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Getting Started

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Sometimes getting started is the hardest part.  For me, this has certainly been true.  Starting a workout, starting a project, starting a blog….  I’ve talked about and thought about it for years.  I’ve journaled off and on my entire life.  I have no less than 10 journals with a few pages of writing and then an abundance of blank ones.  I have notebooks I’ve kept solely because one day I wrote down something I didn’t want to forget.  Forgetfulness…..yeah, that’s a thing.  I can hear my mama saying to me when my kids were toddlers and they did or said something funny, sweet, insightful……”you better write that down so you don’t forget.”  Uh huh.  Sure.  I’ll get right to that in between naps, and laundry and cleaning, and baths, and dinner.  Time.  It’s a gift and a curse.  When I have no free time, I think of all the things I would do if only I had more time.  Yet when free time occurs, I rarely do all the things I said I would do.  Writing things down….I tended to put that off.  I mean, what he/ she said was so funny, so sweet, so thoughtful…..there’s no way I would ever forget, right?!  Unfortunately I must admit what many of us figure out when we get older……my mother was RIGHT!  I cringe at all the sweet moments I failed to record.  Now as my kids are getting older, they will ask me questions about what they were like as a baby/toddler/kindergartner.  Sometimes, I know the answer and give it to them on the spot while mentally patting myself on the back for remembering.  Other times, I begin to answer only to figure out half way through the explanation that I am in fact describing the wrong child.  I can see myself as an adolescent rolling my eyes at my mother when she would do something like this: “I think it was Jamie that did that, no wait, maybe it was Brit. Hmmm.  It was one of you.”  I’m sure my angsty teen self was thinking, “how can she have no clue which of us it was? Wasn’t she there? I guess it’s no surprise since she never finished my baby book.  Lots of blank pages. Geez.  Being a middle child is like being invisible.  I’m just the hand-me-down kid.”  Thankfully, my older, mother-of-three self is more understanding.  I now offer my mom all the grace in the world  for those oversights and my sincerest apologies for my judgmental tone.  I stand in awe at everything she did for us growing up. Even more importantly, I have a mother who believes in forgiveness and loves me unconditionally.  The older I get the wiser my mother seems.  She set the bar impossibly high on what it means to be a good mom.  And while I know I’m nowhere near her level as a mom, if I can land within sight of her, I’ll be doing good.  So Mama,  if you ever read this, I’m sorry for all the things my younger self said or expressed through dramatic body language.  You may not have be able to recall my favorite foods or funny moments.  You don’t still have my first grade drawings or cherished Cabbage Patch Dolls.  You didn’t save many material items from our childhood (except for the 127 wooden Christmas Tree ornaments we decorated with tacky glitter and sequins at the church that one year…I mean, were we the only kids there?  We could cover a small forest with those ornaments).  But you saved the most important thing you ever gave us.  Love.  You showed us profound love that was unconditional through every stage of life.  You’ve walked beside me at my very best.  You’ve picked me up off the ground at my very worst.  You’ve been present over perfect.  You’ve shown me how to accept love and give love and you’ve taught me that love is infinite.  So thank you.  Not for the scrapbooks chronicling my childhood. Not for the boxes of keepsakes from days past.  None of that could ever equate to the gift of unconditional love.

So today, I’m getting started.  I’m writing the very first page.  Will this be an outlet for myself to write down all my thoughts and feelings? Or will it be a time capsule of all the big and small moments of my children’s lives?  I’m really not sure.  I hope its a little bit of both.  I guess time will tell. One thing is for certain.  Time is passing quickly.  The days are long but the years are short.  And as time passes, the memories do fade a little.  I guess that’s to make room for all the new.  But call me a romantic or nostalgic, but I want a place to return to years down the road.  Perhaps I’ll be on a front porch looking out at the ocean with nothing but time on my hands.  I’ll feel content with my life but will savor the gift I left for myself years ago.  For a brief moment, I hope I can escape to the past and remember and reflect on this beautiful, broken, blessed chaos life.  So for now, I have started and I’ll see where it goes.  I mean the hard part is over right?  Now on to the follow through……

 

Not so Sweet Dreams from Ocala

Today was a low-key, quiet day.  A day that was still and much needed. The first we’ve had in a few weeks.  There was no alarm clocks, no rushing, no to-do lists, no places to go.  Just a day spent in our tiny house, everyone in their own worlds.  There was tv, iPads, reading, video games, FaceTiming with friends, cooking, napping, a little bike riding & artwork.  We are missing our people but we are adjusting to a new normal here in Ocala.  Tomorrow starts our last week of quarantine and essentially the last week of their summer break.

In our contentment at home, we lost track of time and realized too late it was way past bedtime.  11:00…..a peaceful evening quickly turned into a Brady v. Avery rumble in the living room.  What would have been easily handled and forgotten early in the day, turned into a hitting, screaming, crying fit. As they were forced to their respective rooms, they said the best parting words to one another:

(There was a mention of the recycling bin by Cannon…..)

Avery:  Brady needs to be put in the recycle bin!

Brady: SHUT UP!!!!

