Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Put Me In Coach....

“Baseball is the most perfect of games, solid, true, pure and precious as diamonds. If only life were so simple. Within the baselines anything can happen. Tides can reverse; oceans can open. That's why they say, "the game is never over until the last man is out." Colours can change, lives can alter, anything is possible in this gentle, flawless, loving game.” 
― W.P. Kinsella, Shoeless Joe

Back in my teaching days, I always found it amusing trying to explain to young students about the holiday of Tu B'Shevat, the Jewish holiday celebrating trees. "The Birthday of the Trees," we would proclaim in loud enthusiastic voices, and then we would go about attempting to make planting of greenery relevant to pre-schoolers who were more than a little bit confused by the sight outside of their windows of snow and ice that are the norm in a Canadian January, as that is when this little gem of a celebration usually falls. "Well," I used to say. "Maybe it doesn't yet feel like spring outside here in Toronto, but in Israel there are signs of the season everywhere." This rationalization is exactly the method that we northern baseball fans use every single February when the Boys of Summer flock to their spring addresses, readying themselves for the always promising season that lay ahead. We may not be able to yet see or smell the grass, but we know that it is just around the corner because Spring Training has begun and tells us so.

It is one thing to fanaticize about once again sitting in the Dome with a scorecard in one hand and a beer in the other while still in the Great White North freezing one's kishkas blue, but it is a whole other experience to make the journey south to be with the lads as they begin their quest for the Holy Grail of October baseball. For the very first time in 37 years, I made that pilgrimage to watch my beloved bluebirds open the spring season. Older Son and I were fortunate enough to grab a couple of seats in the car with our dear friends and chauffeurs The Social Butterfly and his Sephora Girl, and we all headed the 4 1/2 hours north from The Southern Home. It is a baseball fan's dream. Truly. I know that I am gushing, but I am still giddy from the all too brief encounter with the boys.

The weather? It was a perfect 81 degrees. (Sorry Toronto!) The grass? Mowed and trimmed to perfection with just the hint of fragrance wafting into the stands. (Seriously Rogers! Time to spring for the real deal at the Dome. So necessary!) The players? Excited, nervous, open, engaging, and anticipatory. There is a real feeling of expectation this year and it isn't just amongst the fans. Being a Toronto sports fan, I find it difficult to get overly excited about pre-season prognostications, but this group has the talent. Here's hoping for good health, breakout seasons, and return to form. My son? Happier and more glowing than he has been in a very long time. He spent a great deal of time hanging out down at the fence trying to chat up the guys. While most just went about their business, I think he still got a contact high just from the close proximity.

A few random thoughts about the 48 hour excursion.

I loved the small town feel of Dunedin. It reminded me of Stratford Ontario; a town that is totally centred around one industry for a finite period of time every year. The Stadium is right down the middle of the main street and all of the locals seem consumed with the Blue Jays. If felt very different from the Phillies complex that we passed on the highway in Clearwater....big place in a big city. Dunedin feels like Anytown America, population in the thousands.

Stadium seats only about 4,800 people. They try to separate the visiting team fans to one side so that you don't have to fraternize.  Everybody becomes fast friends, even if they are cheering for the Red Sox.

I knew that I wasn't at the Dome when the PA announcer came on to advise us all that if a foul ball hit any of our parked cars, we would be gifted with a free chicken sandwich. Every time one of the guys managed to foul it off behind the plate, Older Son and I looked at each other and yelled "Chicken Sandwich!"

The Voldemort Skipper of that team wearing the red sox (he who shall not be named) was booed mercilessly when first announced, and again when he came out to deliver the lineup card. He is in for a very rough ride whenever the Beantowners visit this season.

Joey Bats cranked one in the first game. The good news? He pulled it to left, thus turning his formerly injured wrist over in the process. He looked good!

Mr. Knuckleballer has one weird pitch. He wasn't yet in mid-season form as he hadn't yet harnessed the  dancing ball, but his out pitch is odd, unreadable, and hard. He is a keeper.

As are both the pitchers that came over in the mega deal. Both were popping the glove at 95 mph regularly.

Mr. "I'm sorry for the drug use and won't ever do it again" cracked two doubles, one to the opposite field. If he can do that this season with regularity, he will be perfect in the 2 slot.

I loved watching the kids. There is an eagerness to all of them that reminded me of watching my nephew playing Little League. These guys are still in love with the game and it shows. Like John Fogerty wrote:

Got a beat-up glove, a homemade bat, and brand-new pair of shoes; 
You know I think it's time to give this game a ride. 
Just to hit the ball and touch 'em all - a moment in the sun; 
(pop) It's gone and you can tell that one goodbye! 

Baseball is back my friends and there is optimism in the air. I know that it is cold and miserable back home, but take heart.....summer is coming home with the Blue Jays.

"Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal." ~ George Will

Friday, 22 February 2013

Civil Discourse

During this time of Shabbatical, I have been consciously attempting to disengage myself from what I view as a myriad of toxic online behaviour, mostly in the realm of politics. I can't say that I am always successful at this, but I am trying. I have stopped visiting sites that have as their sole purpose the smearing of one political belief or another. I refuse to engage with Facebook or Twitter "friends" in their constant barrages of ugly partisan posts, nor have I passed on or shared such content. (I will admit to keeping the pressure on in support of Women of the Wall, but I view that struggle as much a religious fight as it is political.) It is no secret that I have strong opinions on many (most?) subjects that fall into this category, and very often I have used this space to express my displeasure, incredulity, or even disgust on a myriad of issues. I have rarely shied away from a civil discourse on any subject, provided that all opinions were taken into account, and slurs, epithets, and stereotypical categorization were avoided. But lately, I have found myself placed in the potentially awkward position of actually  "unfriending" a few of my Facebook and Twitter associates because of the lack of decorum that they have displayed in the troublesome language used in their posts. Why awkward? Well, some of these people are quite close to me in the real world. So, it is to these few that I address the following.

Dear Friend,

I have recently noted that you are quite active in the social media world, and as we are virtually connected, your posts and interests have become regular fixtures in my news feeds. I am always interested in the many voices and sides to the debates of the day, but please allow me to offer you a bit of advice if you hope to engage me, and others like me who are not necessarily on your side of the political divide, into reading what you have posted. (Note: I am speaking to both liberals and conservatives here!)

  1. Using words like "hypocrite", "liar", "looney", "idiotic" or "doltish" in your pre-posting comment is likely to dissuade me from reading whatever it is you have put up. Insulting me before the fact is bad behaviour that is most likely to result in your post being flushed. 
  2. Using past bad liberal behaviour (and there has been a ton!) as an excuse for present bad conservative behaviour (and there has been a ton!) or vice-versa is a straw man's argument that does nothing to move along the discourse. Stay in the present or I will probably just delete what you have posted.
  3. Arrogance is never a good way to sway me to your side of the fence. If you have valid arguments, make them. But, please don't act and speak to me as if you are morally superior simply because we differ.
  4. Personal attacks on any of our leaders will get you absolutely nowhere with me. Calling our mayor out for his corpulence is extremely bad form, as are jokes about our premier and her sexuality. Language matters and it is time that we all took a great deal more care in how we use it.

Rabbi SaraLeya Schley teaches:

Jewish mysticism teaches us that we are all essential parts of the One Soul, each of us sent into our lives to fulfill our unique soul missions. Without each and every one of us, the Great Name, Sh’mei Raba, is incomplete. When we each speak our unique truths from a place of centeredness and integrity, our words are indeed the words of the Living God, infused with the quality of Divine inspiration. Dialogue then becomes a spiritual practice in which we see and acknowledge each other as sparks of the Divine. We consciously open our hearts wide enough to hold diverse opinions, even those which seem to be so opposite to our own that we cannot imagine resolution. In this sanctuary, mishkan, of our unified hearts, holding each other in love and respect, we create - with our sacred intention and deep listening - the possibility of shalom and reconciliation and we can birth radically new solutions, heretofore never even imagined.

Look, friend. I am not suggesting that you and I will ever see eye to eye on politics. Our individual opinions are simply too ingrained. I am however, suggesting that I could possibly understand you better and see some merit in some of your viewpoints if only you might present the articles without ugly editorializing. If you find this beyond your comfort zone, I understand. But please also understand that our online relationship will come to an end. 

Yours in friendship and Shabbat Shalom,


Thursday, 14 February 2013

A Few Things About My Valentine

If you have spent any time at all reading and digesting the ramblings that often occupy this space, you will know that I do not spend a great deal of time on sappy sentiment and syrupy language. That isn't to say that I don't adore The Husband with all of my being, but neither of us seem to enjoy the gag-inducing patter that comes with Valentine's Day. But there are things that get my romantic instincts churning, and after all of these years together The Husband has become a master at decoding and deciphering. By the way...none of these have to do with paper hearts, flowers, jewelry, or expensive boxes of chocolates. Tell me if any of these sound familiar to any of you.

  • I just love it when he cleans without nagging and prodding. There is nothing as sexy as seeing my man with a mop in his hand. Crazy? Perhaps. But nothing says "You Matter" better than knowing that we share and care for our space together. That and the fact that he knows what the smell of Windex in the morning does to me. Oh my!!
  • Along that same theme, I outwardly smile when he gases up my car, takes it in for servicing, and of course gets it detailed. Now that's what I call true love.
  • We really enjoy cooking dinner together. When both of us are actively involved in meal planning, there is a bond of together time that cannot be equalled with planned dates and excursions. That time spent as a couple is unchoreographed, intimate, and sacred. Far better than the best restaurant meal Toronto has to offer.
  • He indulges my crazy hobbies, to most of which he is totally ambivalent. Broadway musicals, baseball, dogs...have all found their way into The Husband's consciousness. When I hear people tell me how much they have in common with their partners, I smile to myself and remember that the similarities that couples have may be the bedrock of their relationships, but it is how they deal with the differences that is truly the glue. (The fact that I am composing this post on one of the many electronic gadgets and toys I have accumulated over the years, is testament to my trying to figure out his world.)

When we got married, our total combined net worth was the bluebook value of a 1985 Hyundai Pony and a few small investments made with leftover Bnai Mitzvah gifts. It certainly wasn't about the money, nor did he capture the heart of the hot willowy blond cheerleader. We are who we are and that has proven to be more than enough after all of these years.


So on this Valentine's Day keep in mind that it is attention to the small stuff that is the basis of true romance. The big gestures? Keep them in your pocket for a rainy day.