Memorial Stadium Memories

Shoreline Wins Turkey Day Game
Our joyful Shoreline cheer squad celebrates winning the prep football metro title in Memorial Stadium.

Ah yes. Reading Bill Kossen’s story, “Turkey Times – 50 years of tasty Turkey Day Game memories and my love of prep football” printed in the Seattle Times Nov. 22, 2012 brought back many happy memories.

Kossen said he went to his first high school football game 50 years ago at age 7, and every year since has made an annual pilgrimage to Seattle’s Memorial Stadium (in the shadow of the Space Needle) to catch a game. That game 50 years ago hooked him into the world of prep football, and now as an editor and writer for The Seattle Times, he shared some of his fond memories.

I, too, have fond memories of Memorial Stadium and prep football. My father was a football referee, and oftentimes my sister and I would go to his games. We loved the energy of the crowd, the excitement, the band, the colors, the lights, and mostly, the cheerleaders.

We were young – pretty sure I was in elementary school and she was in middle school, yet we had a great time evaluating the cheer squads’ choreography (and picking up some new moves). We chose who we thought was the prettiest, who had the most pizazz, and who had the coolest uniforms.

Little did I know that those memorable childhood nights were setting the foundation for my lifelong part-time career. My sister and I both were high school cheerleaders and twirlers at Shoreline High School. I then became the only person on earth to be a featured twirler at both WSU (freshman and sophomore years) and the UW (junior and senior years). I loved the thrill of game day so much that my senior year I twirled for the Huskies on Saturdays and cheered for the Seahawks as a Sea Gal on Sundays. (And somehow I still managed to graduate in four years.)

At age 23 I became the choreographer for the Seattle Seahawks Sea Gals, and I’ve judged Sea Gals tryouts for over 20 years. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that those exciting nights in Memorial Stadium would lead to decades of dance, cheer, coaching and choreography, but I never thought it was a talent. I always thought everyone could do it.

To this day, I love watching football. And I love watching the cheerleaders.

Recently my daughter asked me, “Mom, can’t you ever just sit back and enjoy a performance without critiquing it?”

“No, Kristi. I can’t. I can’t help but see ways to make it better!”

I try not to be judgmental in everyday life. And I certainly keep life in perspective and realize that cheerleading, dance, twirling and football are all just hobbies. But I am thankful for them because they provide a brief escape from my daily routine. They’ve brought joy, fun, friends, excitement, and hundreds of cherished memories into my life.

As far as this weekend goes, I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s Seahawks game. Yesterday’s Apple Cup matchup between WSU and the UW was one of the closest ever. And as for my high school alma mater, I can no longer cheer for it. The Shoreline Spartans, who reigned supreme in the Turkey Day battle when I was one of their cheerleaders, are no more. The school is now the community’s senior center. Ouch!

Jordyn Wieber’s Dream of All-Around Gold is Dashed

Jordyn Wieber 2012 Olympics

Jordyn Wieber performing at the 2012 Olympic Games. (AP Photo / Gregory Bull)

What a travesty! I must agree with those words spoken by Bela Karolyi last night after the women’s gymnastics competition at the Olympic Games. My heart hurts for Jordyn Wieber.

Last night, due to a Federation of International Gymnastics (FIG) rule allowing only two gymnasts per nation to compete for the individual all-around title, current World Champion Wieber was eliminated from the competition.

It doesn’t matter that she finished in fourth place and the final competition includes 24 gymnasts. Since two of her teammates scored higher than her, 21 gymnasts who finished below her will get the opportunity to compete for gold – just because they aren’t on Team USA.

What a shame for Jordyn, and any other competitor who could get cut in the future because of this rule. It’s not right to eliminate the world’s finest from an Olympic competition because they are a member of a strong team. Isn’t the goal of a team, and each individual, to be the best they can be?

Until last night I thought the Olympic Games represented the best of the best. I thought it was a fierce competition representing the world’s finest athletes. Last night I learned otherwise. The all-around competition in women’s gymnastics will not represent the best in the world. Instead it will represent SOME of the top gymnasts from a variety of countries.

It’s as if the FIG said, “Congratulations on being fabulous and placing fourth in the all-around competition. But, since we would like to see athletes from a variety of nations in the competition, we’re going to let women from other countries who finished below you compete for the Olympic title in your place. You don’t mind do you? It’s nice to share.”

