Kansas City, Day Two: I am not a Cubs fan

It started by sleeping later than I’d planned. I was going to be late. Late for what? This was my trip. My rules. So I changed the itinerary. And it was ok.

I headed to the Hallmark Visitor’s Center, which contains a museum of all things Hallmark and celebrates this history of the company that cares enough to send the very best. As a person who’s fascinated by card-making and postcards, the entire center was amazing to me. I loved seeing how Hallmark grew from a man with a dream to the awesome company it is today.

And yes, I had WAY too much fun with the video screen that puts various Hallmark crowns on your head and then emails the photos to you. Over and over and over.

Crowncollage
Then, after spending a somewhat ridiculous amount of time in what I nicknamed “the crying booths” – booths containing video screens that played sappy Hallmark commercials on repeat, I headed over to Hallmark Live, to meet the creators of hoops&yoyo.

Now, if you’re not familiar with hoops&yoyo, you really should be! These inspiring, silly characters never fail to bring me a smile, even on sad days. Check out their video message just for you:

At Hallmark Live, the creators of my very favorite animated duo were on site to chat about their creative process and sign autographs. I loved meeting them. I let them know how much hoops&yoyo had made me smile during the past year, and that it had been a hard one. I shared a little of my story. I got a little emotional. And I think they did, too. The thing is, us creative types – writers, artists, musicians – we create something hoping it will make a difference, and we put it out there. But we just never know how it’s going to impact someone. So I really just loved the chance to say “thank you” for creating such happy, wonderful characters that had brought me so many smiles.

Hoopsyoyo

From Hallmark, I headed to Union Station, and then on to the Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. But then, just like that, it was time to head to my favorite and most-anticipated destination of the trip: Kauffman Stadium.

Though I’d been in Kansas City for two days now, the stadium was the first time I encountered a place I truly remembered. As soon as I saw it from the highway, I just started crying. Even though it was slightly rainy, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Every time an employee asked “How are you” I replied with this giant smile, “I’m amazing! Thank you!”

RoyalsI’d arrived early to explore the stadium. I headed first to the Royals Hall of Fame, now part of the stadium. I saw George Brett’s bat from his 3,000th hit. The ‘85 world series trophy. And a vintage memorabilia case holding a 1985 duffle bag – the exact same one that’s hanging from a hook in my closet right now. “Oh my gosh, I have that bag!” I exclaimed to
jealous looks from all around.

I headed to the stadium shop – because naturally, I’m going
to need to stock up on Royals gear before I head back to Iowa. As I walked through the store, surrounded by all that blue & white, and overwhelmed by childhood memories, I suddenly burst out “Oh, my God! I’m not a Cubs fan!” A few people laughed, and many just looked at me strangely.

Because here’s the thing. When people ask me about my favorite team, I’ve always said, “The Chicago Cubs. And the Royals, too, you know, from when I was a kid.” And when people ask which one I’d cheer for in a Cubs-Royals world series, I laugh it off and refuse to pick – because seriously? Like that would ever happen. But as much as I love Wrigley Field and the Cubs, I realized, after all this time, that the Royals truly are first in my heart. My childhood heroes were George Brett and Bret Saberhagen. All of my first memories of sports – of cheering, of fireworks, of what it means to love to win – were here in this very stadium. I have been an avid sports fan for my entire life – and it all started by being a Royals fan first.

Even though I have a seat just 13 rows from the field, I walk up the spiral walkway to the upper deck. I loved running up the walkway as a child, and I was still just trying to take it all in. Even more than hour after I’d arrived, I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. A staff member takes a photo of me with the stadium in the background.

Stadium
And then I see it. Right there on the scoreboard. The game has been cancelled for rain. It had been misting all day, but they kept saying the game would go on as planned, so I’d held out hope. But here was the kicker. The game had been postponed until Sunday night. And I was supposed to be driving home on Sunday morning.

