Friday, January 31, 2014

My Very Own MVP

I grew up in a conservative household where my sisters and I were not allowed to play sports. You know - the whole shorts thing. Yes, I am old. Yes, I was raised in the south. Yes, it's called The Bible Belt. {And I have another story that could be titled that, but it's for another day.} My sisters and I rocked along in a world full of music and fashion and TV shows, because, frankly, sports were off limits. I like to conveniently use that to this day to explain my loathing of all things exercise and fitness related. ;-)

But, when I 3 years and 5 days old, the Lord finally answered my father's fervent prayers and delivered a boy to our family. And the world shook and long-held mandates for us 3 girls slowly and silently shifted to make way for the boy. Now, the boy had all kinds of different rules. I think of all the distinctions, the one that got my goat the most was the fact that he was excused from KP. Why bring him into the loop, after all, when there were three of us girls and the rotation from washer to rinser to dryer was completed by our triune sisterhood? 

Dishes aside, there was one more thing that really set me off. The boy could play sports. Because he could wear shorts. I remember one heated discussion with the prevailing parental unit and then I gave up. Buried my beloved dreams of volleyball and relegated myself to the band unit, long polyester pants and all. Now, mind you, before I worked myself up to the discussion, I had watched the boy play several seasons of football and basketball with the Y.M.C.A. Should I have known by the M that I didn't stand a chance?

Thankfully, junior high and high school offered me many different outlets and I busied myself with part-time jobs, school newspaper and yearbook, and getting all A's in my accounting classes. Lord, I loved completing those ledger green worksheets. And band. Yes, five years of band. Meanwhile, the boy played sports all through elementary, junior high and most of high school. I was okay with missing his games for my activities and might have been known to pick up a shift or two at Ronnie's Supermarket if it helped my silent gender-biased athletic boycott. I graduated and went on to college and promptly purchased store-bought shorts and never looked back at the volleyball court. 

With our own children, we offered them the opportunity to try everything. I mean anything and everything they had an interest in. Art lessons. Gymnastics. Boy Scouts. Soccer. T-ball. Baseball. Awanas. Choir. Football. Guitar lessons. Drum lessons. Lacrosse. More art. And, like the Renaissance men that they are, they tried all of it, and pursued none of it for very long. I learned to live in the season they were in. I learned to not push my desires into their hearts. I learned to encourage. I learned to guide their interests, but not direct their interests. And I learned to take pictures when I could, because there was no guarantee for the next semester, the next season, the next set.

I will confess, though, the utter elation - and yes, shock! - in my heart when, in the very same year, both boys tried out for football. My boys are 16 months apart, so they were only ever one grade away in school. And football happened their 7th/8th grade year. For one glorious short season, I had the joy of going to two football games a week and cheering for my sons. They both did fantastic, considering that they had never truly played before that season. We were never one of those families that got up a flag football game at Thanksgiving, even though I secretly always yearned to be.

My youngest son is truly an athlete. He is quick to grasp a new sport and has always quickly and easily done well in any sport. My oldest does well in sports, too, but his learning and adaptability curve is slightly longer. He makes up for it, though, with his heart and drive. I enjoyed watching them both learn football in their shared inaugural year, seeing how their skill sets and their personalities crafted them to become different players. And, I was not surprised when my youngest signed up to play football again in 8th grade. Imagine my giddiness over back-to-back seasons of being a football mom!

He enjoyed being part of a team. He was quick to listen to the coaches. He caught on to the plays. He was a determined little guy, set on tackling his opponent and getting his assigned point man on the other team. He truly had an authentic, all out hustle. I loved sitting in the stands. I could always easily spot both of my boys - this may sound silly - by their legs and shoes. There was just a look to this mom about their legs and shoes that made me easily recognize them on the field when helmets blurred and jersey numbers weren't visible.