Oh parting is such sweet sorrow….

When they wake in the morning, all will be forgotten.  But tonight, they were ready to say goodbye forever.

Once in our room, I tried wiping away her tears but realized we had crossed the point of no return.  There were no hugs, words or snuggles that could soothe an over-tired, sensitive soul expressing her strong feelings about a ruined life at the hands of a red-headed boy.  Much to her dismay, there was no “chill time” in her bed with her iPad so she reluctantly snuggled in with her favorite stuffed animals.  She refused my offer to sleep in my bed, determined to remain stoic in her anger.  But a little arm slowly creeped to the edge of her bed and I knew exactly why.  I reached out and held that small hand and gently rubbed the top with my thumb.  She never acknowledged it but certainly didn’t pull away.  In the silence, I lay staring at her small face.  I saw sadness in her downcast eyes and pouty lip.  Eventually though, the sleepiness took over and she began to blink a little more frequently than before.  I wondered what was going through her mind.  Was she thinking about the last 10 minutes or something more?  Life has been a lot lately.  Her little safe and comfortable environment has been completely uprooted in the past 3 weeks.  What she thought was ahead of her & looked forward to for summer is no longer the same.  Was she thinking about her friends back home and missing them?  Was she wishing her Daddy was here to tuck her in?  Was she hoping to dream about running in the yard with Sadie & Millie?  Is she fearful of the grueling schedule that is quickly approaching?  Or was she simply envisioning the blue of the ocean and feel of the sand between her toes?  She has a heavy load on her little shoulders.  Some would crumble under the pressure of so much, so fast.  But not my Avery.  She’s put her big girl panties on and walked bravely into the unknown.

And as I lay beside her from my own bed, holding her soft fingers in the palm of my hand, I am sent back in time to when I held her in my arms and rocked her to sleep.  It was one of my most treasured times with her as a baby. No distractions or noise.  Just a mama holding her little girl, watching her eyes blink closed, praying she would one day have the confidence to chase her dreams while knowing how much she is loved and cherished.  Tonight as her eyelids get heavier and the blinking slows down, I watched them close softly for the last time tonight and listened to her breathing deepen as she drifted off to sleep.  Once she was finally sound asleep, I continued to  stare at her little face as tears ran down my cheeks.  This beautiful, smart, strong, kind and BRAVE girl is facing all life throws at her head-on.  When the storms of change surround her, she doesn’t turn away.  She pulls on her rubber boots and boldly walks directly into the rain. She also makes sure those with her keep up and don’t lost hope.  She may stumble and fall a few times, but there’s no doubt she will stand up and continue on her way, in search of the sunlight through the clouds.   If only I could have been this brave at just 9 years old.  She is my daughter and she is fierce!

“The Door is Open….Now Walk Through It!” -God

All my life, I’ve prayed to God about almost anything…..gratitude, fear, forgiveness, grief, understanding, guidance….the list goes on and on.  And like most people, I’ve prayed for things I want, big and small, materialistic and spiritual.  I’ve begged for him to make something happen or prevent certain circumstances.  All of these, and so many others have been answered, but not always clearly or even how I thought or hoped they would be.  But God’s plan is better.  His plan for my life is in place but he allows me to use my own discernment to follow the right path. Okay, but wait. Thanks for that, God, but could you be more specific? I mean, will you blatantly point to where I need to go?  I  trust your way but some more detailed directions would be helpful. Actually, if you could just walk in front of me and lead the way,  I will gladly tailgate and stay right behind you.  Okay, thanks!  That would so much easier! Unfortunately, that’s not how it usually works…but every once in a while, God hangs up a billboard, opens a door and shoves me through it. Lately, that has been the case…..I just had to walk through it….with and without my family.

Having two kids with the “Lex” has opened my eyes to the academic and emotional struggle of doing life with it.  Most associate it with backwards letters and misspellings, but it’s so much more than that.  When you dig deeper, you see the affect dyslexia can have on school, sports, communication, self-confidence, and fear.  I mean let’s face it, if your brain had to work 5 times harder than the brain of your peers, wouldn’t you be a little frustrated and at times, defeated?  As a mama, I see their struggle and it breaks my heart!  I want to pick them up, doctor their hurt, slap on a bandaid and watch it heal.  Wouldn’t that be great?  But I can’t.  However, I can give them the next best thing.  A place full of hope for our family.  Is it a sacrifice?  Absolutely!  But is it worth it?  You bet!

The Morris Center in Ocala, Florida is an unknown gem in the world.  A place where science and dyslexia collide.  A brain scientist has dedicated his life to studying and researching dyslexia and the brain to its core.  He’s designed a transdisciplinary program that in essence “cures” it. When we first heard about it, it seemed too good to be true.  But the more we looked into it and saw the results of friends, the more we realized it was the best opportunity we had to give our kids for their future.  Here’s the catch….. it’s expensive, only accommodates 5 kids at a time & has a long waiting list, and would mean 4 months away from home, leaving behind Clint & Cole.  So we stalled out.  It was dangling out there but we just observed from afar.  One of those… “I wish we could but…” situations.  Usually things that seem unattainable stay just that.  Just out of reach.  We want them but don’t see how we could possibly have them, so we let them go and eventually they fade away from our minds.  But not this.  It has remained on my heart and in my mind for 9 months.  Why would something so unrealistic seem like a possibility? Why can’t I let it go?  Cannon and Avery.  That’s why.

