Many of our Thanksgivings have been as they were this year – small and close to home.
As most of you know, we are a football family and Thanksgiving occurs in season regardless of our level or division. That also means our Coach has meetings and practices as he would every other week in season. Football doesn’t recognize any holidays – didn’t you just spend all day eating and watching football?😄
This year, many of you shared a similar experience.
As a woman who spent her entire life surrounded by the warmth and laughter of a huge family, I understand your sadness and feelings of disruption being separated from your favorite people. We do our best to adjust but also recognize it isn’t easy for everyone to ‘just do’. We now intentionally spend more time talking on the phone, texting, video chatting, sharing pictures and generally checking in.
As a Coach’s wife, staying connected with my family has been critical in keeping my feelings of isolation and being physically disconnected from them in check. It’s not easy being so far away every Thanksgiving.
This year, our Camryn insisted we dress appropriately for our meal. She also copied the menu to display and initiated our Thankful Declarations. Charlie made us his version of s’mores (graham crackers, vanilla frosting and sprinkles) and proudly added his contribution to the table as it was being set. He also shared that he was thankful for his toys, iPad, his friends, Mrs. Clemens (his teacher), and Camryn.
So, we already know who will call and visit us as we age…
I am thankful for my sweet little family. Each one enhances my life in ways I could have never imagined. Sure, they drive me to my back porch for a breather every now and then but, I would be lost without them.
Every day on my way to work, I drive by the Oglethorpe House in the historic district of Savannah. The Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) converted the former motel into a co-ed residence hall for upperclassmen, graduate and transfer students and it always reminds me of where one of my most comical yet humbling college experiences took place.
At the beginning of my junior year, I started dating a guy from one of my classes. We met when he noticed I actually had the book for the class ridiculous, right? Later, I would learn he stopped purchasing books after his freshman year and this was how he met the majority of the girls he dated. So, let’s call him Detroit Red (DR).
DR was tall and sinewy with amber skin; funny and easy-going. He always smelled of cologne with light notes of marijuana and had more hooded sweatshirts than anyone I ever knew. He remembered my favorite ice cream flavor on my birthday and as it turned out he didn’t need books for his classes to achieve good grades. We didn’t have any issues or drama until the night we did.
One Saturday night, I was hanging out with my fiery friend, Butterfly. I can not recall what we did but, I knew it included a shot or two chased with gut-busting laughter. Butterfly had the complexion of latte and was flawlessly beautiful. She was the best cook I knew in college, fierce yet inexplicably the most easily frightened of all of my friends. If Butterfly ever starred in a horror movie the name of it would be, Grab Your Weapon and RUN! She did and still does have the ability to make me laugh like no other, frequently to the point of tears and stomach cramps.
But back to the story…
At the end of the night, I asked her if we could make a quick stop at Detroit Red’s apartment. He recently moved closer to campus so, it made sense to drop by since we were close, right?
Disclaimer: I went to college in the early ’90s and no one I knew had a cell phone, so there was no calling ahead.
Butterfly agreed to stop. The plan was for me to run up to say hello since my apartment was on the opposite side of town. Harmless enough, right?
Let me set the scene for you…
Detroit Red’s apartment complex was a converted motel, kinda like the Oglethorpe House but on a much smaller and cheaper scale. He and his roommate lived in one of the middle apartments on the second floor but, the steps to the second level were on the side of the building.
I got out of the car, walked to the side of the building, headed up the stairs and continued around the corner to DR’s place. I knocked on the door, his roommate peeked out of the window and opened the door a sliver so I could only see half of his face.
Me (a little confused): Hey, Roommate. Is Detroit Red home?
Roommate: Hey, Slim (back in my off-campus living days, I actually WAS slim and in shape). Naw. He isn’t.
Me: What’s up with you? You alright?
Roommate: Yeah, I’m good.
Me: Okay. Just tell DR I stopped by.
Roommate: Alright, girl.
