#AtoZChallenge | Z is for zigzag 📩

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Some days zig when you think they’ll zag.

AtoZ2019ZTuesday was such a day. If you’d told me I’d cry some of my happiest and saddest tears in the same day – some in the same hour – I’d have, well, been eager to see how. I’d have never guessed. It began with a soccer match, on a senior day.

It ended with tears in silence as I learned all I could about a shooting at my alma mater.

In between, the day’s events intertwined and intersected. This is what I meant by my Y post yesterday. Time spent away from writing is time spent creating the writing through living. I can’t say it was a bad day and I can’t say it was a good one, either.

It was a day, and really, we get a lot of those, don’t we?

I’ll start with a reminder. Hayden hasn’t played this season. She had ACL reconstructive surgery in January. She’ll return in the fall to play at Piedmont International University, not far from here. She had no idea senior day would include her too.

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Run with me

As kickoff approached, I texted Hayden – are you close?

As she walked to the field minutes before kickoff, Sara ran to her. You’re supposed to run with me, Sara said. I don’t know why, but do it!  So they ran together, and her teammates were amazed she can run now on her knee. But she made it.

Koyana handed Hayden a jersey – her familiar No. 9.

Hayden figured out we were sending her on for kickoff ceremoniously. Hayden, so stoic she makes Stonehenge look like a pile of oversized marshmallows, began to cry. Every phone on the sideline recorded her in her element, center midfield.

Hayden kicked the ball out of bounds and came off the pitch to smiles and tears and a round of hugs that included many smiles and tears in itself.

Senior days are like that. Memories. For Madison, her teammates tried to pass to her for the final goal. Ultimately, her friend, Vivian, who grew so much with Madison on the team, scored the final goal. She was overcome with tears. And she wasn’t alone.

I love this part of soccer, the sweet emotions that come from it.

qg starters 2019 posterity home

Impossible to explain

There’s another side to soccer. And to life. Some of it – most of it – is impossible to explain. Even if you could, what’s the point? The universe moves and shakes, and as sunlight bathes a field on one end, it sheds light on sorrow on another.

Six minutes after more happy tears, after seniors got flowers and speeches at midfield, we found ourselves crying tears of another kind.

That’s when Remmi – Hayden’s replacement at center midfield – collapsed to the grass.

The ref flippantly called me over and made a popping noise, pointing to his knee. Remmi had been there before. This would be her second knee dislocation. I knelt with her and a mom called 911. I’m on hold with 911 she said, and we didn’t know exactly why until later.

The girls knelt by their teammate as we waited for medics, joking that hopefully a really hot medic would arrive and carry Remmi off the field.

This happened around 5:40. That moment, 911 dispatchers were busy fielding calls on a shooting at UNC Charlotte, my school. After a lengthy delay and more tears of goodbye, we took home a 5-2 victory. And got home to hear about the incident north of us.

One student lost his life-saving others. A big kid, with a big heart. A goalkeeper, in fact. Who went to the high school a mile from where Madison – also a goalkeeper – had her first college home. He had nowhere to go in a classroom riddled with bullets.

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Who knew such a sad day would come for my school.

In the national news

He lunged at the attacker and kept the killing from spreading. Only, he paid with his life.

It’s eerie to see your school in the national news. No, I didn’t take a political stance either way. Even before I knew, even when the sadness of the day centered around an injured player, I told the ref, whatever you want to do with the rest of the game is fine with me.

This game matters so little to me right now.

Senior day is a a final chapter. It’s loaded with memories. And it contained so many. Remmi’s sense of humor in the midst of pain. The girls’ rally cry to win one (and the next one!) in her honor. The sobering effect it has on both teams to see this unfold.

Also, to see an opponent run onto the field to put their tent over Remmi as she was tended to.

There’s no way I can protect Hayden from an injury no more than I can Remmi, or anyone else. I can coach full-heartedly, love that way, too. And feel pain with my whole heart as the ambulance pulls away – from our field, and from my college.

But I also need to turn around, not stifle my tears, and rally the girls still there to play. I need to let them see my pain but also my hope, and see it in them, too. We’re tired. We’re beat up. We’re at a loss to explain some of the things in this world around us.

But ultimately, nothing circumstances can throw our way is any match for love.

Even when it zags when you’re hoping it will zig.


A to Z Challenge:

A is for Almost (and also At Last)

B is for Baggett (as in Laura, the actress, and #GirlsRock interview)

C is for Cursive, Cats, and Chinese Restaurants (Go Ask Daddy about them)

D is for Drawing the Line

E is for Every Day Gratitude

F is for Fieri, Falling in Love, and Focus (Weekend Reads IV)

G is for #GoAskDaddy: An interview with realtor Kristen Foxx

H is for Habit of Peace

I is for I Shot the Sheriff, Item Lifting and other Illegal Activity (Go Ask Daddy)

J is for Journalist, a #GirlsRock Interview with Esther Robards-Forbes

K is for Kickass Kindness (to go with #gratitudeandshit)

 L is for Low Self-Esteem, Life Sucks, and Electric Lit (Weekend Reads V)

M is for Manifest your dreams? No thanks. (Here’s why.)