I had two glorious years as a football mom. I took in all the games, sitting in the September heat and the October wind and the November chill. I bought the stadium popcorn. Steve picked us up stadium seats. I relegated a blanket to the cargo bay of my SUV for the unexpected - or expected -  chilly evenings. I cheered. I memorized the jersey numbers of friends' children. I supported the halftime programs and smiled at the cheerleader moms. I invited grandparents up to watch games. I bought a good zoom lens and took tons of photos. I was living large in the land of Friday night lights. I didn't mind at all that my football mom games were on Tuesdays or Thursdays. I was just happy to have a real reason to sit in the stands.

And what a thrill to watch my boy go in play after play for two seasons and do his best. His team wasn't a winning team either year - not in 7th, or in 8th. He wasn't on the A team either. No matter. We held our B team chins up proudly and enjoyed the equality of the B team. No child prodigies out there to steal the show. They were all in it to win it. 

I still remember that little number 55, standing on the sidelines as close to coach as he could get, ready to go in when called. And no matter what the scoreboard said, he was always a winner to me. And I was happy with the secret in my heart that he was my very own MVP.

Authentic All Out Hustle ~ Andrew 8th Grade Football ~ Fall 2009

Paper: We R Memory Keepers

Thursday, January 30, 2014

At The Foot of the Bridge

Both of our boys are their own unique person. While they have many similarities, they also have many distinct differences. And while we live in a school environment that clearly points to college in a pragmatic and homogenous fashion, both of the boys have approached the fork in the road quite differently.

We sat back and watched as Philip began his junior year and we were full of ideas and wonder as he processed his thoughts and sought clear direction - from everyone but his parents. :-) By the spring of his junior year, he was ready to officially begin the college hunt. God providentially set up for us a visit to Bryan College in Dayton, TN, along with some dear friends of ours who also had a junior that was beginning the college hunt.

It was a tender time for our hearts. It was a true gift that we were able to shadow our friends on our first legitimate college preview visit. They, having a son already in college and ahead of our sons on the curve, have always been so faithful to share ideas and thoughts and information with us over the span of more than a decade. For me to be able to begin this hard mom journey in the presence of my dear heart friend was just truly an amazing gift. 

We flew into Knoxville and then the following morning, a band of eight of us took off in two cars to Dayton. We traversed the campus and the emotion of the event was ever at the back of my throat. Being in a posse with seven others was ever so helpful as - in the company of 6 males - you could be easily diverted by a silliness, a joke, a witty comment, or just the sheer exercise of keeping up with everyone.

After our whirlwind Friday/Saturday trip to not only Bryan College, but also to Covenant College on Lookout Mountain in Georgia, we landed at the foot of the old bridge in Chattanooga. Having consumed Urban Stack burgers, Darling Donuts and all of the information and statistics from the two college campus visits, we were ready for a little fun.

The guys had a football with them and began an immediate passing game. The two of us girls sat and watched and laughed and were amazed at the young men cavorting in front of us, where boys in super hero capes had once stood. Just as dusk settled in, we paused for a moment in our family clusters and took turns photographing our families for each other.

The old metal bridge and lights in the background offer up a message to my heart - as we stood at the bridge of our son's life, of him beginning his journey into adulthood, we gathered close, hugged tight and knew in our hearts that the Light would be the only way we would bear the crossing of the bridge. 

Life of late has been a whirlwind. We are halfway into the kid at college scene now, with one child there and one child at home. Our oldest is in the middle of pledging at college. I have not had Face Time with him in four weeks. Our youngest is in the middle of waiting on scholarship information for college and reveling in his senior year, his job, his church work, his friends. 

When I went to title this layout, I did not have to search long or hard for an apt and fitting title. At this time in our life, any time that the four of us are together it is time that is so very treasured.

So Very Treasured ~ Family Trip, Chattanooga ~ April 2012

Paper: Pebbles
Fonts: Honey Script, Chaparral Pro

Friday, January 3, 2014

Keeping My Eyes on the Horizon

I talked about cruises for a long time. I hinted, cajoled, teased, pleaded. To no avail. So, I eventually went on my first cruise without my sweet hubby. I went with my mom and my oldest sister in 2006. And it was actually a scrapbooking cruise. There were some hiccups, but overall, I loved it. I then knew it was only a matter of time before hubby was going to say yes. By Captain Hook or by crook. 

