Chocolate Chip Cookies and the Definition of “Family”

What does family mean? This is what it means to me.

Recently, I baked some cookies. I hadn’t had freshly home-baked cookies in a while and I figured I might as well try to make them myself. Of course I had help, but it was pretty much my idea and work that got the cookies made. Turns out, they were good cookies and people liked them. Yay me!

But my reasons for making the cookies weren’t just influenced by the singular need to eat them. I wanted to make them for my “family”. I put that word in quotes because I’m going to try to broaden its meaning further than what its dictionary meaning is and try to talk about who is my family.

First, there’s the literal definition of Family. Blood relatives. In terms of the cookies, my mom had helped me by finding the ingredients for me when I’d asked where they were and she, my dad, and my sister had the cookies first (After me of course; what do you think I am, generous?). These people are important in your early life and as you get older you realize how even more important they are. Or so I’m told. I’m still a teenager so that sort of sentimentality hasn’t properly hit yet. But the problem with that family is that you don’t get to choose them. If you have a conflict with someone, it’s not easily solved by just walking away. When you still live in a house with them, you still have to deal with them every day. For many people this is a rough thing to do, but as every single Disney movie as taught me: Family is important. They are a part of you no matter how much you may deny it.

But what about a different kind of family? Maybe a sort of family that you may not even see face to face? This second example is the family that you choose. Most people call them friends. I don’t have many friends, but I have a lot of family. I’m in a specific online community that’s devoted to what essentially is DnD for sports nerds (you should join, tell them Jiggly sent you). This is a community where each person lives their own separate lives independent from the “sim league”, but use the league as an escape to talk to different people. And for me, someone whose days are filled with either being locked up in my room or aimlessly wandering around a campus, it is a MAJOR escape in terms of being able to have something at least resembling human interaction. But that’s just friends. What moves these people into “family” territory for me? It’s simple: caring.

I’ll keep the details confidential (even though anyone from that community will clearly remember this night), but there’s a young user who was going through some rough shit one day and I spent all night on Discord trying to do my best to talk them through it. Because of this, they jokingly called me “Mom”. I honestly embraced the name because I thought it was funny and I figured the kid would need some sort of extra guidance in the coming days. Do I know who this kid is outside of the league? No. Do I know what he even looks like? No. Do I at least know his real name? Maybe, I think I forgot. But I care about them. And I know that if I say something asking for help, they’d care enough about me to help me.

While that’s just one person I was talking about there, I have countless stories of all these different specific people who have become like family to me because of how much I trust them. Maybe I’m too trusting, but whatever. But I’m sure that many of you can relate to that idea of a community of online people who you that even if you’ve never seen their face, you’d absolutely look to them for help in a heartbeat. That’s not just a friend. That’s family.

Also, since I couldn’t send them the cookies, I was telling them all about my plans to bake cookies and made sure to send them pictures of the cookies right out of the oven. So that’s how they fit into the cookie story-line.

This still leaves a whole lot of cookies unaccounted for, especially since my sim league family didn’t eat any of the cookies. I wanted to save these people for last, because this is a weird combination of the first two examples. This is a group of people I’ve known my entire life and grown up around. Of course, I’m talking about my Chicago Fire family.

I’ve said this so many times now, but they are truly family to me. These people, especially those who are still here after all of this bullshit that’s come down on us, are so important to me. It’s a dumb thing to say as a writer, but I really don’t know how much more I can explain this than I have in the past. I grew up in the Soldier Field parking garage at Section 8 tailgates and this amazing community has shaped me into who I am today. There is no other word that I can describe this group of people other than “Family”.

Of course, I’d feel a little weird talking about the Fire Family without talking about Sector Latino, who was banned earlier this year. There’s been plenty of coverage on this situation and I don’t think that a “professional opinion” from me is needed. While not exactly where I planned this post going, this whole idea of “Family” extends to this as well. The most poignant words I can muster is this:

The Chicago Fire is not just a “team”, it’s not a “franchise”; it is a Club, it is a Culture, and it is a Family. And when you cut off a part of that family you cut off a part of yourself.

So when I made cookies “for my family”, I made sure that I baked them the night before the final home game of the season and handed them out to everyone at the tailgate. And I absolutely plan on making more for next season.

I guess this is about as much as I feel that I can write tonight, but I’ll try to sum my ideas: You can’t choose your family. Even when you technically do, they also have to choose you. It’s about having a mutual concern for the others’ well-being. It’s about love. And love is about giving everything and expecting nothing in return. When there’s an issue, solve it. Because no matter how much you can deny it they’re still family and in the end it’s not about how many friends you have, but how many of them aren’t friends, but family.