I head back to my hotel. I am nearly shaking. I don’t like it when things don’t go according to plan. And I have no one here to talk me through this. No one to tell me what to do. I mean, we’re talking about the woman who typically struggles making simple purchase decisions without running them by someone else. But this was exactly why I was here. To stand on my own feet and know I can make decisions and face the world on my own.

I do a gut check. I decide that I didn’t drive for five hours to NOT see the Royals play. I am going to stay. I go to the hotel office, I call Camp Bow Wow, where my dog is spending the weekend. Arrangements are made, and the plans are changed. But I’m exhausted from the process.

I make a decision to call the one friend who knows I am here. I am not going to ask her advice and I’m not going to overanalyze. But I would like, quite simply, just to talk to my friend.

I’d been learning things like crazy for two days. How to be better at talking to strangers. To ask for help taking photos. To ask questions instead of wander around afraid. To make decisions about rained out games. To tell a man I’ve never met that he looks great when trying on a Royals jacket. My confidence is soaring. I’m SO going to make it. I’ve totally got this.

But it was in this moment that I also realized how important relationships really are. And I was so, so glad that my friend had my back, and she was there to listen and chat when I needed her. Yes, I’m going to live this brave new life on my own terms. But it’s all about discovering a balance. I don’t intend to live a life alone and I have no intention of cutting people out of my life. Going to Kansas City was about taking off the training wheels. I needed to find out that my bike wasn’t going to fall over when I rode down the hill alone. That said, I sure I am glad for the people riding along the trail with me.

Tomorrow: Day Three – I visit my childhood homes, my elementary school playground, and contemplate where my life is going from here.

Little victories

I didn’t write much last week. In fact, I didn’t do quite a bit last week. There was bombing in Boston. Then shooting. Then flooding here in Iowa, and more flooding in Chicago – which significantly hit members of my family and a few close friends. Then explosions in Texas.

There’s a reason I don’t often watch the news. The negativity, the heartbreak, the sadness. It weighs on me so heavily that it makes it harder for me to move forward and harder to see the light. So usually, I just turn it off. But last week, our nation’s heart was heavy, and it was hard to avoid.

PlayingthegameBut lately, there’s one thing that seems to make a difference. When the going gets tough, I do what anyone would do – I play basketball.

I play because I need a win. Even just for me. A chance to say “Yes. I did that.” For about an hour a day, playing basketball
lets me turn off all the noise in my head. There is just me. One ball. One hoop. One goal.

And since I play solo – nothing is standing in my way.

In the midst of grief, of loss, of trauma, victories are important.
Whether it’s giving yourself a high five just for leaving the house, celebrating a met deadline, or simply being stoked for that fabulous hair day, give yourself credit. You’re moving forward. You’re trying. You’re overcoming. You’re taking the shot.

When 2013 began, I declared it would be my best year ever. Because in the aftermath of 2012, didn’t I deserve something better? You bet I do. But four months in, things have not really gone according to plan. I have had some great highs, but there have been some incredible lows, including the loss of a cousin to cancer.

I’m learning that my best year does not mean my easiest year. I must keep showing up. Keep trying. Keep going for it, and trust that the payoff will be worth the work I put in.

When I’m playing basketball, there is nothing quite like that moment when my shot hits perfectly – nothing but net. All of a sudden, I’m in the NCAA tournament and it’s going to be me in the “One Shining Moment” video montage, winning the game with the buzzer-beater. (I’m not sure they even do that montage for women’s basketball, but that’s not really the point, is it?)

Theshot
In life, I know that I just have to keep showing up and putting myself out there. These days, that often means going it alone. Sometimes the stakes are high. Whether it’s leaving a job, traveling out of my comfort zone, or simply acknowledging my true feelings, I know that I have to learn to trust myself. So I go for those little victories. The completed to-do list. The published article. The day where, when I felt like I couldn’t, I found a way to get out the door. And yes, I go for those perfect, nothing-but-net shots with a basketball in my driveway – always believing the game is on the line.

And though it may not feel like these little victories matter, when you can pile up enough of them, all of a sudden, there’s a whole pile of proof that you’re just going to be okay after all.