Thanks boys

I look around the room as a crowd of people cheer on the Loyola Ramblers in the final four of the NCAA tournament.

I never thought as an alumni I would ever experience so much love for my Alma mater.

While they couldn’t quite pull it off, the men’s basketball team brought excitement and pride to the Rambler name and to the city of Chicago.

Thanks boys. It was a fun ride.

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That hoodie

I come home after a long day. I’m cold and I’m exhausted. I know I have to make dinner and take my dog for a walk. I know I still have a few items on my checklist to complete. But before I do any of that there’s one thing I must do.

I must put on that hoodie.

You know which one I’m talking about. The hoodie that is baggy enough to wrap you like a burrito in a blanket but so perfectly worn in it almost becomes an extension of your body. You know, the hoodie that replaces the worries and discomfort of the day into a Buddhist temple for your body. The hoodie that strips away any stress and miraculously loosens every muscle and warms your soul.

You know. That hoodie.

The only problem is …that hoodie is also his hoodie.

Not tonight Bobby. This hoodie is mine.

Gammy

In a world such as ours, I frequently think of how terrifying it would be to have a child. Even as a millennial I find myself thinking that it’s just not the same as it used to be. I contemplate the struggle of striking a balance with my child between the internet and human interaction. I worry which sport they’ll play because if it’s not baseball I don’t know what I’d do with myself. Back and forth I go on the subject. I think of how much my dog irritates me when he whines about going outside or when he cries like a baby when he hears thunder. I wonder if I have it in me. The hours, the sacrifice, the struggle. I have this nightmarish depiction of motherhood.

But then something happens.

I see how my mother interacts with the small children in our family. I see how she lights up as if driven by this invisible force of energy deep within her. I think of how she calls my dog her grandson and insists on having her called grandma when he’s over. Whenever I need someone to watch my dog she’s always there. I think about how my father insists that he needs custody of my dog at least once a week because he misses him so much. I think about tonight when Bobby looks and me and tells me his mother talked about grandkids over the weekend. He says she insists on being called, “Gammy.”

And then I think about how much love this child would have in his or her life. My goodness would that child be loved. And I can’t help but smile. Sure, those scary things will still exist, but at the end of the day, the light will outshine the darkness, and the love that will be given will be infinite. Who am I to deny anyone that amount of love?

Bored

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

She looks at the clock.

It’s 9 am. Time to take her dog for a walk.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock

It’s 12 pm.

She feels a grumble in her tummy. She heads for the kitchen.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

She just finished watching Kung Fu Panda on Netflix. Oh, great. There’s Kung Fu Panda 3.

It’s 3 pm.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

She’s hungry again. It’s 6 pm.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

It’s 9 pm. How’s it 9 pm?

There’s nothing else to do, so she does dishes; she hates dishes.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

 

 

I’m crying and I don’t know why

I’m crying and it’s hard to explain why.

Everyone is shocked at the upset of Loyola University Chicago.

For those of you who don’t know, the Loyola team that won in 1963 broke major barriers. A few former players came to tell their stories while I was still an athlete at Loyola. They explained that, at the time, no more than 2 black men could play on the court at the time. Loyola, however, had 4 black men on the court. In order to get to the championship game being played down south, this group of men had to sneak out in the middle of the night, hide under blankets and gear in the car, and cross into the most hostile territory black men could face.

In spite of it all, Loyola men’s basketball left a mark on the future of black men in sports.

Today, Loyola basketball has illuminated the age-old love story when an underdog team made it to the final four.

Of course, as a Loyola alumn, I’m proud of them. Athletes love what they do. They put it all on the field. They bleed. They grind. They feel defeated. They feel uplifted. They work together. They bond. They live the game.

 

Today, Loyola showed the world that every athlete is good enough to compete. It doesn’t matter the name you wear on your jersey or the reputation that precedes you. A team that puts the work in can do anything.