He closed the door and I headed to the stairs (again they were located around the corner). I walked down the stairs to find Butterfly trying to get my attention and yelling at me from the car. I hurried toward her to find out what was wrong. Butterfly reported that while I was coming down the steps, A GIRL opened Detroit Red’s door and looked to see where I had gone. Now, for all Butterfly knew she could have been Roommate’s girlfriend, however, that never crossed either one of our minds.
I only reacted. I knew there was a reason he barely opened the door…
Without a second thought, I dashed back up the stairs taking two at a time (man, I was in shape!) and ran down to Detroit Red’s door. I banged on the door hard with my fist like I owned the place and I was looking for my very late rent payment. Roommate, who at this point was doing his best to keep DR from having to deal with “a situation”, opened the door to a crack AGAIN but this time I KICKED THE DOOR OPEN.
No one saw that coming…not even me!
I stormed into the room as Detroit Red (clothed) jumped to his feet from his bed on the far side of the room near the restroom. He walked toward me with his hands in the “calm down” position and followed me around the approximate 325 square foot room.
The girl, let’s call her California, immediately started screaming at Detroit Red, shouting all the questions you ask when you find out you aren’t the only girl your guy is “dating”. But instead of letting him respond, I loudly hijacked the conversation answering all her questions with venom. I headed to his dresser and started grabbing all the things I bought DR (which obviously wasn’t that much, I was a Broke College Student).
I was so focused on yelling and running around like a lunatic grabbing things that I hadn’t really looked at California. When I actually got a chance to see what this girl looked like I felt like I had been punched in the gut. Lord! Wait a minute? Is this really happening?
I turned to DR and said, “C’mon, really? Ugh”. And slammed the door as I left.
Monday rolled around and I headed to my 9 AM class which was located in the library. In this particular class, we had to sit in alphabetical order. Guess who had been sitting behind me the ENTIRE semester? California! I think I threw up in my mouth when I saw her in the daylight. I had never noticed her before but, I couldn’t ignore her now. The entire class I could feel her saucer-like eyes on the back of my head as I tried my best to concentrate. After 50 agonizing minutes, the class was finally over. Only 600 more minutes of this class in the semester…I could hardly contain my excitement.
I gathered my backpack, applied a fresh coat of Carmex and lip gloss, and got up to leave. Of course, California was waiting for me outside of the classroom. Fun.
California: We need to talk.
Me (my attitude was SO off the charts at this time): About what? I said all I needed to say on Saturday night.
California: How long have you been seeing him? Have you talked to him?
Me:Since the beginning of last semester. He called me a bunch of times yesterday. He never mentioned you…ever.
California:He called me too. But he lies so much. What did he say?
Me: That he was sorry and it was a mistake.
California (cutting her gigantic eyes at me): Well, he told me he wanted to be with me.
Me: That’s nice. I have another class.
And I walked away.
Later that night, Detroit Red called as usual. Still fuming, I decided I wasn’t about to LOSE to this girl. At this point, it was ALL about my ego. In my mind, I was the better choice. Plain and simple. The fact that DR was without question playing me, carried zero weight.
Me: Listen, California and I talked today. Did you know we are in the same 9 AM? Now, I have to see her every Monday, Wednesday, AND Friday until the end of the semester. I’m not dating you if you are seeing her, so choose, me or her?
Detroit Red:I choose her.
What the…? Huh? Dazed and stuck on stupid, I asked again.
Me:Did you hear me? I said… me or her?
Detroit Red: I heard you. I PICK HER!
The room started spinning and I thought I was going to pass out. My heart was beating in my throat. Did he just say he picked her over me? Seriously? With nothing left for me to say, I hung up the phone, defeated and embarrassed.
I remember laying on the floor in my room of the apartment I shared with another girl and calling my mom to update her on the situation. And then I got up. I liked DR and my ego was bruised but, that was it, no love lost. So, I showered, put on my pajamas, and took a seat at the small desk in my room to study.
What I learned from that experience:
I was the side chick and didn’t know it.
Make your own decisions, don’t allow someone else to control your destiny.
If you ask a question, be prepared for the answer.
Think with your head and not your pride.