I finally discovered the missing link. Disney! I knew he would not be able to resist a Disney cruise. I was right! We took our first Disney cruise in 2008, a 5 day cruise to the Bahamas. We four immediately fell in love with all floating things a la Disney. So, naturally, we cruised again in 2009, going this time for 7 days. There was just too much goodness on that ship to explore and take in and enjoy over a mere 5 days. 

Admittedly, in retrospect, back-to-back was probably not ideal, but like I said, we fell in love. And we're never great at deferred gratification. Consequently, after cruise number two, the boys were ready to go back and do "some cities", so in 2010 and 2011, we did San Francisco and New York, respectively. But, as our twenty-fifth anniversary approached, my eye was back on the horizon. That beautiful line where the sky meets the ocean and all is calm.

We had always talked about going to Europe for our twenty-fifth, but as it approached, it just did not seem feasible given us working around the boys going to England on a student ministry mission trip. So, enter Plan B: a Disney cruise to Alaska. It seemed like a foreign country, right? And it would get me back on that beloved Magic. So, how does one have a "romantic anniversary cruise" with two teenagers aboard? Enter Uncle Mark.  We booked two cabins and the three single guys were together in one, we were in the other and odd we headed into the setting sun on our Alaskan adventure.

It was a grand experience, it truly was. I'll remember it all of my life. And if I forget, I have 1,118 photos to jog my memory! It was just the perfect way to get a glimpse into the many beautiful parts of Alaska, and whet our appetite to all desire to someday return. {The youngest son asked before a year was up if we could go back!} And there was no dull moment to the trip. Every moment there was something to see, because even when you were on the boat, you were whale watching, or taking in the glaciers. Truly a stunning glimpse into creation.

There was one really funny, okay ironic, moment. Disney always does a PIRATE night on their cruises. It's usually your 3rd or 5th night at sea, following your first 1 or 2 nights at sea and your first formal night. It's a clever way for them to push the Pirates of the Caribbean hook, if you will, and you get to see pirate Minnie and Mickey. Peter Pan and even Captain Hook show up. And if you're actually cruising in the Caribbean, you might even spy Captain Jack Sparrow. 

The pirate night has a special menu and everyone gets scarves to wear on their head and the photographers troll around to catch your pirate faces, After dinner, there is a show up on deck 9 that involves a zip line and a duel between Mickey and Captain Hook. Mickey always prevails. You know, good over evil. And rum punch is served and at the end of the duel, fireworks light up the sky. It's always really amazing to see the fireworks over the ocean.

Now, I've never seen fireworks that rival Disney. And we've been on cruises where other cruise lines tail the Disney ships on firework night, so their guests get a free viewing. It's just one of Disney's iconic things. And at this point, I should interject that our anniversary is actually ON July 4. Yes, July 4. So many firecracker jokes over the years, and understandably so. We've literally had fireworks on every anniversary we've ever had. So, who better to set off our twenty-fifth anniversary firework show than Pirate Mickey himself?

Well, anyone reading this that has ever been to Alaska knows where I'm headed. Apparently, unbeknownst to us until July 4, 2012, Alaska is an entire natural preserve. And, you guessed it. Fireworks are prohibited on the inside passage. {And maybe everywhere. Who knows?} I only know that on our silver mega anniversary, our giant celebration of all things July fourth-ish, we spent our twenty-fifth anniversary firework free. It was really so funny that we had planned on having such a grand fireworks show...and the only fireworks we saw that night were pictures on the dinner menu and the backdrop screen of the family photo op!

It was funny, to be sure. Like any good character, we followed the age-old "the show must go on" adage and went with it. We loved pirate night all the same. And of course, even without fireworks, it was my favorite pirate night thus far of all our cruises. We all wore the silly scarves and even stumbled upon Pirate Minnie for an impromptu photo op. And we had our photos made in front of the photo op backdrop with the fake fireworks going off behind us.