I don’t believe the Olympic Games are about sharing. The Olympic Games are the ultimate competition for athletes demonstrating unfathomable excellence. Athletes who have devoted their lives to training for the games should not have to step down from the competition to allow others who score below them to participate. If there are 24 slots in a final competition, the gymnast who qualifies in fourth place should certainly have the opportunity to move forward in the competition.

The FIG needs to get rid of their 2-per-country rule before the next Olympics so no other team has to go through what Team USA experienced last night. Like Jordyn’s coach John Geddert said, “It’s an injustice Jordyn will be excluded from the all-around finals.” He posted on Facebook, “We have always known the 2 per country rule, we are not crying of spilt milk, yet it makes it difficult to explain how the 4th best AA finisher, the former world champion, does not get a shot at fulfilling her dream, just because her country happens to be incredibly strong. The sting of this injustice is painful and for the record I have voiced this opinion time and time again …. To penalize an athlete or country for being OUTSTANDING is not in the spirit of sport and certainly not the spirit of the Olympic Games.”

I agree with Geddert. But for now, the rule stands. And despite Jordyn’s tremendous disappointment she’ll need to set aside her pain and take pride in representing Team USA in the team competition and the individual floor exercise finals. Kudos to her for handling her disappointment with grace while in the world’s spotlight, and I hope she performs flawlessly as Team USA vies for the gold.

I don’t want to take anything away from the amazing USA gymnasts who qualified ahead of Jordyn – Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas. Congratulations to them! I simply feel badly that because of the 2-person per nation rule, Aly couldn’t celebrate her great accomplishment with gusto because she knew that her accomplishment meant extreme disappointment to her teammate, roommate, and best friend – Jordyn. Talk about a joy killer… Imagine the celebration they could have enjoyed had all three who qualified been allowed to move forward in the competition.

Tomorrow we’ll get to watch the drama unfold during the team competition. Good luck to Team USA and ALL FIVE of the “Fab Five.” I’m pretty sure the crowd will cheer extra loud for Jordyn. I can’t wait to hear them.


Hawaiian Sunset

Beautiful photo courtesy of Karen Warner.

How do you “find” happiness?

You don’t “find” it, folks, you create it. The key is to realize what brings you joy and inspires your passion…and what doesn’t! Then, do more of the good and ditch the bad!

This soul-searching may take some time, but it is time well-spent. Once you figure it out and start bringing those things that bring you joy into your life, you’ll start loving life more than ever.

We all have gifts and talents, and we need to put them to good use. Think about the five “W’s” – Who, What, Where, When and Why:

WHO do you enjoy being around; who inspires you to be your best; who makes you smile? Whose life can you make better by helping them in some way?

WHAT activities, hobbies, or work are you passionate about? What work do you enjoy so much you’d do it for free? What do people tell you you’re good at? What are you excited to learn more about? What can you do to make the world a better place?

WHERE are you when you feel at peace? Are you at the top of a mountain or on a Hawaiian beach? (Both work for me!) Are you in a luxurious hotel or a rustic cabin? Are you energized in a warm, sunny climate or in a cooler climate?

WHEN are you the most productive? When can you fit joyful activities into your life? When do you prefer to sleep, work, play? Try to mold your schedule around your preferences.

WHY are you trying to live the way other people think you should live (or how you think others want you to live)? Why not start making yourself happier NOW? Why not start doing one thing every day that makes you happy?

I loved an article I read today by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nocodemus. In it they said, “Happiness, as far as we’re concerned, is achieved through living a meaningful life—a life that is filled with passion and freedom, a life in which we grow as individuals and contribute to other people in meaningful ways. Growth and contribution—those are the bedrocks of happiness. Not stuff.

“This may not sound sexy or marketable or sellable, but it’s the cold truth. As humans, we’re happy if we’re growing as individuals and contributing beyond ourselves.

“Without growth, and without a deliberate effort to help others, we are simply slaves to cultural expectations, ensnared by the trappings of money and power and status and perceived success.”

(Click here to read the complete article.)

The choice to be happy is yours; no one else can MAKE you happy. Best of luck to you as you create your own happiness!

Chef Dan

Chop Chop Salad
My chop chop salad!

Having a son-in-law (to be) who is a chef is a beautiful thing! I’ll admit it – cooking has never been my strength. I grew up in a family of movers-and-shakers; we were constantly “going.” We never focused on cooking because that, of course, would involve time for planning, grocery shopping, preparation, cooking, eating and cleaning. Who had time for that? Ha! Not us.

