Why I love John Scott

John Scott is a hockey player. He made it to the NHL by working hard and adapting his play. He’s worked with what he’s been given (which is a lot, admittedly), and accepted who he is and how he’s been treated throughout his bumpy career. He didn’t get mad (at least in public) about what was happening to him – when he was bounced from team-to-team; when people voted him an All-Star as a joke; when he won that vote and was promptly traded; when he was demoted to the minor leagues; when the NHL told him to not accept the nomination and just go away. He rolled with the punches the whole time – ironic, given his reputation as a fighter in the NHL – took it one step at a time, not knowing how it all would end.

No one could have predicted this end.

His whole hockey career was a risk and a dream. He took a gamble trying to be in the NHL in the first place. He was never one of the better players trying to make it, considered too big and slow to go far. An engineering grad from Michigan Tech, Scott always felt that he would simply be “sitting in an office at GM back in sleepy Ontario, in my suit, and happy as hell about it” when he was done with school. But one day he had the chance to try to become a professional athlete, and he took it. Put the security of a cubicle aside, and gave it his all.

Scott worked hard in the minors before getting the call to be in the NHL. He changed his style of play from stay-at-home defenseman to goon (“I embraced [the role], because it was my way forward, not because it was my nature”). This role both helped him carve out a niche in the NHL and position himself as a player never to be taken seriously. So people didn’t, and it was because of this that fans decided to mock the popular vote and choose him to play in the All-Star game. Fans chose Scott to be an All-Star because, well, he wasn’t one. He was a guy who, since 2009, moved from Minnesota to Chicago to New York (NYC, then Buffalo) to San Jose to Phoenix so he could play the game. He’s scored five goals in six seasons. On the ice, he was a fighter, not a lover, and not a scorer.  Throughout the All-Star voting process, Scott knew who he was. He knew he wasn’t an All-Star – at least not in the commonly thought of sense of the word.

Then John Scott became an All-Star. He won the popular vote, which meant he was to become the Captain of the Pacific Division team. Then he wasn’t an All-Star, because he was traded to Montreal, then demoted to the minors, and thus to Newfoundland. John Scott was an All-Star with no team – not even a place in the NHL. The League Commissioner even said he didn’t belong.

But John Scott is an All-Star. He continued to capture the hearts of the public not by asking for pity, but by simply not giving up. He took each day as it came, seeing each moment and taking every breath. He reverted back to his original self – the gentle giant – and eventually the NHL let him go to Nashville to lead his team.

Then John Scott became an All Star. He scored two goals in the elimination game, contributing to the upset of the Central Division. The public behind him once again, voted him the MVP of the tournament. His teammates carried his 6’8” self on their shoulders to celebrate (photo credit).

John Scott

Now, Scott has reported to Newfoundland. He may never play another game in the NHL. Soon, he may take an engineering job where he sits in a cubicle and be “happy as hell about it.” His fifteen minutes of fame has come and gone.

John Scott is still an All-Star.

Seven days

I sit on my couch and watch NFL playoffs, exhausted, feeling my immune system fighting against the push I gave this week. I actually fought writing this post, part of me too tired to do it, but knowing that the words would keep floating in my head until they made their way through my keyboard and onto the screen. My wonderful seven days, where I was able to experience so many loves, refused to remain silent, wanting to be boasted to the world (and deservedly so).

Last Sunday morning, I woke up to a miraculous view as Seattle welcomed a rare sunny day in the middle of winter.

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I could stare at this all day, every day.

Then, my friend and I were off to a bar to watch the home team come up victorious on an improbable last-second play. The crowd erupted in the excitement of playoff football, strangers celebrating together as sports fans do. I high-fived the young man who shared our crowded table even though I was secretly rooting for the other team. The pure joy caught me, too.

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It’s not difficult to figure out where this bar’s allegiances lay.

No sooner was the winner declared than it was time to go visit a friend from far away. Reconnecting with someone from Korea – someone I wasn’t sure I would ever see again. Yet, here I was, seeing her twice since I left the country. Tea, girl talk, and a late lunch of authentic Vietnamese food in a strip mall passed the hours too quickly and it was time to go back to Portland. I wonder when/if I will see her again as she heads back to her home in Iksan. I arrive back, and it’s time to unpack and repack for the next trip.

