaps one of the most crushing experiences one could go through.  It forces you to face the reality of your own death and uncertainty that …, well just the uncertainty.

We go through life saying things like YOLO (you only live once for the non-Millenials reading) but are we actually fully aware of its significance? Are we aware that the last word we said to our loved ones might actually be the last word we ever say to them? Are we fully conscious that every second we spend with the people we love are truly gifts? Perhaps if we were, we would have held that last embrace or hug a little longer, we would have spent more time listening to the voice of those now gone or looked at their smile a little bit deeper. Yearning for that touch, that sound or that smile once they are no longer possible hurts in a way that only those who grieve can understand. The constant awareness or realization of the permanent physical absence crushes the strongest souls and overpowers any treasured memories.

I know this too shall pass. My rational self knows that this feeling of helplessness, the heavy chest and the teary eyes will pass.  My emotional self, though, feels tired of having to go through this again, of being forced to accept the feelings of abandonment that resurface every time someone close to my heart dies. But in the end, theirs or ours, acceptance is not subject to negotiation.

Coincidence?

After a long halt in writing my blog, a friend’s decision to start her own blog brought me here to write a post and reconnect with you all.  Should I be surprised that my last post was on March 17, 2014, 2 years ago from today? At 41, I know better. There are no coincidences. Everything is meant to be, there is a reason behind everything that happens in our life.  Not to mean that we go through life as robots just getting through our destiny, but I am convinced about the power of dates, anniversaries, cause and effect and faith.

Rethinking about my blog brought me to the question of choosing a language for my posts. Randomly Speaking started and was always a Spanish blog because I am from and was living in Venezuela. But things have changed. For the last 21 months, we have lived in Vancouver. We decided to leave Venezuela, looking for a new home to give us, but mostly our teenager son, a safer place to grow up. With safety comes freedom, physical and emotional, as well as opportunities.  Because our circumstances have changed, I have decided that the language of this blog also needed to change. We are not only Venezuelans who speak Spanish, we are now global citizens, with family and friends that speak a variety of languages, being English the common one. Hence my choice for English as the new language for my blog. So if you do not speak Spanish and are new here, Welcome! If, however, you are only a Spanish speaker and there’s is a post that catches your attention and you want a Spanish summary, I would be pleased to provide you with one, even better, I would tell you all about in a call because if you care about what I am writing, I care about you to🙂

For the new and the old visitors, here is a summary of me, or should I say us? I guess it is both.

-We are a Venezuelan family living in Vancouver since June 26, 2014.

-Our immediate family (I chose the word immediate only because we are the ones that moved to Vancouver) is 1) JG, our boy. He is 13 and he is the love of my life. I will tell you how we met in another post, the story deserves it, 2) The Hubby, 3) Cindy, our almost 4 year old rescue 75% Mini Pin, 25% who know what and 4) I, Ira: intense, loving, stubborn, faithful to the core, restless, impatient and determined mom, daughter, sister, wife, friend, soon-to-be aunt, niece, lawyer, entrepreneur and volunteer.

-Our family back home (and in Denver): Moms, dads, siblings, aunts and uncles and cousins.

-Adoption runs VERY close to our hearts.

-Our friends back home and abroad: Few, but amazing.

-Dogs are part of who we are.

-We are now immigrants, lucky and blessed ones. In less than two years, we have a new home (we actually bought a home in North Vancouver and we cannot believe how lucky we got) and most importantly we have made close friends that make us feel like we belong. Friends that become a substitute mother when you need to travel and drive your kid all over town to his many activities and do it with a smile on their faces, friends that call you up and say let’s go for a walk and bring Cindy (even when they don’t like dogs), friends that host a spa party so their friends can try the products you are distributing, friends that offer to take your son to a two week soccer trip in Europe when you say you cannot go and even though they have 3 kids on their own, coaches that become friends and text to see how your kid did in a try-out of a different sport, friends that support you in ways you never expected from people that a couple of years ago you didn’t even think of actually meeting.

-We are Mulgravians, our son goes to Mulgrave, the best school ever according to us. When you read admission materials the phrase “the right fit” is common. It sounds like a promotional phrase, until you actually find the school that is a reciprocal right fit. When that magic moment happens, you see what it means and we feel extremely fortunate to have found it. We have witnessed our son’s growth as an individual, as a human being, in ways that we couldn’t even imagine.

-We are a sports family only because our son is THE ATHLETE in this family (immediate and extended). He is extremely fit, works and trains harder than anybody I have ever met. The shirt he’s wearing actually reads: Train Insane or Remain the Same. It is the perfect shirt for him and that is how he thinks and behaves. Soccer is his passion though. He breaths soccer and the only dream he has is becoming a professional soccer player. So our days are filled with soccer practices, games, field, cleats, shin guards and water bottles (and thank God, deodorant!).  Running is his second sport. He runs competitively. He’s trying to beat his personal best record of 20:03 minutes for a 5K. I am sure he will beat it this year. He plays basketball, tennis, badminton, rugby and golf. He was also in a diving team, swims (only to please mama) and is crazy about mountain biking, snowboard and skiing. He had to put some of these sports on hold because soccer and running are taking a lot of his time (and he is in Grade 7 is a very demanding IB school), but he practices them whenever he has a chance.

-I am a Venezuelan lawyer and I love it. But law it’s not my only passion. I am also an entrepreneur getting started in the network marketing arena. I am in the middle of the muddy learning curve so bear with me.

-I volunteer in school whenever I can. I find joy in helping, even when I am not making decisions, just lending a hand makes me happy.

-I multitask, I cannot help it.

-Dealing with death and grieving has been an important theme in my life. I am learning, but it is tough. The two people I lost own an huge piece of my heart and letting them go has been of the hardest things I had to do. They also deserve separate posts.

-I love food and cooking (and eating it, at least that is what the scale clearly says).

-I miss my mom like crazy but have high hopes that things will change soon and she will be very close to us.

Wow this has been a long post and I could write forever. Anyway, I hope this summary gives you a good idea of us. I write about any and everything and I am hoping that you stay and share a laugh, a tear and some love.

 

 

Cae la coraza

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Quizás sea la luna llena que me tiene un proceso de introspección, o la situación del país en donde vivo, o los muertos y heridos acumulados, o el susto del sábado en la Danubio, o quién sabe qué, pero tengo el alma en un hilo, siento que la coraza que me protege en momentos de crisis se está desmoronando.

Y no le tengo miedo a mis sentimientos, a mi tristeza, a mi humanidad, sé que lo necesito en momentos como este es darme cuenta de cómo van cayendo esos pedazos de la coraza uno a uno y no tratar de pegarlos ni recogerlos sino dejarlos caer hasta encontrarme con la crudeza de mis emociones, para aceptarlas, vivirlas, llorarlas, gritarlas y honrarlas.

Lo que me preocupa o me da miedo es que ese proceso usualmente me exige un espacio y un tiempo adecuado y en estos días de trabajos inflexibles, de emociones a flor de piel y de un país que pide a gritos atención es difícil encontrar ese espacio.

Es que además las emociones me invaden cuando y donde menos me lo espero, las ganas de llorar se convierten rápidamente en lágrimas que más que drenar, intentan borrar toda la crueldad, injusticia y el miedo que mis ojos han presenciado recientemente.

Siento que la mismísima piel se vuelve más frágil, más delgada y lo que separa mi esencia, mi alma, de todo lo que me rodea es cada vez más débil. Es que se me hace imposible mantenerme separada del entorno, me fundo con el todo que me rodea, incluso con la desesperación, el desasosiego y la desesperanza.