What a game!

No, not that game.

Blake had a soccer game tonight – and what a game! Three assists and one goal in a 4-0 victory over Emery. He had three or four other chances and could have scored more. He is poetry in motion.

I’m going to miss, so much, watching that young man play soccer. Here’s hoping his dream of playing next year in college comes true.

Hard run

My expected ten mile run this morning turned into just over five miles, partly walked. One of the strange things about running is how much better a run might be if started at 7:00am versus at 10:30am. I haven’t been able to explain it but both Andrew and I were pretty wiped out after just a couple miles (me more so than him, I expect).

I don’t think it’s wise to over-spiritualize everything, but I think this is the way life in Christ and the race we run in Christ sometimes goes. Some days our run is joyful, free, easy. Other days all we can feel is the pain in our legs, the wind in our face (it was windy today), and the numbness in our feet (I definitely need some new shoes). I was really feeling my weight (I need to lose weight, desperately). After a while the run slows to a walk.

I have been running hard this past year and a half, inflamed with the calling I feel toward college ministry and joyful at the progress God has made happen there. I’ve been running hard at work as well, loving my job (not something I could have said back in 2012), even when it’s stressful or I haven’t performed as well as I feel I can – I’ve been pushing hard. Today was just one of those days, though. We had so much fun last night with the grands and that continued into this morning.

Then I went running.

We cut the run short after we’d only covered half the planned distance. It was a nasty, hard run. I then came home and did some catch-up work (a status report, some code repository work, etc). Then I basically spent the rest of the day in my pajamas watching Alias reruns with Jill. I feel like I have been taking more breaks recently; I missed out on a Lord of the Rings viewing tonight with our College/Young Singles pastor and a number of our people. I didn’t do my Bible reading. In short, I’ve been a bum today. I wrote recently that I know those days are needed, but I also know that we can’t spend our whole lives sitting on a couch.

Tomorrow is a new day. Church will happen and prayers for our Lone Star college will happen with two brothers that I pray with every Sunday. I’ll come home and rest some more, and then attend a College/Young Singles Super bowl party. Then comes Monday and I’m back at it.

I pray this week I will run better, not just physically but spiritually as well. I pray the shoes of the gospel of peace that I put on will fit well and put wings on my heels. I pray the spiritual food I feed myself with will promote muscle, not fat. I pray I will laugh at the wind in my face and rejoice when it’s at my back. That I won’t be numb, but will feel deeply the love and passion of our Lord.

Please pray for me as well, whoever is reading this, as I prepare a subject and discussion for Bible study Tuesday night at Lone Star college. What a privilege that is.

Lord, please prepare me to do your work.

 

These three

We gave our two oldest a break tonight; we took the three grandchildren off their hands so they could celebrate an early valentine’s with their spouses (and sleep in tomorrow morning) .

We had a valentine themed night with the babies – cupcakes,  light up balloons,  pizza,  a craft,  and veggie tales. Jill always brings the party!

image

A ten mile run awaits me tomorrow morning.

Abundance!

Running with smart people

Andrew and I have started running together on Saturday mornings. It’s been great – we made eight miles today.  The runs don’t seem so long and tiring because the conversation is so stimulating,  and covers the gamut of subjects from history (especially war history) to current events,  politics,  poverty,  etc.

Running with smart people (I’m referring to him,  not me).  I highly recommend it.

Update – I’m also getting used to my other Saturday tradition after these long runs: coming home and eating everything in sight, then crashing in bed as my legs and body realize that they’ve had all the energy sucked out of them.

Long time soccer spectators

Last night Jill and I, along with Jill’s parents, our daughter, her husband, and two of our grandkids, went to see Blake play soccer. It’s strange; we’ve been watching that kid play soccer since he was four. He’s now eighteen and in his senior year of high school. We don’t really know how many games we have left to cheer for him.

Blake is excellent at soccer. I don’t think I’m saying that just because I’m his dad. He is poetry in motion: finesse, skill, and a strategic sense of the field and the movements of teammates and the opposition that can’t be coached. Last night he had two assists and two goals in a win against the St. John XXIII Lions. It was a lot of fun.