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I miss this sassy lady already!

Off to Enterprise, OR for a work-related site visit – perhaps the one time I will see real snow this season. The road dangerous, but my colleague skilled at navigating our route through the elements. The clinic visit was informative, as I learn more about the healthcare system everyday I work this job. Evenings we were treated to beers from the local brewpub – ones that could only be had as a reward for making it all the way out to eastern Oregon. The hotel had an indoor pool and hot tub for two nights of relaxation. It took a few days, but on our last morning there, the sun came out and we were able to see the mountains as we headed back. I learned that the billion-dollar Powerball winners live in California, Florida, and a small town in Tennessee three times as big as where I was staying. I won’t be retiring soon.

snow in Enterprise

We drove through this…

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…to get to this.

One day of work in Portland which featured lots of writing and struggling with data on difficult topics. Speaking my mind when things didn’t feel right, I was both firm and tentative in expressing my thoughts on a project I feel deserves more authenticity than the quick-fix it was being given. I struggled through tough conversations without sacrifice. Celebrated the end of the day by buying my plane tickets to China in April, and then settled in for a night filled with bad TV and good food. Leftovers are never to be taken for granted; stews taste better days later.

The weekend immediately followed and consisted of some volunteer work tearing down an adult entertainment establishment that will someday be replaced by a community center. Over 25,000 square feet of red, white, and black décor. Tearing up over-worn carpet and removing nails from 2x4s that will gain new life somewhere presumably happier. Taking a sledge hammer to the bar area was extra satisfying – shards of tile tumbled to the ground and drywall simply fell away with every swing, perfected from my softball days. I was sore and it felt great.

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Goodbye, Sugar Shack! Though that cheetah *is* something to behold.

That night I met up with a friend to see The Book of Mormon. We arrived at the theater several hours early to enter a lottery for cheap tickets. We were the first names drawn, and for less than half price ended up in the second row – close enough to see the actors’ facial expressions and even when they sprayed their lines. I forgot how much I love musicals and though I could vow to see them more often, I’m not so sure that will happen, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Reflecting on this past week, it’s easy to see how I’m the luckiest woman in the world.

Veterans Day: One question

Today is Veterans Day in the US. As the child of Canadian citizens, this day doesn’t mean a lot to my family. To my knowledge, no one has talked of any military service performed by anyone on my father’s side, though I am sure, generations ago, that happened. On my mother’s side I come from former Soviet heritage – Latvian to be exact. Therefore, my grandfather fought against the Russians and with the Germans in hopes of gaining independence for his country. No, he was not affiliated with the Nazi party, but still, it is difficult to explain to people the complexities of WWII and why different people fought for different sides for different reasons. Therefore, I usually remain quiet on the matter, though I do have a Latvian pin or two that may have adorned his uniform at one point. They are among the very few possessions I have to help me remember him, even though they are far from symbolic of who he was, in my eyes, as I was growing up. So, on a day like today, I struggle to find ways to reflect and honor those who served in the past.

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Photo taken at the Hoa Lo Prison (the “Hanoi Hilton”) in Vietnam.

I do have friends who have served our country. Like my grandfather, their stories about their military service are infrequent. I’m not sure if this is because they don’t see that time as a large part of their identity, or if they just prefer not to talk about it. Or, perhaps, they don’t think I or others want to hear about it. But today, their Facebook pages come alive with pictures of them in uniform, or other acknowledgement of their time overseas. But again, I see these friends of mine as a combination of many other characteristics and memories first, with “(former) military” far in the back of my mind.

No matter who I do or don’t know with a military background, millions went overseas to fight wars built on strange, some say false, pretenses. On some level the “why” matters a whole lot, but on another, it doesn’t because, regardless of the reason, many served and then came back changed and alone. Our lack of services – especially those related to mental health – for our Veterans makes me sad for them and the priorities of our country. Over twenty suicide deaths every day; most of these victims never received services from the VA health care system. Too many whys from access to stigmatism to name.

It’s not enough to say “thank you” and then just walk away, or even offer a free breakfast or oil change as some companies choose to do. Even if it’s only for today, the next time you see someone in uniform (or anyone else for that matter), if you are going to say only one thing to them, ask “Are you OK?” Then take a moment to listen to the answer. As simple as that sounds, that one question can go a long way towards supporting someone and even preventing suicide. Much more than a free coffee, anyway.

