something about sports

Another softball season is in the books.
Year five for me as an assistant coach.
Another group of seniors moving on after I worked with them all four years.

More hot practices.
More dirt-covered cleats.
More sunflower seeds and athletic tape.

A lot more home runs. A lot more.
A lot more losses. A lot more.

We were 9-15 this season. If you don't follow sports, let me break that down for you: It's not too great. We began this season coming off a high that most players and coaches never get to experience-- we were 19-6 last year... and Class 1 State Champions.

State freakin' Champions.

We knew we were losing a few key positions this year, but the majority of our girls had had the experience of playing State Championship quality softball. They wore the rings. They knew what it took.

But if I'm being honest? This year was painful at times. Was it coming off the high that made some of the losses harder? Probably. Is it because it's the first losing record I've ever been a part of? Maybe.

But here is what I know to be true, in spite of, and possibly because of, our record:

These girls will never regret having played softball. These girls, though the would love to have switched those numbers around this year, will be thankful they had softball in high school. It will have given them a sense of purpose. It will have taught them how to win gracefully, and more importantly how to lose gracefully which they will apply more in their adult lives.

These girls will not regret this season because it will have taught them about healthy competition and how to respect talent in others, even when that talent means your defeat. It will have taught them that their character and integrity are not to be compartmentalized, but should be evident on the field, in the dugout, at their school.

These girls will not regret being a part of this team because it will have taught them that most goals are attainable with hard work. It will have taught them that teamwork is foundational to anything they're going to accomplish.

My first year coaching, we were 17-6 and lost with a heartbreaker, 3 extra-inning game at Districts. After that I wrote a post about all that a record encompasses for the members of the team it represents. I think when I wrote that I thought it stood for more because it was a winning season. Now I know that's not true. Now I know that, though those winning seasons are full of hard work and teamwork also, I know that there is a lot more grit and messy and life-forming stuff that happens when those numbers are reversed.

When I wrote that post 5 years ago, I said it is hard to explain to someone who has never played sports or been a part of a team exactly what a record, a season, entails. I thought of this the other day when I was reading an article about the Royals and the writer, a life-time Royals fan, tried to explain that moment of delirious bliss that happens when your team wins. I couldn't finish reading the article without getting teary-eyed because it is so very true. To be a part of that? There is some sort of magic to it.

And that magic underlies the entire season--always bubbling just beneath the surface, ready to burst out in one victorious at bat or double play. This season that magic felt a long ways away at times. It felt like we would have to claw through a lot of dirt to find it, but there were times it still surprised us with its presence. And at those times, while I sat on my bucket in the dugout or stood on the first base line, I had to swallow a lump in my throat because that magic? It is strong.

And so, like I said five years ago, regardless of what the number is on the right vs what the number is on the left, that dash in between the wins and losses is what has made athletes come back to the game since competition was first invented centuries and centuries ago. That dash, not the wins or losses, is what holds the magic that can make grown men cry and dance and act like children; it holds the magic that makes coming back to practice after a tough loss worth it.

And over the last five years I have discovered that that dash, that magic, is the heart of the athlete. Like I previously wrote, it is the practices in the summer, sweat trickling on tanned skin. It is hearing your friends shouting and splashing at the pool across the street while you do one more push up for an overthrown ball. It is weight lifting in a gym with no air conditioning to be half a second faster and capable of throwing the ball harder than your opponent. The dash is staying after school day after day to practice, sometimes wondering what it feels like for your classmates who get to be home before 5:30 or 6 every night. It is setting up the pitching machine, filling up the water jug, and running agilities through the ladder. It is taking a ball to the shin, face, arm, gut, or ankle, and waiting with anticipation for the bruise to show up. It is dirt in your shoes, clothes, hair, fingernails, car and room for four months. It is laughter at practice. It is a joke at the mound to relieve tension. It is 123 bags of sunflower seeds.

The dash is also laughter, frustration and tears with teammates, high fives and pranks. The dash is bus rides and sandwiches and fudge rounds and capri suns and grapes. It is giving up Saturdays for a tournament that requires you to wake up at 6:30. It is scars on your knees when you're in a dress on the homecoming court. It is a prayer before games, hands held in nervous anticipation. It is breaking from a huddle, thundering "ALL HEART!" for the other team to hear. It is lucky underwear and superstitions, and the school song sung off key.

The dash is a community that believes in you and follows your games and cheers you on. It is parents who leave work early, make food, cheer the loudest, and bring you your cleats you left at home. It is a loyal fan who comes to every practice and beats the bus to every game. It is wanting to win a game for your coach who has stuck by your side since t-ball and taught you fundamentals. It is blisters and bruises and smiles and small victories that the crowd doesn't see. It is a crucial steal to second, and a beautiful sacrifice bunt. It is a diving catch, or a routine play at first.

It is the dash that will be remembered well after the wins and losses are forgotten.

Sure, in 10 years these girls may look back on this season and say, "We should have won more games. We could have won more games." 

But there was more to this season than that. 

And soon enough, those should haves and could haves will be drowned out, and all that will be left in their memories will be the magic. That delirious, sweet, sweet, magic. 

 Thanks for making it worth it, ladies. Hold on to that magic. 

And a shout out to Brent and my mom, who spent a lot of time fighting Becks to take a bottle while I was away at games. 
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the accumulation of a life

The other day I was sorting through a closet. Something I do with semi-frequency. And I thought to myself: How does one accumulate so much stuff? 