When the Coronavirus brought the world to a screeching halt, all of our plans for the foreseeable future were canceled.  No baseball, no fishing, no play, no May frenzy.  Schools are out for the year and everything is shut down.  We are quarantined with little to do.  In this time of quiet, a brief thought crossed my mind.  “Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to go to The Morris Center right now?  It’s the perfect time since the kids won’t have to miss anything.”  I sent a long-shot email to the center to see if there was any chance they could accommodate our three (Brady has the Lex too).   I prayed, “God, this is the perfect time.  Can you make it happen?”  I got ahead of myself and started to feel like it was a real possibility, but was quickly disappointed when the response was no.  Not enough staff at this time.  Bummer.  Okay, whatever.  It was a nice thought but not meant to be.  But somehow, some way we need to make this happen and soon.  Cannon will be in 7th grade in August and needs to do this program before 8th grade if possible.  In our hearts, we knew we needed to commit to November.  Sure, it would mean missing hunting season, basketball, Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it is what it is.  We better get it together, put down our deposit to hold our spot and figure out how to pay for it for the next 6 months.  As we planned for November, I emailed one more time to make sure November was still available.  No response.  For days.  And then it came.

(April 7) Samantha:                                                                                                                            Hi Britani, 

   I am trying to work on a plan, one option might be May 11. If that is a possibility would May 11 work for you to start all 3 kids Eval and Treatment?
Huh?  What?  This May? Surely not?  What is happening????
And so began this  whirlwind of a month.  The door was open.  God had opened the door.  But how do we walk through it?  The Center required a 2 week quarantine before May 11th.  That means we would need to be there by April 27th.  20 days.  We have 20 days to find a place to live, secure furniture, electricity, water, internet.  Gather the necessities for living in an apartment. Pack up for 4 months and hit the road. Oh, and figure out how to pay for it all.  No biggie.
How is this even possible?  There’s no way.
But then I remembered…..this is what I had prayed for.  This is what I begged God to do.  Now it’s time to do our part….put one foot in front of the other and bravely walk through the open door.

Whatever God requires of you, He moves heaven and earth to get it done.

I would like to say, it’s been smooth sailing, but there have definitely been some ups and downs.  So much, so fast.  Strong emotions.  Sleepless nights.  Fear.  But one thing has remained.  Door after door has been opened for us.  God has smacked me in the face, told me to put on my big girl panties, and follow him.  No doubt he’s leading the way.  So I will be obedient and not take my eyes off of Him as He not only gives me directions, but also walks ahead of me.

God!  You heard my prayers and you answered.  Geez, are you a sprinter?  See I’m more of a distance runner.  But I guess it’s never too late to try something new.  The gun has fired to signal the start of the race and I stumbled trying to get out of the blocks.  After regaining my footing, I see you up there!  I want to just stop and watch you run but I need to finish the race. There’s no way I can be as fast as you but  I’ll do my best to keep up!

Thanks for the invitation to walk through the door.

Love, Britani

Overcoming Baseball

He loves baseball. He loves being with his teammates that become like brothers. He cheers them on and is happy for them when they are successful. He’s never been one of the best on the team, but he definitely has one of the biggest hearts. He’s been playing this sport since t-ball. On the outside he’s calm, cool and collected….and pretty funny. But when you look at his face, it tells a different story…. if you look a little closer, you’ll see his tightened jaw, tensed up shoulders and heavy breathing. His mind is swirling with the fear of striking out or making an error. He is scared of disappointing his coaches, teammates, and family. No matter how many times we tell him it’s just a game and it’s supposed to be fun, he still carries the weight of the pressure on his shoulders. He may act silly and crack jokes, but that’s just a coping skill to hide his real emotions. We try countless times to offer him solutions and TEACH him how to handle things differently. But it’s still there.
Friends….this is what anxiety looks like for my 12 year-old boy. It is real. And it affects every aspect of his life. And while it may not Manifest itself the exact same way, I know without a doubt there are other kids struggling with it too. It’s frustrating as a parent to not be able to just “fix it.” That’s our job right? As a parent who has read practically every self-help, parenting book out there, I read a common message throughout them all. Kids need to feel loved and safe. When we yell at them for missing a fly ball, sigh, shake our heads and throw our hands up in disgust when they strike out; when we critique their play on the car ride home, we are not making them feel loved and safe. And if you think they aren’t watching you in the stands, coaching 3rd base or standing in the dugout, you are DEAD WRONG! Remember a chain-link fence is pretty easy to see through. Players and coaches have a role to play on the field. But we as parents also have job to do. We cheer our kids and their teammates on.. We celebrate the small victories. We build them up when they hang their heads. We hold them accountable for their attitude and sportsmanship. We recognize that umpires aren’t Jesus so they won’t be perfect, and yelling at them is only teaching our kids to act the same way and maybe blame a loss on someone else. We know what the right thing is to do to make our kids feel safe and loved, but with a kid like ours that struggles with anxiety, sometimes our words and actions aren’t enough.
We intentionally keep things light and carefree, but the anxiety turns into anger and he falls apart and starts criticizing all he’s done wrong. As a parent it’s heartbreaking and painful to hear your child talk so negatively about himself. We ask ourselves, why in the world does he continue doing something that seems to make him so miserable? We even suggested maybe hanging up the cleats and instead spending the summer on the lake. His response has always been a look of confusion and disbelief, followed by, “no! Why would I do that? I love baseball.” So we press-on. He knows his role and accepts it as best he can. We pray for him to be successful at the plate and in the field in hopes of avoiding the after game shame ride. We silently applaud his courage to face his fears head-on. And we always tell him how much we LOVE watching him play and how PROUD we are of him.