I hope we’re still watching him play next year. Time will tell. It’s been a really, really fun ride.

A good day

The soccer tournament this weekend got canceled because of the weather, and so Jill and I took advantage of the time to continue the Never Ending Bathroom Renovation™. Our current stage is the framing of the mirrors. Today we bought the trim and quarter round, measured and mitered, and painted the trim. I also installed the toilet paper dispenser. Now the toilet area seems . . . almost civilized.

Right now I’m watching Courageous with Jill and Blake. I don’t care what anyone says, this is a great movie. It deals with one of the biggest problems facing our society these days: the problem of fatherlessness. I think making a movie about that is very, well, courageous.

On another topic: I’ve begun unhooking myself from food through Weight Watchers. It’s only week one but it’s been a very good week. Instead of just eating for eating’s sake, I’m now just eating when I’m hungry (since I’m rationing points daily). I’ve found this makes me very thankful for what I get to eat. That’s a good place to be. That, along with the running I’ve been doing, I feel better than I have in quite awhile.

We’re almost to the scene where the young police officer meets his daughter for the first time. That may be my favorite scene in the entire movie. I love redemption and reconciliation.

Good day. Blessed.

European Soccer Tour – Day 9: The beach and Texans vs CE Jupiter

Our final day in Europe dawned as clear and as bright as the others we had shared in Spain. The weather has been incredible. The schedule for this day included a quick trip to the beach Рwe planned to spend just an hour there Рfollowed by lunch and then matches against Club Esportiu J̼piter.

We road the subway downtown and walked to the beach.



Walking to the beach



Beautiful



Arriving



The beach

The boys hit the surf and many of us parents dipped our feet in as well. The water was cool and refreshing.



The boys in the surf

While I was standing there, knee deep in the Mediterranean, an older Spanish gentleman (in a speedo, of course) approached me. He had noticed my Texans Soccer T-shirt and asked me in broken English how the soccer was in Texas. Turns out he had lived in Texas in the early 1970s and was interested in the growth of soccer in the United States. We engaged in conversation and this gentleman, who’s name is Laurentito (roughly “Larry” in English) told me his life story. He was a soccer player when he was younger, and “would have gone professional” if he hadn’t badly broken his arm during a game (here he showed me a nasty looking scar on his right arm), causing his father to forbid him from playing anymore. He talked about goals he had scored with his left foot, and then moved on to other topics, including his Dad’s arrest (I think) during the Spanish civil war of the late 1930s, the time as a youngster when he was raised by priests, his own six month stint in prison as a political prisoner in the late sixties, his relocation to Dallas, and the fact that he had flown as a flight engineer on sub-hunting surveillance planes. He had married an American woman, but she died of a brain edema (here Laurentito shook his head. “many, many mistakes made by the doctors”). They had had two children together: a son who is in Barcelona and a daughter currently working in New York. He also only has one kidney, and that a transplant – here he showed me his left arm, which had nasty lumps on it due to dialisis treatments. It’s amazing how much you can learn about someone in a short time. I thanked Laurentito for the conversation and he was kind enough to pose for a picture.

In the background, you can see a matronly woman . . . and you can begin to understand an aspect of Barcelona culture-shock that began dawning on me after a few minutes in the surf. Modesty does not necessarily come with age and, besides the older set, not all of the young, slender and shirtless people evening out their tans on the beach were men.

I have to hand it our boys. At least from what I could observe, they were mature about the sights on the beach. Thankfully, we were only there a short time. Soon they moved from the surf up onto the sand and, naturally, began to play soccer.



Soccer on the beach

We finally left the beach and partook of another excellent Spanish buffet.



This was so good

We then travelled back to our hotel to rest and prepare for the evening’s games before travelling out to the field. As was the case in Sabadell, the stadium was in excellent condition, and had an artificial surface. The club we were to play against, CE Jupiter, has been around for over 100 years.



CE Jupiter’s facility

In the stands we posed with the flag.