N is for a new path (and why you don’t need one)

O is for old people, other police dogs and one business day (Go Ask Daddy!)

P is for Patience (and how to procure it)

Q is for quality (and other #gratitudeandshit items)

R is for Ruining our lives, but also rules for divine timing and happier parenting (Weekend Reads VI)

S is for Superpowers (a guest post from Cindy of Simple Steps)

T is for Three Hundred Writing Prompts (Guilt)

U is for using up all your subs (Go Ask Daddy)

V is for Virtually anything

W is for What Remains (#gratitudeandshit)

X is for Xs inside of words but not to start words (and this is for Weekend Reads VI which can be read on a Wednesday)

Y is for yippee! 👩‍🎨

miller quote zigzag#


  1. Beth says:

    Oh man all the feels. I’m crying for how sweet that was for Hayden. And I’m crying angry tears about another school shooting. There just aren’t words anymore and what’s sadder, it was hardly covered up here. It makes me very angry. You are a good coach my friend. You have such a big heart inside and out.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      There were plenty of feels that day, Beth. It’s tough to surprise Hayden, but this did the trick – and it honored her for being such a huge factor in how this program has grown.

      I don’t even care about media coverage of shootings – I just wanted to learn more about the why.

      I feel natural on the sideline and honestly it doesn’t feel like I’m doing anything special, just being part of a greater whole.

  2. All. The. Tears. What a sweet day for Hayden. And that shooting at UNCC was so sad. It always breaks my heart whenever I see those headlines. There are far too many of them.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Right, Lecy? The day had a bit of everything, some in extremes. Beyond the headlines, it’s lives altered forever by the loss.

  3. I love how you ended this. Your team is so lucky to have you for a coach. And reading about that school shooting… it breaks my heart.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Crystal. I am the fortunate one to have this team! All school shootings are tragic, but to hear of one in a place that means so much to me, and of the sacrifice one kid had to make … it really resonates.

  4. It brings so many tears sometimes i wonder if i have any left for either joy or sorrow.

    Congratulations on finishing the AtoZ, you did what you set out to do.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      There are always more tears, Mimi – and we hope to save them mostly for joy. I did set out what I meant to, but now it’s time to get back to spending time in my blogging community and not chasing letters across the month!

  5. I thought about you a lot Tuesday. It is truly a sad world. I wondered if you would write about it. I remembered once upon a time you mentioned you went to UNC. It is an incredible school and has such a wonderful reputation… What an emotional roller coaster of a day you have had. It really hits hard when it is so close to home. The school shootings that started back in 1998, just months before Columbine began in MY hometown of Paducah KY. It was the first to make national news and the rash that began soon after that. Fast forward 20 years later and Western KY is in the new again with another shooting. This kid is sitting in the EXACT same courtroom the last one did smh. Our community has been trying to heal for 2 decades for it to all come home fresh and raw once again. This time it affected actual family members. I was on the phone and texting all day long with my aunt. Cried lots of tears that week… the trial has been delayed. More pain…..
    I pray Remmi will be ok and heal fast. You are an amazing dad and have amazing girls. What a blessing. This is one of those hard times we talked about the other day. “Give thanks in all circumstances… ” How do you do that when innocents die? 😭

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Courtney. It’s not a sad world – it’s a happy one with sad elements. I couldn’t, though, let the day go by without writing on it.

      I hate also that it took something like this for the school and alumni like me to remember our roots. When I was there, we had a reputation of apathy toward a lot of things, and I know the current student body is better about that.

      Who knew that Columbine tragedy would make martyrs of those boys who carried out that event? I do remember Paducah, too, and the names of towns and cities where these things happen forever bring back memories of that when you hear the name.

      I have amazing girls and an amazing team. I just had the end-of-year banquet with my boys team from the fall, and being with them made me realize there were things I could have done better on the sideline for the girls. I’ll remember that.

      It’s moments when it feels toughest to give thanks for all circumstances that is the most important.

  6. ksbeth says:

    I’m not crying, you’re crying. beautiful and sad, both

  7. Lauren Becker says:

    Beautiful post. It definitely sounds like one emotional day. I hate hearing all these stories about school shootings – it happens way too often. That kid who tackled the shooter is amazing though. As are the girls on your soccer team!


    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Lauren! It just doesn’t make sense to me why someone would kill others like this. And what a hero we had that day – although, he shouldn’t have had to be one.

      I’m so proud of my players!

  8. Lindsay says:

    Wow, I’m speechless. That’s heavy, bro. How emotional, all of it…..

    Um just exactly how tall is Hayden? Damn!


    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      What a day. Heavy, and also uplifting. That tall one isn’t Hayden. Hayden is a shorty~!

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