We just started a new season. New team, some new teammates, new coaches. We mentally prepared ourselves for the emotional roller-coaster ahead. But something is happening this year. Something is different. Maybe it’s maturity? Experience? The environment? Or more mental toughness? I’m not really sure. On practice days, he’s dressed and ready as soon as he gets home from school and asking when we can leave. The anxiety isn’t gone and usually shows up on the car ride to practice because apparently arriving 20 minutes before practice is late to him. After practice, he’s got a red face and a great attitude. And last weekend I saw something I haven’t seen since t-ball as he stepped to the plate. He walked with his head held high. His shoulders were relaxed. His breathing was controlled. And he had a SMILE on his face. Who is this child?????

I know who he is. He’s Cannon Martin…..big-hearted, dedicated, hard-working, keep on swimming Cannon, As I looked at him I realized…..I was the STUDENT! I thought I was teaching him how to handle all life throws at him. But really HE WAS TEACHING ME how to face your fears, get knocked down and then get back up, push through the things that are holding you back, and never give up on something you love! Cannon loves baseball and has committed so much time, energy and effort without much reward. But today, he got his reward. My mama heart is sad that I wasn’t there to see it (and I’ve been informed that I’m no longer allowed to come to games), but my boy finally got to experience the high of baseball. He hit his very first HOMERUN and followed it up with a GRAND SLAM. Two weeks into the season, and I could happily call it done and go out on a high note. But in true Cannon fashion, I know that won’t happen. I am so proud of the success and joy he experienced today. But I’m even more proud of the kid he has been and the young man he is becoming. It hasn’t been easy, buts it’s certainly been worth it. ⚾️💙

 

A Well Deserved Honor

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Shameless bragging… I often talk about my kids and their accomplishments because I’m so stinkin’ proud of them (and rely heavily on those reminders of this on the days they test me). But today I’m bragging on Clint. Clint left a company he had been with for 15 years with mixed emotions. He loved a lot of things about his old company and would miss all his colleagues. It was a big leap of faith with lots of fear about starting all over selling instead of management, and in a completely different division of health care. We are 8 months in and can now see why God opened this door. Clint believes in his new company and all they offer for women’s health. He’s a brainiac that had no trouble learning the new technology. He’s carried a lot of his management talents over to sales and sees the big picture. He has always been one to study and sways to improve the logistics of a company’s internal strategies and methods and he continues to do so. In 8 months, he was able to hit quota and was shocked last night to be awarded “Rookie of the Year” for the nation. An award well-deserved. This man works harder than anyone I know and has provided for his family faithfully. I sure hope he takes time to relax and celebrate all of his accomplishments. Congrats love!

I’ll Be Your Friend!

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My kids don’t know what it’s like to be the new kid. But I do! I was the new kid 5 times and walking into that new school was scary, no matter my age (kindergarten, 2nd, end of 4th,9th and 11th grades). Avery saw a shirt like this recently and said she needed one. It led to a great conversation about friendship, new kids, mean girls (or boys), kids of all abilities, and inclusion. I got her a shirt made and we decided more people needed to share these words. So a few mamas graciously agreed and get their daughters shirts too. I met with those girls and we had great discussions about what it means to be a friend. All kids deserve friendship and These girls have agreed to share that message at school this year. They can’t just talk the talk. They have to walk the walk too!

 

#let’sbefriends #alwaysroomforonemore
#kindiscool

Fast Forward a few weeks….What started a lesson on friendship and inclusion for my daughter has turned into a full-on movement.  I did not set out to make this so but I’m encouraged by the effect it has had on kids of all ages.  I’ve now met with 7 different groups…. around 75 kids.  The kindness is spreading and I just hope it continues to grow and it makes a real change in our schools.  One small thing……can be a big thing if you give it to God!