The parents

On this tour I have observed the interesting custom of watering the fields right before games, and sometimes even at halftime, with high-powered water jets. This seemed strange to me when I saw it in Sabadell, since with artificial turf there is no actual grass to be watered. One of the Mercantil parents told us at the time that watering the field makes the ball move more rapido.



Watering the artificial turf

The boys posed for team pictures before the game.



Posing with the flags

I thought that our guys came into this game with a more confident and ready attitude than they had shown prior to Mercantil, and, in talking to them, to a man they were guaranteeing a win.



Getting ready

Below are some action shots taken during the game.



Getting back on defense



Blake heads the ball



Getting the ball upfield



Corner-kick defense



This is Callum, our Scottish goalkeeper. He rocked.

We played a great game and won 5 to 2. Well done boys!



Shaking hands after the game

Following the game, the coaches each chose a “man of the match” from the opposing team. The Spanish coach chose Assem (that’s pronounced “Awesome”, and no, I’m not making that up. What a great name!) as the man of the match from the Texans. That was two awards for Assem in as many games, which is, well, pretty awesome.



Assem, man of the match

We then settled down to watch the older guys play. They did fabulous, winning 6 to 1. So, our overall record in Europe, counting games played by both teams, was 6 wins, 2 losses. Outstanding!

I snapped a few other pictures while I was there. This one is of Pablo, one of our players, and his sweet sister. She actually lives in Barcelona and joined us for much of this part of the tour.



Pablo and his sister

Note the beer on the table. As in Sabadell, this youth soccer facility had a working bar. The Spanish parents actually seemed relatively laid-back about soccer (at least for these “friendlies” matches) but I can’t tell you how relieved I am that they don’t serve beer at American youth soccer matches. Not so laid back and, trust me, that would not be a good idea.



Enjoying a cerveza after the match

Our time in Europe was swiftly winding down. We headed to a fancy Spanish buffet restaurant that Austin had booked us for to have our final meal together and pass out some awards from the tour.



Our last meal together



Marc, our Spanish soccer tour guide, received a T-Shirt from J.R.



Bryant was the best younger player from the England games



Avery was the best older player from the England games



Assem received the award for the best younger player during the Spain games



Andrew was the best older player for the Spain games



Renee was named the best overall player

Below are the last two pictures I took, centered around the fine young Scottish players who had joined us on the tour.



Callum, Thomas, James and Scott



Some of the boys posed with the Scotsmen. A lot of friendships were forged on this trip

Following this we went back to the hotel and went to bed, with a very, very early morning wake up call ahead of us and a long trip back to the United States.

Though it was very tiring, this was a great trip. The memories of getting to share this tour with Blake are priceless to me. I had a great time, Blake-man, and I’m so glad we were able to do this together. What an experience!

European Soccer Tour – Day 8: Camp Nou and some rare free time

As you probably can tell from these posts, down-time (and even sleep-time) was in short supply throughout the tour and so a lighter day was probably needed. Day 8 was just what the doctor ordered.

We had breakfast at our usual time, 9:00 am, and then we road the subway down to Camp Nou, which is the stadium where we watched the Barcelona – Real Madrid match two days earlier. “Camp Nou” is (I think) Catalan for “New Field”, which is an ironic name for a fifty-three year old stadium. The actual name of the stadium for most of its history was Estadi del FC Barcelona, but it was largely referred to by its nickname, Camp Nou, and that nickname became the official name in recent years.

Leading the tour was Marc, a native Barcelonan and pro player on one of the city teams. He also works at the coaching school for the Espanyol professional club. Marc was with us during most of our time in Barcelona



Marc, in front of Camp Nou

We started in the Camp Nou museum. FC Barcelona was founded over 100 years ago, and is one of the all-time most successful football clubs in the world, so the museum is jam-packed with memorabilia. To put this in context, FC Barcelona is analogous to the New York Yankees in fan-interest, heritage, and winning legacy. Imagine a museum dedicated to the history of the Yankees (and surely one or more exists) and you’ll get an idea of the intense interest that was shown by the visitors to the Camp Nou museum.



The memorabilia room

The first room was lined with hundreds of cups that have been won by the team, and display cases full of artifacts and memorabilia from the past.