Obviously, I survived. Sure, every time I saw Roommate he would laugh and remind me of the time I slammed their door so hard I shook the entire second floor and sure I survived one of California’s friends trying to run me over with her car… but, it could have been worse.
She could have been in two of my classes, instead of one!
Each year, I share a tongue-in-cheek story about football and how it impacts our family (you can check it out here). The experience hasn’t changed much over the years as the core of the story is still true but our relationship with football has evolved.
In the early years of our relationship and marriage, almost everything in our lives revolved around football. Back then (which is funny to even say) we were at the college level, a D-1 school, with a small child and the means aka money to pour everything into football. Now, we are a family of four, including one exceptionally energetic toddler at the high school level. The pace is still very hectic but, we love that there are very few overnight trips and recruiting is focused locally versus nationally. Meaning we have more time together as a family during the year- there is no offseason in football.
To be clear, our marriage is NOT interrupted by football, I am NOT a football widow nor a single parent. We fit football into our lives not our lives into football. And it works for our family.
As our family grew our priorities shifted and became more intentional as a core. We decided that although football is an important part of our lives, it is not our lives. We love football but she has seduced us more than once with her beguiling ways. She is as wonderful as she is unpredictable.
Trusting God’s plan for our marriage is key for us. We work insanely hard to communicate with each other and to have touchpoints throughout the day, especially during the season. The catalyst was a simple comment from a family member very early in our marriage and during the season.
“The two of you are not on the same page.”
While I can’t remember what it was specifically, I remember that it was true. We were allowing the demands of “the life” to slowly obstruct our marriage and we needed to work on a solution. We have come a long way and we continue to work on what is best for our family. Luckily, I married the right guy.
It doesn’t hurt to have a group of women that support you through circumstances you could rarely imagine yourself experiencing. No one understands the sweet nuances this life brings like a fellow wife. I was fortunate to have two great wives show me the ropes early into Bell and I’s football life together. They displayed all the wonderful qualities you would imagine in joining a new team in a new city. They set the bar high and I am forever grateful for their gracious acceptance of me into the football coaching family.
Many lifelong relationships start in the stands, on the sidelines, and grow as we wait in the tunnels and outside locker room doors with babies in tow at home and away. Coaches wives are a great source of support, friendship, and much-needed laughter! If you don’t have a crew find one, it’s worth it.
Good luck this season in your homes and on the field because winning is never overrated!
Our sweet girl received the C.E.O. (Christ-like Example for Others)Award at her school last week so we let her pick the restaurant for our after-church meal. We are so proud of her and her love of God. We were blessed with the most amazing first-born child ever! She is a great daughter, sister, and friend, even if she loves cats!
I have spent the last 10 years obsessing over every single detail about the last day I spent with my mom on December 25.
I woke up that morning from the worst sleep ever. The only two words I can use to adequately describe the nightmare I experienced was black and suffocating. I was surrounded by blackness and I could not breathe. I was scared but in a way, I couldn’t describe. When I emerged from the bedroom, my mom took one look at me and asked if I was okay. I wasn’t and I wouldn’t know why for another 30 or so hours. Normally, we would have talked about what I had experienced but, it was just too heavy and sad to share on her most favorite holiday.
We bustled about the house, as usual, that day. Her cooking and singing her favorite Luther Vandross Christmas songs and me finishing wrapping the Christmas gifts she saved for me to wrap for her. We talked, laughed, gossiped and ate the green beans she cooked for later at breakfast; and I felt the heaviness of the night’s sleep slowly lift as we exchanged gifts. Always my best friend, she made everything better for me.
We celebrated Christmas, as usual, that year with our family at my aunt E and uncle G’s house. One of my most favorite family gatherings of the year! My mom knew how much I loved it but took her time getting ready to go…as she did every year. Once you entered their home you were greeted with love, laughter, kids running around and the smell of all my favorite foods. Nothing better!
After a marathon of pictures, catching up, and plates of food, my mom and I packed up to head back to her house. I was scheduled to work the next day in Chicago before returning the next day to finish my week off with my mom in Dixon. I also arranged to take my three-year-old, goddaughter with me. Since the office would only have one other person there, my goddaughter and I would hole up in one of our empty conference rooms to pass the time reading, coloring, and playing with toys until we could head to the zoo.