So, it’s hard to explain why I’m crying. Perhaps it’s because I’m proud today to be a Loyola alumn. I proud that people all over the country will hear the name Loyola and respect it. I’m proud that I walked the same path as those men even if I didn’t get the glory. I’m proud that athletes like myself and all the athletes that attend and have attended the underdog schools feel like their career meant something. I’m crying, because I can finally say, “I played Division I softball at Loyola,” and people can finally understand what that means.

So what?

Some days I sit up at night and I get a pit in my stomach. I worry about all of the things that I must get done. I beat myself up incessantly if I don’t do them.

Today, however, I think, “So what?” So what I didn’t do my laundry? So what I didn’t vacuum. So what I forgot to send that email? So. What.

Because I’m on spring break.

So guess what?

So what?

Alma Mater

The shot clock is winding down. Loyola has to hold the ball long enough to get a shot off. Side-step. He sets his feet. He floats and…SCORE!

Loyola won tonight, and I am proud.

I will never forget the day I was offered a full-ride scholarship to attend Loyola University Chicago to play Division I softball. We were seated in a restaurant on a warm summer day. My parents were seated to my right. For some reason, I saw my father first. Her words came matter-of-fact, “We’d like to offer Brooke a full-ride. Tuition, room, and board all paid for by the university.” Tears formed on my father’s face. I had found a place where I can be with the best of the best. I can compete on the biggest stage for female athletes. It was an incredible moment for me and my family. I was one of the best.

Athletes work themselves to the bone for success. They grind. They grit. They tear their bodies up and bleed on the field. They put their heart in the game because it returns every bit as much love as they give. It’s not always easy, but damn is it worth it.

For four years, Loyola was where I bled for my sport. I gave it everything I had. Unfortunately, no one really knew or cared. Athletes aren’t in the game for the glory. It’s a perk, but it isn’t everything. I remember dreaming about attending a school where people knew our name. Where we walked onto the field and said, “Fear us, we’re Loyola.” But Loyola didn’t have that respect. Hell, I don’t think people even knew we were Division I. I played against Purdue and beat them. I played against Northwestern and beat them. I played against Notre Dame and I beat them. But no one knew because Loyola wasn’t on the radar.

When I first started dating my boyfriend, I remember feeling a bit envious of the way he and his buddies cheered on their team in the playoffs. Purdue. It’s a team people know. It’s a team that has loyal fans that actually give a damn. Their games were a big deal. I would watch the way they’d emotionally implode when they’d blow it and how they’d jeer when they made that game-winning shot. I didn’t have that. I had Loyola…

But, Loyola is on the radar now. My school, where I put my blood and soul into the game, is a place where athletes are starting to be respected. It’s a place where they can hold their own against teams across the nation. They’re on the map.

I’m proud because I know how hard those guys have worked to get there. They put in as much as any other athlete competing on the big stage. They love the game as much as Duke or North Carolina, or Purdue. The only difference is they can’t walk into a room and say, “Fear us, we’re Loyola.”

But they’re getting there. And they deserve to be seen.

While I didn’t get to see a school that got excited about its sports while I was there, I can be an alumn that gets excited about my team from afar. And, let’s be honest, I just want to see them go further than Purdue 🙂

Go Ramblers!

 

Communication

He looks at me with pleading eyes. This is always the first step. Then, he finds a way to get close to me in some way. He shoves his nose in my face or sits with two paws grasping for my arms. Once he has me in his grip he pins his ears back and opens his eyes as wide as they’ll get as if to say, “Are you seeing me?” Of course, I see him, but the ritual must continue.

His paws grip my skin more tightly in a desperate attempt to rally my attention. He wants me to know what he needs so badly, but I am just a simple human. He knows he needs to try something else, so he begins to open his mouth slightly. He doesn’t start out with a bark. He has manners, and he knows it’s not polite. But, he has to make me understand what he needs somehow.