Artifacts



Hundreds of cups

Here is the Champions League cup won recently by the team. I don’t know who this young lady is, although the young man in the Texans shirt is Anthony, who is on Blake’s team. People were lined up to have their picture taken with the cup, so there was always going to be someone I didn’t know in the picture.

The tour moved on through the locker room and then down to the edge of the Camp Nou field.



Field-level view of Camp Nou

Professional soccer differs from American football in many ways, including where the teams actually sit. As in the NBA, rather than being across the field from each other the substitutes sit on the same side of the field. At Camp Nou, they get some really nice chairs.



The subs sit here

The tour continued up to the press box, where I snapped this picture.



“More than a club”

The tour ends in the FC Barcelona store, where one can spend an incredible amount of money on replica jerseys, especially if one is feeling expansive and generous and one has a soccer-playing son who loves jerseys and reminds one of the once in a lifetime nature of the current adventure.

Following the tour, we journeyed back to the city center at la Plaça de Catalunya, and were given free time for the next few hours. Blake and I decided to grab lunch together. Surrounded by the glories of delicious and exotic Spanish cuisine . . . we opted for Subway. This was Blake’s choice, and probably a wise one, because it granted us a quicker meal, plus – oh wonders! – an ice dispenser and free refills. Following this, we went back to the Plaça.



Blake at la Plaça de Catalunya. Note the replica FC Barcelona jersey



La Plaça is really big



Another view of la Plaça

Surrounded by Spanish history and culture . . . we headed straight for the Nike store. We had some jerseys to personalize, after all.



Street view, walking to the Nike store. Look at that blue sky!

There are Barcelona FC jerseys to be seen all over Barcelona. Couple this with the fact that professional soccer clubs change their uniforms, or “kits”, pretty much every season* . . . my guess is that 50% of Spain’s GDP is made up of FC Barcelona jersey sales alone.

We left the Nike store and enjoyed some Italian gelato at a shop near the Pla̤a. At 3:30 pm the boys were bussed off to training, and the parents were given the rest of the day off. Surrounded by cathedrals, amazing gothic architecture, and history . . . I opted to head back to the hotel room. I was pretty tired, and РI hate to admit it РI was also kind of peopled-out by this time. If I had it to do over again I would have gone and visited the Gaudi cathedral I mentioned in my last post.

I had an idea that I would rest until around six and then get adventurous and eat at a restaurant near the hotel. At six I walked around for awhile and discovered that there were, evidently, very few restaurants near the hotel. I finally found one, walked in, and asked for a menu like the clueless gringo I am. It was at this point that I discovered that Barcelona restaurants don’t even think about serving dinner until 8:00 pm, which helps explain the 11:00 pm start of the Barcelona – Real Madrid game and the average start of our meals each night at around 10:00 pm. Everything in Barcelona seems shifted about two or three hours later than in the U.S.

I finally gave up and went to the supermarket nearby the hotel, aptly named Consum, and bought some fruit, snack bars, and some waters. The man at the checkout didn’t speak English and I, of course, only know how to say no hablo espanol, but I found out through pantomime and both of us talking loudly to each other in unknown tongues that a) if I wanted a bag to carry my groceries I needed to buy one and b) I had messed up the system by not weighing and pricing my fruit myself. He was very patient and polite and called in some help to get me squared away. I did my best to express my apologies, saying pardon repeatedly, which I’m not sure actually means anything in Spanish, and finally pointing at my head and saying no comprendo. And how.

The boys had a good training session. Blake relayed how he even got shouts of ole! for some of his moves during practice. Their confidence appeared to be restored after yesterday’s beating.

I spent my evening in the hotel room, posting my Day 6 update, reading and resting. Blake and I both went to bed relatively early and got a much-needed full night of sleep.

One day left.

* the teams don’t generally change their colors, at least on their home jerseys (they usually have two or more “away” kits that they are more apt to re-color), but they do change the design. For instance, the stripes on this year’s Barcelona jerseys are more narrow than last years. It’s a brilliant marketing strategy.