Boys to Men in the Blink of an Eye

Moments like today make it all worth it. I love it when I get to be the student and not the teacher. When it comes to fishing, Cole is my teacher. I can honestly say I know more than I ever really wanted to know about the world of fishing thanks to him. But he’s teaching me about more than just fishing. It’s about passion. Finding something you love to do and taking the slogan “eat, sleep, breathe it” literally. I remember seeing this same passion in my brother Matt Teale when he was younger. His passion was baseball and you rarely saw him not doing some activity related to the game. Cole and Kanon Goss are walking, talking examples of what it means to be passionate about something. They are always finding a way to go fish and can be pretty resourceful. Their brothers play baseball together so these boys will google the location of the weekend tournament and find the closest pond. Cole walks to the neighbor’s pond every single day (thanks Rhonda Golden). They NEED to fish like they need to eat. If they aren’t fishing, they are flipping into a bucket, pouring molds to make their own drop shots (at least I think that’s what it’s called). When they are forced to stay home, they watch fishing on tv or their phones. This weekend they were on the lake before daylight three days straight and fished 7+ hours each day, with no breaks. Saturday when they got to my house after weigh-in, they were exhausted. I was sure they would crash on the couch. I underestimated them and stood there shocked when, 10 minutes later, they were walking out the door to head to the neighbor’s pond. They are committed, disciplined and passionate about fishing.

All the early mornings and long days certainly paid off this weekend. The biggest tournament in the state is the Arkansas Game & Fish Foundation’s Commissioners’ Cup. The top high school anglers are invited to compete. We found out just over a week ago that they were extending an invitation to the top junior team from each trail to also compete. There were over 60 teams and only 3 (I think) were Juniors. As a mama, I was just honored they were getting to fish and had no expectations. Cole & Kanon however weren’t phased by competing with the best and went to work! Day one brought them a 5 fish limit with 8.89 pounds. They were in 12th place and thrilled! I figured that would be the highlight. Who knew what today had in store?! They fished hard today and brought in 14.19 pounds with 5 fish! They finished in 2nd place! And they earned it. I have no doubt their heads were floating in clouds a little tonight as they crashed into bed, replaying the weekend.

But for me, my mind was elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sooo happy they did so well and won a trophy, a St. Croix rod, and a $1000 scholarship each. But my perspective was a little different. I stood in awe of those little boys as I watched them walk up on stage and speak confidently in front of a big crowd with respect and manners. I listened to my dad, their boat captain, describe how they worked as a team and kept each other motivated and focused. I watched them converse and talk fishing with other anglers from across the state who were strangers before this weekend. I proudly watched them shake hands and make eye contact with men from all areas of the fishing industry (pros, sponsors, boat manufacturers, conservationists, commissioners, retail vendors). And I saw them walk on that stage to accept their prizes with humility and gratitude. And in that moment, I realized what was missing, what I didn’t see. I no longer saw two little boys who started fishing together 2 years ago, very reliant on their dads and pop’s advice on all things fishing. Little boys who still needed their mamas to remind them to dress warm/take sunscreen/pack snacks/use their manners, etc. Nope. I didn’t see those little boys when I looked on that stage. Instead, I saw two young men, holding their own, no longer needing those little reminders from us. Those little boys turned into young men right before my eyes. Fishing is a lot like baseball in that it teaches so many life lessons that will carry them through adulthood. These boys are learning about life. They still need their mamas (and daddies, and pop), but they are stretching their legs and venturing out of the nest a little bit further every day. Time truly is fleeting. And while the realization of this is bittersweet and I’m fighting back the tears threatening to roll down my cheeks , I can honestly say the pride in my mama heart trumps all the sadness of letting go a little bit.
Cole & Kanon, we are so proud of you both. Thank you for showing me what passion looks like. Good things are ahead for the two of you and I can’t wait to see where the journey takes you!

Tough Kid

I know, it’s a terrible picture.  It’s out of focus and not one you would add to the highlight reel of life you usually see posted to social media.  But you know what, it might just be one of my very favorite pictures of Cannon.  You may look at it and see a kid crying and think to yourself, “there’s no crying in baseball.”  But you would be wrong.  You see, this picture was actually just a mother’s attempt to use her zoom lens to see if her son was really hurt or just exaggerating to justify what was probably recorded as an error.  Let me back up and set the scene.   We were playing in a one day  12U AAA tournament even though we are only 11 AAA.  We got to the ballfields by 10:30am and started our first game at 11:15.  And we never stopped playing.  With only short 20 minute breaks between games, these boys played 5 games in a row!  Over 8 hours of continuous play against some really good competition.  We didn’t win the tournament but I think we held our own as the youngest team there.  But it was the last inning of the 5th game that I’ll always remember.  Cannon was playing 2nd base at the time (his 4th position of the day).   The kid batting hit a hard shot to 2nd.  Cannon was in position for making the play but the ball took a bad hop and tagged his right hand.  We knew immediately Cannon was hurt by the way he held his hand but he still managed to play heads up baseball until time was called.  At that point, the pain was too much and like so many little boys trying to be men, he turned and faced the outfield while cradling his hand.  As his coach approached and assessed his hand, I could see on his face that he was in a great deal of pain or just completely exhausted and in the middle of a moment of weakness.  As his coach checked the mobility of Cannon’s hand, I saw Cannon shake his head repeatedly.  He was refusing to come out and insisting on finishing the game.  We had already used our DH and had no other players that could come in for him.  As his coach walked away, I noticed Cannon still didn’t look okay so I pulled out my camera to get a better look.  I watched him fight back tears and get in a defensive position with every pitch, then nurse his hand between throws.  The tears never stopped and I silently prayed the ball would not be hit to him again.  Thankfully, we got the next two outs quickly and time ran out.  Game over.  Usually after a game, Cannon is eager to get a snack from the concession stand.  Not this time.  My dad met him at the dugout door and he was fighting back wails of pain.  He wanted to go straight to the car so his teammates wouldn’t see him.  We went straight to the ER and our assumptions were right….buckle fracture to the pinky knuckle.  Out for a few weeks.

