Monday, June 27, 2011

Futbol in Colombia

I have been watching this man play soccer for almost 20 years. And I have been a fan of the game for much longer than that. I love sitting outside on the grass and watching a good soccer game.

After a year of living here, Aaron finally found an adult league that needed another player through a connection at our church, Tierra Linda. He agreed to play on most Sundays with them. Usually, the games are so far away that we don't go to watch, but this past Sunday it was closer and we were able to go enjoy a beautiful day outdoors watching him play.

Soccer, as well as other rigorous sporting events, has a profound mental health affect on Aaron. I contest it is just as strong as Prozac might be for him, taking the edge off of stress, depression, or anxiety. He comes home feeling relaxed and ready to go. For this, it is definitely worth it for him to take the time to work out. And, while it is sometimes frustrating that his almost-40 year old body cannot do the same things as his 20 year old body could he still outplays a lot of younger Colombians and is a valued member of his team.

In addition to personal frustrations, he has experienced some cultural frustrations as well. We talked about this together, and he explained a little more about these factors.

In general, there is good individual skill, an instinctual knowledge about how to play strategically, but there is a lack of refinement because it has all been informal. For this reason, the most detrimental aspect of the game is mental. Some people theorize that this is why Colombia has not made their mark in the international soccer arena, and the effect of a traumatized society comes through in the game. Talent is used as self-protection, self-promotion, not as a way to contribute to a greater good.

Colombia is a highly relational, verbal, and hierarchical culture which values individual expression of opinion and judgement. This gets expressed on the field by difficult teamwork. It is more common to see a lot of critique (yelling at each other) about individual play, competition between players of the same team, and "ball hogging."

This is not so different than the "norms" of cutting in line, running lights, and not waiting for pedestrians. People are trying to get ahead of each other. "If I have something, I do what I can to keep it and if I have an opportunity to get more, I take it." It becomes very individualistic.

As a man who has coached and analyzed soccer for years, this can be very frustrating. But I am proud that he is making connections, new understandings, fostering his love of the game, and getting some of what he needs physically. And it was so very fun for all of us to watch him play again.

Andy made friends and hunted for bugs right away, and there was a good amount of physical contact between siblings who were glad to be together again.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Shared Motherhood

Due to the intensity of my work here, I have sought out evening outlets that allow me to release the sadness and tension of trauma and allow me to sleep well. Some times this involves playing with my puppy outside. Sometimes reading a book (that is not about trauma). Some times it involves finding something “fluffy” to watch on television.

One of my fluffy finds recently has been a show about polygamy. I will admit it is my second one. I am not a polygamist. I don’t identify with it as a lifestyle, or religious stance. I am not in any way excited for Aaron to have several partners. However, there has been something in these shows that pulls me in, and when I was talking with Aaron about it, it became clear to me what it was.

These women, the “sister wives” share a bond and a connection that really in my opinion has nothing to do with the husband. They have chosen to live in an intentional way that offers them the opportunity to share motherhood. They live with the absolute security and satisfaction that their children have other mothers who will always love and care for them. They consider the children of their sister wife their own children. They find companionship in the daily tasks of living, from household work to faith, to parenting, and finances. They live in a way that makes sharing a pervasive and ordinary part of life.

This is not so unlike another little escaping habit I have formed. There are hundreds of blog networks and pod casts that have been created by mothers. Mothers who want to share their experiences, their life challenges, their faith, their joys and sorrows. And in a very different way, they are also living in community....finding friends and connections in the virtual world that they understand to be real, exposing very intimate, close, and shared experiences of everyday life.

In this framework, I, too, have been blessed by the ability to share my experience of motherhood with so many, and to do so in a way that my own Mennonite faith dictates: by living in community. There are so very many examples, but here are a few:

-I have shared motherhood with my husband. As a full time stay-at-home Dad, he has taken on the primary care role with our children. It was not uncommon for me to call home from work and ask what they were doing. He would respond by saying they were “nursing and reading Mothering Magazine together.” The fact that he referred to giving her a bottle as “nursing” was initially a joke around the house, but I later understood it to be his way to express the intentional and strong way he felt connected to our babies.

-Living far away from Grandparents made me very grateful for the child care co-op that we organized within our church community. Once a month, two couples would keep all of the kids for four hours while the others could go out on a date, or spend some quiet, uninterrupted time at home together. I am thankful for Jan, Jon, Amy, Matt, Eric, Yolanda, Sid, Sarah, Cheryl, and Bob, Tom and Martha for giving me that time and for mothering my children.

-Informal and numerous child care and meal swaps with Rachel, Sara, Megan, Kristin, Cheryl, Aimee, Andi, Christy, and other neighbors and friends alike.

-A very generous friend, who longs to be a mother who would without hesitation welcome my own children into her house and leave them special Easter treats as her way of mothering them.

-Bittersweet coffee gatherings with mothers and fathers after drop-off on the first day of school.

-An almost twelve year tradition of weekly meals prepared and shared between two families.

-Feeling the freedom and comfort to let my mother or sisters or brother have my children and love them unconditionally.

-I remember getting together to can peaches with Beverly, Cheryl, Yolanda, and Kristin so that our children could taste sweetness all winter long, and also so that we could honor a child that did not make it into this world.

-Elizabeth, who came to cook for and play with my children while I was sick in bed and Aaron was unavailable.

-I am so thankful for Lu Ann, who spontaneously took my kids to the pool, or magically put a pint of fresh salsa or cranberry relish in my fridge when I would get home from a long day and need something fresh.

-Sara and I would nurse our toddlers all the way through the Sedgwick County Zoo and then come home together to fold each others’ laundry and keep one another company. Many afternoons turned to evening meals shared and later evening conversations and connections.

-Spending time with Kristin and her enthusiasm for mothering only magnified my own. Whatever creative parenting ideas sprouted from our conversations were met with “Oh, yes, we can do that! Sure we can” And then we did. Joyfully.

In the last fourteen years, I have been privileged to call myself a mother. I have found so many mothering mentors that have helped me. Joan, Susan, Deb, Lois, Ruth, Vicki, Ellen, GB, Jeanne, Mary, my many aunts, and so many more have been the spirits that help to guide my path, to encourage me, to help me to understand this privilege and responsibility.

I think my own mother taught me well how to parent with open doors. Her house exhibited openness, literally and figuratively to so many different friends, children, pets, and strangers. Her willingness to let other people in helped me be open to giving and receiving love from so many.

I have lent my kids to numerous babysitters, teachers, coaches, mentors, and friends, and so many of them give my own children the best that they can to nurture them and help them grow. They need feedback, attention, tender loving care, encouragement, inspiration, and challenge. And all this happens without me.

No wonder when I am in a crowded, busy place, where it may be easy for my kids to get lost, the advice I most often given is “Go find someone that looks like a mother. She will understand. She will help you.” And while I am quite sure that this does not keep them 100% safe, I feel secure that they will likely be shepherded and mothered right back to me.

It is a blessing to reflect on the many mothers who have shared this journey with me. I am grateful and humbled by their generosity, and I feel deeply committed to doing the same for others whenever I am given the opportunity to share motherhood. My faith draws me into community; sharing our resources, our food, our feelings, our dreams our ideas and yes, our children too.

*** There are women who have shared this journey with me who I have not mentioned by name. I am sorry. You are not any less important than those that are listed, and I thank you deeply.***