Fortunately, Dan, my wonderful son-in-law to be, has taught me that cooking doesn’t have to be time-consuming. It’s really quite simple to throw together fresh, healthy meals. His favorite word is “just.” “You just add a little of this,” or “You just cook it until it’s done,” or “You just add as much of this as you’d like,” he says. For him, it’s all “just” that easy.

But, for someone like me whose childhood kitchen never contained fresh herbs, cheese (other than Velveeta), or spices beyond salt and pepper (ok…maybe that’s stretching it…but not much), I have a long road ahead of me to learn to become a decent cook.

Happily, I’ve had time in the last year to take on cooking as a new hobby, and I’m actually getting pretty good at it!  Dan has inspired me with a few of his “just do this” lessons. With his inspiration, in addition to finding fabulous recipes on my other new hobby, Pinterest, I have to admit I’m kind of having fun preparing fresh, delicious food.

Cilantro, basil, REAL cheeses, balsamic vinegar and wine have become staples in my kitchen. It’s a whole new world for a gal who had never tried Chinese, Thai, Japanese or Mexican food until her friends introduced her to it in high school and college.

So there you have it. Anyone can learn to cook. It’s really quite simple. You “just” need a little inspiration. Thanks, Dan!

From Toddler to Bride in a Flash

Kristi Leonard Age 3

Kristi as a 3-year-old toddler.

There’s something staggering about the moment your daughter puts a bridal veil on her head to complete her bridal ensemble. In a split second her entire life whirs by in front of you. In that moment you suddenly realize the cute little 2-year-old playfully smearing flour all over the kitchen counter has instantaneously turned into a bride. Bam! Her childhood is over. She’s moving into a new chapter…and so are you as her parent.

It’s not that I would want her to remain a little girl (please, no!). I very much want her to branch out on her own and be a happy, productive and compassionate member of society. I just didn’t expect that one “veil instant” to impact me as strongly as it did, especially since I co-owned a bridal salon for 11 years and had seen that emotional moment played out many times in my store. But those times were different; those brides belonged to other people. This bride was MY daughter.

Well, I’m happy to report I maintained my composure, and with the help of Nikki and Kathy at Princess Bride, and my sister, my daughter selected her bridal gown, veil and jewelry all in one stop. No tears, no doubts. Just giddiness and joy (and my bankcard, of course).

That day we checked off three items from the wedding to-do list…and created one memory that I’ll never forget.

Kristi Leonard Bridal Gown

Kristi in a bridal gown (but not the one she chose).

Kristi in a bridal gown (but not the one she chose).

Full Moon Weirdness

Full Moon CropI should just stay in bed on full-moon days and write the day off. Yesterday was a perfect example; from start to finish the day was flawed.

I had an in-person interview yesterday for a position that I am really excited about, at an organization that actually saves peoples’ lives, so I wanted the day to flow perfectly. I wanted to head into the interview in a great mood and in a positive frame of mind. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

The trouble started with my morning ritual of peanut-butter-toast and tea. I made a cup of tea, placed the bread in the toaster, and then realized…oh no…we’re out of peanut butter! It’s the same feeling as pouring cereal in a bowl, topping the cereal with beautiful sliced strawberries, only to find out there’s no milk. Bummer….

But, I wasn’t about to let that little mishap dampen my day, so I smeared some jam on the toast and got dressed for my interview. I chose to wear black slacks and a new blazer, but as I headed out the door my daughter shrieked, “Mom! Where is your POWER SUIT?”

“Don’t you think what I am wearing is powerful enough?” I asked.

“NO!” she replied.

So into my closet I dashed and I quickly changed into my “power suit.”

“Much better,” she said. “Doesn’t that feel better?”

“Well actually, no, it doesn’t,” I said.  “It actually FEELS very tight!”

“How did that happen?” I pondered.

But at that point, I was out of time, and I couldn’t change my clothes again.

Sitting in my car I checked my iPhone for the company address and gasped. The email message stated, “Please arrive 10 minutes early for your appointment to complete some paperwork.” Oh great! If I hadn’t had a wardrobe malfunction arriving early wouldn’t have been a problem, but now I’m just hoping to get there on time.