If you’re not OK (and that’s OK), reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (24/7). Press 1 for the Veterans line. You can also text “Go” to 741-741

I am putty in my hands

Thanks to a recent(ish) TED Talk, I am now playing with the identity of “Multipotentialite” – a person who doesn’t really have one true calling, but is lucky enough to find success in a variety of realms. I say lucky, but also recognize the challenges of this identity. It’s hard to focus. While it’s easy to find something that really grabs me, it’s harder to find something that sticks for long. Simply put, a Multipotentialite is in a potential state of mid-life crisis. The idea of finding that one thing that will keep me happy, settled, and satisfied for a long period of time is probably a concept I should just let go.

With that in mind, I pondered what matters to me today. Many of these things have been the focus of my life for a long time, while others are pretty new to the scene:

Issues I am passionate about (and may or may not have done anything to address them):

  • Incorporating healthy relationships into sexuality education. This goes beyond the new emphasis on teaching “enthusiastic consent” – which I am pleased to see – but to me needs to come from a more strength-based, inclusive foundation that addresses not just sexual and romantic relationships, but relationships of all kinds and across all domains (including digital ones).
  • Developing supports for those who have survived their own suicide at There is so little out there on this topic and I want to do something about that.
  • Supporting LGBTQ youth as they navigate their identity development, schooling, relationships, and family life. The idea that young people are at risk for losing their home, don’t feel safe going to school, and suffer abuse just because of who they are attracted to/how they identify on the gender spectrum sickens me.
  • The complex issue of welcoming and supporting Syrian refugees. I know nothing about this issue and I have no idea where to begin. But the news coverage and stories of struggle move me.

Note: I’m surprised I am somewhat stalling out here. I have strong opinions on MANY other issues, but nothing else right now – at this moment as I write this blog – really calls to me as something I want to dedicate a significant portion of my life to.

Things that I love/interest me (I dabble in these with varying degrees of success, enthusiasm, and expertise):

  • International travel
  • Road trips
  • Karaoke (especially the idea of singing in all 50 states and anywhere else I go)
  • The NHL
  • Sports talk radio
  • Mystery novels and crime shows
  • Microcars
  • Interacting with people, especially my friends
  • Writing
  • Mindfulness and Buddhism
  • Cooking/food in general
  • Bikram yoga

Things I used to do with great zeal, but have dropped off my radar:

  • Being involved in community theater and improvisational acting
  • Playing hockey
  • Reading tarot cards and horoscopes for others

Professional rabbit holes I have gone down that can still suck me in:

  • Policies related to how youth can successfully transition from adolescence to adulthood, especially those with “system experience.”
  • Respite for those who are taking care of chronically ill loved ones, as well as those in professions that are dedicated to supporting and healing others (this includes teachers).
  • Sexuality education inside and outside of school.
  • Strength-based approaches to incorporating youth voice into issues that matter to them.
  • Social networking to create communities
  • Access to education for women in developing countries
  • Creating culturally appropriate approaches to health care, especially mental health care
  • Policy issues related to women’s reproductive health, especially those related to fertility treatments.
  • The juvenile justice system.
  • Social justice as it applies to youth and young adults.

Work-related activities I enjoy doing:

  • Creating and reviewing surveys/interview protocols
  • Teaching/providing technical assistance
  • Synthesizing data
  • Seeing how different disciplines and theoretical approaches can fit together: Looking at systems and the big picture.

I am sure I could expand on all these lists, but will leave them for now. I both look forward to what my next passions will be, but also hope to be mindful of the fact that no longer will I assume something will be the “one thing” that changes my life and moves me forward. I hope to find comfort in the fact that there will always be a “right now” but not a forever.

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This is not my path, but it sure is pretty (taken in Taos, NM).

Today I am grateful for discovering Emilie Wapnick and her website puttylike.com. To me, her approach to life is one I hope to emulate while following my own path.