So when I look at this picture, I don’t see a baseball player crying.  I see a baseball player REFUSING to quit.  I see a player putting his team ahead of his own pain and suffering.  I see a kid gritting his teeth, trying to be brave.  I see a teammate and a brother focused on not letting his team down.  I am so proud of what he showed that night on the baseball field.  Cannon isn’t one of the best on his team but he’s certainly one of the hardest working.  As his parent, I don’t agree with some of the ways he’s been treated this year by his coaches.  He’s often times set up to fail, especially when it comes to batting.  Cannon is a pleaser and his coaches would rather him “work the count” and get on base by a walk than actually get up there and swing for the fences.  He’s a smart kid and knows his coaches don’t have a lot of confidence in him.  And while he shows frustration about this to us, he never shows it on the field.  This day was no different.  He willingly rotated to whatever position they needed him to play sot hat the right kids could pitch and play certain positions. His only 3 at bats in 5 games went like this: sacrifice fly to outfield  that scored a run, hit by a pitch, one strike out.  Once pool play was over, he was DH’d and only had one at bat (he got hit by a pitch).  Now, most kids LOVE batting.  Cannon is no different.  He likes to bat and wants so badly to get a good hit.  But geez…when you only get half as many at bats (if that) as the rest of your teammates and you walk up knowing your coaches are hoping you walk, it’s hard to feel confident at the plate.  Nevertheless, he persists.  He gets up every time and fights off his anxiety to give it his all.  He keeps his emotions in check while at the plate.  He shows respect to his coaches even when he doesn’t agree.  So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by his actions on this night.  Cannon is a team player.  He cares more about the team’s success than his own.  I have to see the bigger lesson in all of this because you know what?  Life is tough.  It’s not at all fair.  It can be frustrating, discouraging and painful.  We all face pain at some point in our lives.  It’s inevitable.  The true test is how we handle the pain.  Do we fall in on ourselves and admit defeat? Or do we fight back the tears and keep on fighting?  This night showed me a glimpse of Cannon’s true character.  He is a fighter.  He is willing to make sacrifices for his team, even when they don’t seem fair.  Sure he gets frustrated and has moments of weakness, but he doesn’t show it in front of his coaches.  Instead, he waits for his instructions and gives 100% effort every time he steps on the field.  Nevertheless, HE PERSISTED!  We can all learn a lot from this kid!  How are you handling disappointment?

Hooked from the Very First Cast

 

Cole, today you are 14 and my mama heart can barely take it. In the months before you were born, I diligently prepared for your arrival by reading everything I could about this new journey. I gathered and organized all my tackle, carefully tied every knot and made a game plan for exactly how this new adventure would go. But from the very beginning, I realized my careful planning pretty much guaranteed nothing! All the plans went out the window with an emergency c-section and a spinal headache to go (I thought the mama was supposed to see her baby before everyone else???). Fear crept in but there was no turning back. My boat was in the water! God cast me out into the waters of parenthood with so many fears, concerns and doubts. Little did I know I was starting the greatest adventure of my life and I was about to catch my first fish. Early on (and let’s be honest….still), I have bobbed in the water, with lots of ups and quite a few downs. I’ve messed up my cast and ended up with backlash more times than I can count. I chose my lures carefully with a goal to get your attention and reel you in. From swim baits and topwater baits to Carolina rigs and frogs, these lures have modeled behavior I hoped would be appealing to you. Some have worked brilliantly, others seemed to make you swim in the opposite direction. As time goes on and you get older and smarter, keeping your interest gets more challenging. The lure that works one time doesn’t always work the next time so I’m constantly having to monitor and adjust. I’ve spent hours and hours trolling the waters only to come up empty-handed and defeated. But I refuse to give up and my persistence eventually pays off. The next time out, I feel a tug on the very first cast and set the hook! Time to start reeling. But careful! The reeling is the tricky part. Too fast, and I risk you breaking off. If I keep the line too tightly, you can fight against it and break off. If there’s too much slack, I won’t feel the bite when you are interested and risk not setting the hook well enough to keep you. I’m starting to learn that slow and steady wins the race. Eventually I will get you to the boat. Now from here I have two options. I can operate like a pro and and try flipping you into the boat and catching you in my hand. But I run the risk of handling you wrong and you slipping out of my hand and hitting the boat. Maybe I tried to have too much control or not enough. Either way, its a penalty. So I better be safe and use the net. You see, when I net a fish, I build in security. The fish can get mad and flail around all he wants. I don’t have to use any force and can gently pick him up out of the net and place him in the livewell. the net is like Jesus and the livewell is like our house. I have you home and surrounded by all things familiar. I can watch you, feed you and keep you safe and away from things that can hurt you. Perfect right?! Unfortunately no. God gave me you to raise to be a God-loving adult man someday. He never intended I keep you forever. A livewell is no way for a fish to live. God wants us to use the catch and release method. This is the hardest part for us mamas. Knowing when it’s time to start slowly releasing our children from our control and allowing them take more ownership of their decisions. Unfortunately, our boat isn’t equipped with the latest navigation systems that allow us to see exactly what lurks below in the murky water. We just have to lean on our faith and let you go and pray some of what we have taught you will stick. So when I think you are ready, I take you out of the livewell and ease you back into the water. For a brief time, I can continue to watch you and make sure you are ok. But with more time, you swim further and further away until, eventually, you’re out there on your own. It’s a big lake you are swimming in. Some parts are dark and filled with muddy water. Others are exciting popular waterways filled with boats, excitement and danger. And then there are parts that are beautiful and magical. It is yours to explore and I pray God guides you through every turn. No matter what your future holds and the path you choose to take, there is one thing I want you to remember. This new sport is one of those lifelong ones. Once an angler, always an angler. I can never not be a mother. I love being your mom. I’m in it for life! So when you’re out there swimming, don’t forget to look up at the sunshine and let Him be your guide. HE will never steer you wrong. And somewhere on that lake will be a boat with an angler, ready and waiting to get your attention, set the hook, reel you in, place you safely into the net, put you in her livewell to rest. And she will once again, safely release you, when you are ready! You are quite the catch and will always be one of my PBs!