Cruising along the highway I seemed to be making good time and I felt relieved that I was going to get there 10 minutes early. Then I heard, “Pop!” The car ahead of me kicked up a rock that punched a half-inch chip in my windshield. (You need to understand that my car is pretty special to me because I picked it up in Munich one year ago and I was telling someone the day before how happy I was that it was still in perfect condition.) Guess I spoke too soon.

Thankfully, I arrived at my interview 15 minutes early and I confidently entered the office knowing that my skill set was a very good match for the job. The interview went well…until the end. There was just something about the way she said, “You’ll hear from us in a couple of weeks,” that left me disappointed. Somehow I perceived that I was not going to be one of the two finalists selected for the final panel interview. I hope my gut instinct is wrong, but I left the interview deflated.

I didn’t need to be down for long, though, because I was meeting a former colleague for Happy Hour at 5:15pm. I rushed home, changed my clothes, and arrived at the restaurant five minutes early. Then I waited….and waited….and waited…and by 5:30pm my friend still hadn’t arrived. I ordered some wine and a couple of hors d’oeuvres…thinking she’d arrive any minute. (It wasn’t like her to be late.) Then, at 5:45pm I sent her a text and she replied, “I’m at the UW. I can’t make it tonight. I had it on my calendar for tomorrow night. I feel awful!” So there I was, sitting in a bar alone with drinks and hors d’oeuvres for two, feeling like I had a flashing-red beacon on my head saying, “I’m so embarrassed! I really was supposed to meet someone here tonight. Anyone care to join me?”

So I drove home and decided to lay low the rest of the night. I told my daughter, “Geez, what a day. It must have been a full moon or something.”

“It was a full moon!” she said.

Hmmm…Surprise, surprise.

My former colleague and I met tonight and after telling her about my weird day yesterday she said, “You might say you got mooned by the full moon yesterday.”

Indeed I did. And there are 29 days until the next one.

I’m Sorry…But Madonna Didn’t Bring It!

Madonna During Super Bowl Halftime Show
Madonna performing in her Super Bowl Halftime Show. Photo from MSN Entertainment.

Okay. I’m hot. Irked. A bit irritated. I know it’s petty in the great scheme of life. But, I’ve spent the majority of my life dancing, cheering, twirling, performing (or coaching those activities), so I consider myself reasonably knowledgeable in those areas. And after watching Madonna’s Super Bowl Halftime Show I was upset! To me, despite the flashy sets, incredible dancers and fabulous ending, the show on the whole was BORING. Madonna had NO PIZAZZ! No energy. No spunk. No spark! Granted, she looked fabulous, her sets were creative, her songs were proven hits, but she looked like she spent so much time worrying about everything and everyone else that she forgot to enjoy the show herself!

I kept expecting her to loosen up (I can’t believe I needed Madonna, of all people, to loosen up). She seemed preoccupied. She wasn’t INTO her performance. She was only going through the motions. It was as if she was going to finish the performance and say, “Ok. Now I’m ready. Let’s do this thing for real now and have fun with it.” Unfortunately, there were no do-overs on this one.

Thankfully she saved the show with “Like a Prayer” where she finally seemed to loosen up and enjoy the performance. Her ending (where she disappeared into a bright light and the words “World Peace” appeared on the field) was spectacular.

But what has me so exasperated is that people thought she was great! Really? Were they watching the same show that I was? I was literally embarrassed for Madonna during the pom pom/marching segment. She looked ridiculous (and marched with high steps…blaringly OUT OF STEP). Frankly it was an insult to all cheerleaders who know how to use poms (yes…there is a way to “correctly use” poms) and to all who have marched in bands or in the military. She exemplified how NOT to use poms and how NOT to march. Yikes.

I agree that she looks fabulous, not only for her age, but for ANY age! And I also appreciate that many people (again – of any age) cannot do a cartwheel, so they are impressed that she can do one (in heels no less). But she’s a superstar, and is paid accordingly, so if she’s going to do a cartwheel (a BASIC tumbling move); she’d better do it well. And she didn’t.

So there lies my frustration. Madonna is a superstar. She’s amazingly talented. She’s an over-the-top entertainer. As such, I expected her to “bring it” to this halftime show. She brought the sets, the dancers and the guest performers, but she left her hutzpah at home. Darn it! It could have been fabulous. Instead, it was a hugely disappointing lip-synced show. And what really gets me is that other people thought it was terrific. Hmmh….

Oh well. Thankfully it was JUST a halftime show – an entertaining break from our day-to-day lives.