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”
― Pema Chödrön

 

 

 

 

 

Taking chances here and there

When I was in middle school, I wanted to be a truck driver. Out on the open road like BJ and the Bear, without a care in the world except my haul. Then, my career plans changed – I wanted to be a van painter, traveling around the US turning people’s vehicles into pure magic through scenes depicting wolves, cougars, stallions, and other majestic creatures. I remember seeing a magazine article that featured someone who actually lived in their van (yes, there were shag carpets and lots of colors inside) and I thought that was the best way to live (apparently I wasn’t too concerned about showering and using the toilet back then). Kudos to my parents who just smiled and nodded as I planned my future – if they ever panicked on the inside, they didn’t show it, nor did they shut down my dreams.

For whatever reason, I really didn’t see these two wishes as a part of me that remains – until I read a blog post from a friend who is currently traveling a good chunk of the world on a motorcycle. She opened her story with “As a kid I wanted to be a truck driver so that I could be always on the road…” And that was it. My early life plans, although different, were about wanting to live freely, not being tied to a particular place. Wanting to experience new places, people, moments. I can even throw in my 4th-grade goal of being an archaeologist into the mix (thank you King Tut exhibit) – a job with travel as a primary focus. Until today, I honestly saw all these ideas as simply trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, and just figured those jobs were the coolest I could come up with at the time (read more on my thoughts on the career decisions and paths of youth, here). Turns out, truck driver, van painter, and archaeologist have more in common than I realized. And even though I am trying to settle back into the US, the open road keeps calling (photo credit).

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This could have been me.

A recent blog post from the Wall Street Journal helps me in my struggle to understand what draws me away: Away from security and loved ones. Away from establishing myself. Away from, what seems to be on some level, common sense. Here’s a quote from that blog explaining why expats are so drawn to their lives away from “home:” “Across all walks of expat life, many foreigners are united in their hesitation to “go back,” a description that often means more than just going home and implies returning to a previous state.”

Yes! That’s a huge part of it for me. There are many ways in which I’ve changed after traveling for two years. I like those changes. I don’t want to go back to the way I was before I left. But I feel myself slipping into that familiar role, into those same reactions to things I worked hard to shed. It’s all well and good to come back to my favorite cocktail at my favorite bar, or an Al Pastor taco – but coming back to certain aspects of my “previous state” is NOT something to savor. I accept the things that I did when I did them, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to do them again. Yet, in some ways, that is exactly what I am doing. And I’m not sure what to do about it beyond being mindful, noticing, and trying to practice self-compassion.

Another point in this WSJ post is about how living as an expat allows more opportunities to take chances, fail, try something else, and learn from the experience. The environment of another country can be so different that somehow it can “soften fears of failure. Foreigners are sometimes granted unspoken permission to try things that might be discouraged in their home countries. The combination can lead expats to take more risks…the expat life always offers another chance to make it all different…you can make amends with the mistakes you’ve done or miscalculations and start anew.”

By no means did I live without fear when I was overseas; there were experiences I passed up because I was nervous. I didn’t eat ALL the foods (sorry boiled chicken feet, but I couldn’t get passed your clammy texture and doughy beige color), and I didn’t push hard to have a camping experience while overseas (then again, I barely camp in the US). And I found it difficult to travel alone, so I know there were things I didn’t do in New Zealand and Australia that I could have done had I been a little more brave. But there were a lot of things that I DID do that I wouldn’t have done before: I went skydiving. I ventured into – and used – toilets too scary to recount here. I figured out how to do day-to-day stuff that before I would be too nervous to try because I might have screwed it up. I tried anyway. And sometimes I did screw up. But, as the quote above implies, that’s OK to do. In fact, in many ways it’s sort of encouraged. Try, screw up, learn, rinse, repeat.

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Silly tiles distracted me from the icky toilet in Cheonan, Korea.

In theory and in practice, I could take that mindset and apply it in the US. But somehow it’s more difficult. I can’t explain why yet. Yet there are things I want to do and try, but for whatever reason I can’t. It seems weird to say I need the safety of living in a strange place to have the courage to take chances. Maybe it’s because every day there are so many little challenges when you live abroad – a trip to the grocery store is an adventure. Trying to get a key made becomes a story in and of itself. Taking these little chances as part of daily living builds up confidence to take bigger ones.

Now I am in back familiar territory, looking for the unknown in the everyday. The challenge here may just be the search for challenge. Or maybe I can take up van painting after all.