So, his mouth opens ever so slightly. His tongue makes its first appearance but utters no sound; it only moves slightly. He sees that I still haven’t moved. I haven’t begun heeding his orders. He must go on in order to make me understand how desperate his need for this is! So, a slight whimper follows shortly after. Perhaps a squeak or two like you might hear from a hefty yawn. Again, he sees that I haven’t moved. Why hasn’t she moved? I just sit there watching his struggle as he tries to make me understand.

Alas! He can take it no more! He tries to talk to me. He knows barking is not an option, so he moves his jaw up and down as he tries desperately to form the words for me. He can bear it no longer! Polite or impolite he must make me understand! Bark! Bark! Loud and thundering he tries to make his point known deep into my chest. It works, but I need to know exactly what it is.

He just peed, so it can’t possibly be that he needs to go outside. I refuse to indulge him. I look into his eyes so full of anguish I can barely stand it.

I ask, “Water?” His ears cock slightly, though I see no movement. No. It’s not water.

“Do you need food? Are you hungry?” His muscles instinctively twitch at the mention.

He licks my face incessantly. I’ve done it! He rushes to the spot he knows he’ll find what he needs. He checks over his shoulder a few times to make sure I’ve followed him. He can’t give up now. I reach into the cabinet and drop a cup full of food into his bowl. He wags his tail approvingly and digs in. He did it! It seemed impossible, but he did it. He scarfs down his food as if it was the last time he’d ever eat. He licks his chops, savoring each flavor. He jumps into bed, rested and satisfied. His muscles relax. There’s nothing more he needs now; But when he does he’ll know exactly how to get it.

The Athlete in Me

I recently expressed to my boyfriend how saddened I felt about no longer being an “athlete.” Since I was 5 years old I had spent my life in gyms, on fields, and in uniforms. Each time I did a get-to-know-you activity I always shared the story of how my dad built a balance beam in my living room so that I could practice. Softball and sports were who I was, but they are no longer who I am.

As the years passed since I graduated, I felt that part of me slowly drift away. I no longer needed her. Every time I picked up a book instead of a glove I felt her dim. Each time I took a sip of wine instead of a swing of the bat another light went out until slowly I couldn’t bring her back.

And so, that made me sad. I felt like I was searching around for a part of me that had been lost to time. The athlete in me was only there when I needed her to be and lately, I didn’t need her at all…

Until I stepped on the softball field again today.

As I was teaching the girls the first drill I realized that I had awakened an old friend. The athlete in me, deep in slumber for an extended time, opened her eyes once again. She was beautiful. She was confident. She was exactly what I remembered her to be.

She wasn’t lost at all.

While it’s true that I may not need the athlete that resides in me as much as I used to, I take comfort in knowing that she’s still with me, and all I have to do is pick up the glove and she’ll be there.

 

 

Choices

Life is made up of moments all strung together in time. Each decision you make leads you down another path. Some decisions move you more slowly than others, but each one moves you forward always, whether you like it or not.

I can understand how, in one moment, you can stop to wonder, “How did I get here?” But that’s the incredible thing about time, right? In order to answer that, you would have to go back. The question is, how far?

Some moments you can trace back a short while. For instance, “How did I get so full?” Well, that one was easy. 10 minutes ago I scarfed down a burrito.

Other questions though, they take longer. Like, “How did I get so lucky?” or “How did I turn out this way?” I feel like something that elusive isn’t made up of a single decision. It’s made up of a series of choices. One after the other strung together in a way that makes no sense at the time.

What I find incredibly scary is how one choice can lead to a series of rippling consequences.

Now, we can look back on those choices and think, “What if?” What if I hadn’t struggled with anxiety? What if I hadn’t gone to the bar that night? What if I hadn’t been on the dance floor at that exact moment? How far back does it go? How do events align so perfectly that allow for such profound moments in your life to happen? And, if they didn’t, who would you be?

But we can’t look back and think, “What if?” because it doesn’t exist. Time moves forward always. All we can do is try to make the best choices possible and then sit back and marvel at how time does its job.