Chasing The Dream

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Were you one of those kids that knew just what you wanted to be when you grew up? You had a clear vision of the future and what you were striving for down the road.  You had this whole life thing all figured out by age 12 and didn’t need a backup plan.  If so, I  have a son that is just like that.  He has found his passion in life and is all in on making his dream a reality!  We were recently making his academic schedule for 8th grade and his Mimi, a retired high school counselor, was explaining how choosing certain paths to graduation were important for planning his future.  You know, college?  She asked him, “Cole, what do you want to be when you grow up?”  With zero hesitation and with certainty in his voice, he responds, “that’s easy.  A professional fisherman.”  Of course.  Don’t all boys want to go pro in something?  Neither a dream killer or eternal optimist, Mimi came back with, “okay, great.  Now what’s your plan B?”  Cole shakes his head, saying, “I don’t have a back up plan.  I’m GOING to be a professional fisherman.”  Mimi gently explains that she believes he will be but that everyone needs a plan B.  Silence.  Crickets.  Finally with a shrug of his shoulders Cole finally answers, “well, I guess I’ll just make fishing baits then.”  This mama was rolling her eyes in her mind.  But Mimi accepted it and recommended  a course path leading to design/computer/business careers!

Where does he get it?  Surely not me…….er, uhhhh….hmmmm.  You know , on second thought, I may just have to take a little bit of the genetic blame for this.  As my mother reminded me, I knew exactly what I was going to be when I grew up too.  First, I was NEVER having kids if my own.  I never thought about marriage really.  I was going to college at Louisiana Tech University and I was going to be a physical therapist. I was moving to Dallas, Texas and would eventually adopt kids from Africa. Period.  End of story.  No changing my mind.  I was definite.  Sidenote:  I did not go to LA Tech. Organic chemistry killed my dream to be a physical therapist and after a semester with my major listed as “undecided” I settled on the major for people that weren’t sure what they wanted to be when they grew up…..Marketing.   I met my husband at age 20, got married at age 22, had my first baby at age 24 and became a stay at home mom, having my third baby at age 30.  My. My. My.  For someone soooo certain she had life figured out, it’s a bit shocking to see how many of my high school dreams came to fruition.  A whopping zero! Well, okay, I’ll  take the credit for the lofty dreamer that is my son.

But you know what, don’t chalk him up to just another kid with an idyllic perception of his future just yet.  Cole may be the one to make his dream a reality.  What Cole has that a lot of us lack is passion.  Cole LOVES fishing.  He has a fishing pole in his hands every single day.  He’s either going fishing, getting ready to go fish, getting back from fishing, or watching fishing on his phone.  It’s not unusual to find him in our front yard or the middle of our living room “flipping” into a bucket.  He is a student of the sport.  When it comes to new gear, techniques, or technology, he’s a sponge…..taking it all in.  He’s enthusiastic about every fishing trip and when he recaps a good fishing day day, his eyes light up. When it comes to fishing, the kid has tunnel vision.  He needs to fish like he needs to breathe.  If too much time goes by without a trip to the lake, his demeanor gets a little….let’s say, edgy!  Fishing is his outlet.  Fishing is his therapy.  And parents, let’s be honest.  There are a lot worse things a kid could be doing than fishing in the middle of the lake.