As the boys get older, they are so much more fun than I ever imagined. They are funny, they are fun, they make me laugh. They are the best of us. And I wanted to capture just a little bit of that fun, silly nature that runs through all of our hearts. That silliness that let us all don scarves and make pirate faces and become excited over Pirate Minnie. If only we were in fact able to sail the ocean all the day long. Oh, that would be a little bit of heaven to me. I can just hear Captain Jack leading, "Yo, ho, yo, ho, a pirate's life me!" and I would be there by his side, singing right along with him. 

Yo Ho, Yo, Ho, A Pirate's Life for Us! ~ Alaska Disney Cruise ~ July 2012

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Fancy Pants
Title: Silhouette Cut File 9329

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Saying Hello

There's just something grand about January 1. As long as I live, I'll revel in the gift of a new year. It's full of anything you can imagine - change, excitement, adventure, hope, opportunity, goals that, so far, are attainable.

As a young child, we would historically spend Christmas at my grandmother's in Denton, and we would spend New Year's at my grandmother's in Groesbeck. On the farm.  We even nicknamed her Granny on the Farm, or GOTF as my oldest sister says. That way, we had Granny, and Granny on the Farm. While both of my grandmothers had so many talents, Granny on the Farm was gifted at making us feel so incredibly welcomed. 

At the farm, there was always enough for our family of six. Enough beds, enough food, enough presents, enough space, enough patience, enough laughter, enough responsibility, enough adventure, enough space at the kitchen bar. She really had a way of reaching out to make us feel so very loved and so very wanted. And we usually went to see her one family at a time, so she and my Papa, while he was living, would just spend all the time we were there totally focused on us. Their farm chores were suspended and the days would unfold with meals and games and, if you were lucky, being asked to bring in the eggs. And more meals and more games.

The true beauty of New Years on the farm was the simplicity in the unfettered agenda. We didn't have anywhere to be. We didn't have anything we needed to do. Oftentimes, we would arrive at the farm and not leave it until it was time to head back to Houston. We had the luxury of relaxing, of being with each other, of just having fun as a family of eight. I can still hear in my head the sound of the dominoes clinking together as they were shook in between the hands of the nightly 42 game that commenced after we were tucked into bed. Oh, how glorious to fall asleep to the sounds of laughter, teasing and dominoes flying on the table. 

I think those early years laid the foundation for my love of New Years and my annual desire to be together as a family on this holiday, to be nestled in our home, and to relax together as we say goodbye to one year and hello to the next. I haven't yet taught my boys how to play 42, and frankly I'm not great at it myself, but they are quite adept at most card games now. They have enough of me in them to enjoy the spirit of competition and enough of their dad in them to embrace the time together and enjoy the fun of it.

In the true spirit of the holiday, last year we invited my parents up to spend the weekend with us. Sometimes a table of six feels more like a holiday than a table of four. My parents are grand game players, too, and so when they are here, there is always a game going on - 31, Shanghai, Hand and Foot - complete with the laughter and the teasing I knew of old. Throw in a little college football and the Rose Parade and the holiday seems complete.

As time marches on, and we all get older, I felt the urgency to document our 2013 New Years with my parents. It seems odd now that my sons are taller than their grandfather. It seems like we should still be back on the farm, laying on the green shag carpet, football bowl game going, dominoes clinking. But, years and decades have passed. I can only conjure up those days in my mind. I had to say goodbye to the farm years ago. 

I believe the hope in a new year eases the pain of all the goodbyes. I believe we all need the new year to come every January - so that we have something to say hello to. Something to give our hearts fresh hope. Belief in the perpetuity of life. The eternity of our goals. 

Whatever your new year holds, I pray you enough to say hello to it - to embrace it with wide open arms, to revel in each day, to believe that every day matters, that the year will be for you a Glorious Unfolding. Hello beautiful 2014. Hello light and hope and change. May it be a year for you to create and believe and thrive. I am saying hello to 2014, and all that it packs with it. 

Hello 2013 ~ New Year's ~ January 2013

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Echo Park
Font: Arial Black, with Pebbles ABC Stickers