Once we returned to my mom’s house, I quickly gathered what I needed, kissed my mom goodbye as she laid on the couch and headed to my car to pick up my goddaughter. Small problem, my car was somehow stuck in the driveway. The same car we used to pull into the driveway no more than an hour ago. It wasn’t snowing but there was a layer of ice coating the ground below. I couldn’t move it in the right direction, every effort pushed the car further into the plowed snow on the side of the driveway. My mom, now standing in the door, called my uncle and then my cousins to help in what none of us could understand, how in the world is this car even stuck? I thought about how ridiculous it would sound for me to call my manager and tell her that I couldn’t make it to work because my car is stuck in the driveway with no snow. So, I was determined to honor my commitment. With the help of my family, we finally got the car out. I wouldn’t understand until the following day, why it was so difficult to move that car, I wasn’t supposed to leave.
My mom called me twice on the 26th. Both times mostly to check and see if I was doing okay taking care of a toddler. “How are you and your charge? How did you both sleep? What are you making her for breakfast? What time are you coming back home?”, she asked. The last call that day from her was mid-morning with more of the same ending with her saying she would see me later.
A few hours later I would get two calls from my family in Dixon. One to tell me that my mom was being rushed to the hospital and to come home immediately and the other one I have never forgotten. The second call came as I was driving home from Chicago with my goddaughter in tow about forty-five minutes later. When I answered the phone my normally calm Aunt who was also an LPN was yelling at me to get there and I heard crying in the background. I yelled back at her that I had to drive 2 hours to get home and I was driving as fast as I could. I pleaded with her to tell me what was wrong, but she was having none of it. Hearing a break in her voice when she yelled again for me to get there sent me into hysterics as I hung up the phone.
I immediately called my dad in Louisiana who did his best to calm me down so I could make it safely. I just remember telling him, “I can handle anything except her death, I will never recover from that.” He told me to focus on getting there and take it from there.
When I arrived, everyone was outside. I ran to the ER entrance. I knew it was bad. I still feel like this part happened in slow motion. They shuffled me down a hallway and into a large room. Once inside, my family lovingly surrounded me and told me she didn’t make it. Make what?
My mom died on December 26, 2008, minutes before that second call from my aunt. My entire existence changed in one afternoon.
I remember asking for someone to pray and then I went to see her, although not the circumstances we talked about earlier in the day. She was dead now. The stain of blood still on her lips from the blood clot that took her life. My beloved everything was now pain-free with her parents.
I can somehow recall things like the color of the first shirt I bought, as the only daughter of her dead mother, a red turtleneck from Shopko. The furniture in her living room hastily rearranged to make room for the paramedics to get the stretcher in and out of her house. The beautiful white suit wrapped in dry cleaner’s plastic I found hanging on the back of her bedroom door, the same day I fretted about how I would dress her for her funeral. Driving with my cousin Londa to CherryVale Mall to buy suits for the visitation and funeral and learning that dead people don’t need shoes in their caskets.
That first year was blurry. I often awoke surprised I hadn’t died the night before from grief. I got up each day with a heavy sigh convinced of two things; someone was praying for me and God needed me to stay on earth but for what reason, I didn’t know.
Now, 10 years later, the pain is still thick and I maneuver through it. Most days I still find it unbelievable that my mom is dead. But she is and life goes on.
I find comfort in the love and lessons she shared with me, my daughter’s connection to the Nana she never met, and knowing that when I need her most my mom is with me. Mostly, I remind myself that I have more memories with her than without her and that means everything.
Luckily, I live in an area where summer-like temps start early and stretch well into September. So, Memorial Day really signals the start of daily requests to go to the neighborhood pool from Georgia Peach and my disgust for not being swimsuit ready.Continue reading → Best Cookout Never
So, I was talking to the Ladies over at one of my favorite charities about an upcoming event. I was holding Dubs’ and noticed he needed a diaper change. We finished our conversation, I said my good-byes and headed to the truck to change his diaper.