As a result of his passion for fishing, I have somehow become the founding member/board president of a fishing team/club for our school.  My dad is who got Cole into fishing (that’s another blog for another day).  He kept telling me to find some tournaments for Cole to fish in.  I finally started researching it and realized we needed a club.  I went to the school asst. superintendent and got his approval and a school sponsor.  That was 2+ years ago and we are growing.  What started with just one team is now up to 13 teams and 30 active club members.  All because my kid wanted to fish!  Did I mention I do NOT fish and know absolutely nothing about fishing.  Fake it til you make it, huh?!  The lengths mamas go to in order to help our children……

Cole and his fishing partner and boat captains have developed such unique bond through this sport.  Fishing is one of those life sports that teaches so many great lessons along the way.  So far I haven’t met a kid that fishes harder or longer than Cole (other than his older friend, Beau, whose Dad is a pro angler and who shares the same passion).  On tournament days, Cole gets in the zone.  He fishes for 8 hours without stopping.  His boat captain literally has to put food in his mouth to get him to eat.  The kid has an intensity when it comes to fishing.  There have been successes and disappointments along the way and he’s handled them all with humility.  This year’s tournament season started off slow but has really picked up for them this Spring.  The highlight leading up to today was winning an Arkansas Bassmaster High School Series on Lake Ouachita.  They have been in a tight points race all year for the junior angler of the year.

As I’ve entered this new world of tournament fishing, I have a few observations.  First of all, Fishing…..it’s harder than it looks! Don’t believe me? Try fishing with a tournament angler and see what it takes. Researching weather and water conditions and the terrain of the lakes, and studying the behaviors of fish in different environments. Two days on the water before daylight. 8 hours of fishing non-stop each day. Weather conditions typically ranging between slightly uncomfortable with 5 mph winds to brutally cold and sleeting with 20mph winds. Two anglers in a boat trying to catch their 5 fish limit while the VOLUNTEER boat captains try to stay warm just sitting still for 8 hour.  Instead of sleeping in on a Saturday morning, they leave as early as 4am and are on the water before the sun rises. And then do it all again the next weekend. To endure all of this, it takes grit, determination and a real passion for the sport. As a mom, I am proud of the level of commitment and dedication Cole and his partner, Kanon have shown this year. Their consistency paid off too. With a 2nd place finish today, they were able to accumulate enough points to become the 2019 Arkansas Bassmaster High School Series Junior Anglers of the Year. Hard work paid off. Not just for them either. None of this would be possible without their boat captains, Kanon’s dad,  Keith, and my dad, Randy. I’m so grateful to both of these men for investing in these boys so that they can do what they love

So Cole, dream big, buddy!  The sky is the limit for you.  I know it’s tough to reach pro level at anything.  But I know your heart and your strong will.  The passion you have for fishing is evident.   If anyone can get there, it’s YOU!  Keep rippin’ lips and chasing your dream!

The Face of Bravery

 

This is what Brave looks like.  This girl has more courage at 8 years old than her Mama does at 38.  She showed it today by walking up on a stage she had never been on, in front of a crowd of people she didn’t know, then performing a monologue and singing a song.  Who is this child????  And where did she get that courage?  As her mama, I watched 8 other kids, all older than her audition and my heart sunk as each one seemed to get better and better.  These kids had something Avery didn’t….more experience!.  Now don’t get me wrong.  Avery is sooo talented and shines on a stage.  She just lacks practice and polish compared to these kids.  I heard the director call her name and drew in a deep breath.  I watched her carefully climb the stage stairs in her floral rubber boots and walk to center stage.  She looked so tiny on that big stage.   I heard her softly state her name, age and where she went to school.  And then, without hesitation, she started her monologue.  She said every word she had barely practiced (that’s a whole other story…..stubbornness runs deep in our family).  She recited the words perfectly.  You could hear the inflection in her words and a little bit of the sassy persona she was portraying.  To a director…she may have talked a little too fast and a little too soft, not shown enough expression on her face or the right hand movements, and swayed nervously the entire time.  But to her mama….she nailed it!  She was the very best in the room.   The adorable way she tilted her head to the side and shrugged her shoulders melted me.  Her smile lit up the room. Her addition of “finally getting to play Fortnite” made the audience laugh.  She proudly walked off the stage and took her seat with the others.  She shined so brightly today in so many ways.  As the director dismissed us and informed us that 80- kids were auditioning, I started to feel an edge of disappointment creep up.  Chances are small of actually getting a part for even the more seasoned kids.  But as she walked up the aisle and I hugged her trembling body and held her shaking hand, I was overcome with pride.  This little girl was nervous, literally shaking like a leaf!  Most kids fold under that kind of pressure and fear.  Most kids need a little extra encouragement from their parents if they do go up on that stage.  But not my Avery.  She looked that fear straight in the eyes and said, “not today!”   She conquered it!  So part or no part, she goes home a star to me.  As we walked to the car, I prepared to downplay the idea of actually getting a part.  I was already plotting how to lift her spirits with positive affirmations and tell her how proud I was, while at the same time, chalking this up as a practice audition for future auditions.  I was preparing for the thoughts and questions she would throw at me.  But in true fashion, the world righted itself when she simply said, “now can we go to Target?”  We sure can, my brave beautiful girl!