(I just realized I didn’t add a single .gif into this piece, so here’s one now)

7tlr

Juan Luis Anangono and Volume Shooting

How a failed Designated Player isn’t that different from Bruce Springsteen when you think about it

Usually whenever I “come back” to writing, I try to write something beforehand about how I “want to find myself a schedule” and that whole thing. Basically, I enjoy writing about myself and what I’ve been doing and then not doing anything for months. So I’m gonna break that chain by just starting this weekly series right away. That’s right, this is the first in a (hopefully) weekly series where I just talk about some sort of concept while connecting it to random other things. This week, while I may not be writing a “what I’ve been doing and why I want to write again”, I will absolutely be talking about why I’m writing again. And it has something to do with a man that not even many Chicago Fire fans will remember.

I’m pretty sure you’ve all heard the line, “‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take – Wayne Gretzky’ – Michael Scott.” It’s fairly easy to remember and understand. If you don’t shoot you don’t score. If you don’t take a risk, you won’t get the reward. Simple.

A “Volume Shooter” in pretty much every sport where shooting is concerned, is someone who takes that ideology to the max. Not only do they shoot, but they keep shooting no matter what. In basketball it’s usually a shooting guard, a sniper in hockey, and a striker in soccer. While they may score at a low rate per shot, they score at a higher rate per minute because of the sheer amount of shots they take.

So is this blog post going to basically just be me explaining a very simple sports concept or no reason? Absolutely!

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Just kidding, of course it’s not. While the term “Volume Shooter” is used in sports, it applies to many other professions and aspects of life as well. That person who’s always looking for an extra side hustle to get some more money? Volume shooter. Someone who’s always on Tinder? Volume shooter. If there is a risk and a reward, there will almost always be someone willing to take that risk over and over in hopes to gain that reward. And there’s no sort of person that I think exemplifies this concept than songwriters (yup, I’m going there).

Recently I dug up a quote from Our Lady of Distortion herself, Annie Clark, from fairly early in her career (Actor-era) where she was talking about how she was trying to improve her own writing:

“Everyone, I think, probably, makes some really terrible music. And hopefully as you make more and more and more music, either the bad stuff gets kind of diluted by the good stuff or you have some sort of self-awareness and refinement to your ear and to your palate where you start making less and less and less embarrassing music.” -Annie Clark (source)

Annie’s a smart lady and uses fancy words. Let me dumb it down: If you write for long enough, you either get better at it or you’ll just make enough good songs that everyone will forget your bad ones. This tactic was used very effectively by Bruce Springsteen who, to be completely fair, has had a whole lot of stinkers in his day. Of course, art is subjective, but back in the day an album came out pretty much every year whether you were ready for it or not so while there was some magic on there, there was also plenty of crap. There’s certainly a place for it, but there’s a reason it’s called “album filler”. It still happens to other bands and even I’m guilty of putting songs I feel aren’t really good on an album because I just had space.

But it’s that second part of her quote that’s what this whole post is about. This whole idea of Volume Shooting is that it’s not just that you should be getting more hits simply by doing more everything. You should also be getting better by doing more. That’s what “practice” is.

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This is where Juan Luis Anangono fits in for me. One of the many failed Designated Players signed by the Chicago Fire, at least this guy played games for us instead of being loaned off somewhere else… okay, he was eventually loaned off to LDU Quito. But my point is that I liked the guy because in a very boring season (until we got Magee) he was fairly exciting. Although, that was solely because whenever he shot the ball, I knew it would hit the post. Without question. The dude was the biggest cock-tease striker I’ve ever seen. Always so close to getting something done, but never quite getting there. After two seasons with the Fire, he scored only 4 goals.

Was Anangono a volume shooter? To be honest, I don’t quite remember. I just remember the feeling every time he shot and thinking that this might finally be the one where he scores on it, only to get a loud clang off of the crossbar. No matter how many shots he took, he never got any better.

So this comes back around to me as a very vivid fear that I have: Not being able to improve. Sure, there’s always ways to improve and make yourself better; but when you feel like you’re stuck doing the same thing every time you try to do something different, it weighs on you. When it comes to my writing, I’ve been trying to take it more seriously than I did with the last album. I’ve thought about it in this way for a while: The LP was a proof of concept, the first album was to prove to myself that “Yes, I can,” but this second album feels like I now need to prove to others that I can not only do it again but show growth alongside it as well. It’s a weight that I put on my own shoulders.

So that’s why I’m writing again. I want to make sure I have keep up a steady stream of writings so I can keep myself loose and able to do more. Writing isn’t that different from shooting. You just need to keep doing it and doing it and the only difference is that while you can lift weights and do other exercises to improve your physical capacity to score in soccer, basketball, and hockey, when it comes to writing the only way to improve is to just write.

My hope once again comes in good ol’ “Anan-no-goal”. In one of his last games for the Fire, he scored a brace in the US Open Cup. It was a good game too, I think it was in extra time. And I just checked his wiki page and apparently just this past year, he’s scored 12 goals in the league for Quito (with 8 goals last season) and has even picked up 3 goals in Copa Libertadores.

There’s hope for everyone. Don’t just “shoot your shot.” Keep shooting.

(I want to come up with something clever to say at the end of these posts as a send-off, but I can’t think of anything yet, so here’s a .gif instead)

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