When we moved from college to Louisville, we already had a cattle trailer full of items, but that was small potatoes compared to what we packed into the back of our moving truck two years later in route for Missouri. And now? NOW?! If we were to move tomorrow I can guarantee we'd have to pack up in an even bigger moving truck than last time.

And then I thought: Stuff is stuff. But what about this LIFE I have accumulated since I first packed my bags and left home?!

Every day that passes, I tuck more and more life inside these walls.

When we moved to Kentucky-- me, kicking and screaming-- I wrote a reflection [here] about unpacking old memories in my apartment: unloading memories of summer trips to the pool and bike rides with my dad and making "recipe soup" onto the shelves of my one bedroom apartment. I talked about how the new apartment could only store so many memories, and that I needed to leave some behind to return to.

And now, in my three bedroom home, I wonder how many memories I have unloaded into these closets and shelves; how many nearly forgotten happinesses lie in these cupboards, just waiting for me to find them.

Perhaps if I pull down the winter clothes from the attic the snow fort I built with my wingmates when I was an RA will tumble down with them? And behind the washing machine could I find some memories of my first dates with Brent? In the hall closet I pull out the feeling of holding my first daughter on my chest, examining her first new breaths. And behind the vacuum I discover I still have the memory of my first successful writing lesson with my students.

And little by little, memory by memory, I am amazed that we can accumulate life so exponentially.

So I throw out the stuff to make room for the life. I want to have space to remember what we lived here. I want to have empty places to fill with big memories.

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five months of Becks

month ONE
month TWO
month THREE
month FOUR

Weight: I have no idea. More than 13 less than 15. Sound good? 

Clothes and Diapers: I finally busted out our fall/winter clothes which are all 6 month, so she's been wearing a lot of those lately, not necessarily because they fit perfectly but because it has cooled off, and that is the size we have in warmer clothes. :) [Otherwise she still fits in some 3 month, and 3-6 month is perfect for her]. Hand me downs will be the story of her life. [Well, they are for Blythe too…. ] We bumped up to size 2 diapers. 

Eating: Usually 5 times a day. She hit a growth spurt at the end of this month and ate 10 times in one day! Whew! However, she hates the bottle. She only takes one when absolutely hungry. I've had a lot of softball this month, and she has just skipped some meals here and there, or Brent brings her to me in between the Varsity and JV games if they are at home, or if she is hungry enough she will finally eat some for him. I had a 14 hour day at a tournament and I think the entire time I was gone she ate less than 7 oz. I fed her when I got home and she still slept well that night so I guess it's not too big of a deal. 

Sleeping: Ugh. This is what has changed a lot since last month. Her naps are super short-- usually between 20-50 minutes. She will be happy when she wakes up, though. Her afternoon nap used to be long! Every once in a while she will surprise me with an hour and a half nap. Suggestions?  At night she goes down around 7/7:30 and wakes around 5, I feed her, and she goes back down until about 8:30. I'd love to cut out that 5 a.m. feed, but since she goes back down for several hours after, I'm okay with it. :) 

I feel like Becks notices and responds to Blythe a lot more now. Which is so awesome. I love their relationship already.  And this picture may be my favorite from this month. 

We dedicated Becks at church this month-- more about this at end of post. 

accomplishments/ Things to note:

\ still isn't super into rolling over. she rolls front to back a lot, but then stays on back unless we REALLY convince her to roll. 
\ her hair is getting super light and falling out. 
\ we had her at a softball game IN THE SHADE and she still sunburnt a little on her face. I'm not used to fair skin-- this could be interesting. 
\ she sits up a little bit on her own. She leans forward a lot, but can balance herself pretty well. 
\ she grabs anything you put in front of her with great concentration. If I hand her her paci, she can now bring it up to her mouth by herself [come oonnnnnnnn, finding-it-by-yourself-in-your-crib]
\ her cry. oh man. I get called to the nursery at church every so often because of it-- she sounds like she is in pain, but it's just her normal cry. It's horrible. It's all or nothing with this child. I kind of like that about her personality. 
\ even though her little power naps are wearing me out, she is really such a good, good baby. Sometimes she likes to be held-- what baby doesn't? And sometimes she wants to eat right when it's least convenient-- what baby doesn't? And she won't take a bottle. BUT?! This baby? She is a good, good baby. This may sound terrible, but I think other mothers will understand: I feel like I've fallen in love with her completely quicker than I did with Blythe. Maybe my mama heart was just better formed this time around? [Shows you how much I knew: I thought it would take longer this time around because of how intense my love for Blythe is now. God knew what he was doing though when he created parenthood and created our hearts to hold the hugeness of it all]. 

\ We dedicated Becks at church this month, promising to raise her in the church and do our best to love her like Jesus and teach her about Him so that she will one day make the decision to follow him. We are still praying for her TRAITS, and we chose her "life verse" as Matthew 5:8: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." It was a great, simple service and our family and friends surrounded us with prayer at the end. Afterwards Becks said she wanted to go to Olive Garden, of course, so we did. :)

I snapped a few [very] quick pictures before we left for church:

Brent kept stepping in my light to make them smile…which was fine because I'd rather have those beautiful smiles captured in a dark picture than great lighting and no smiles…right? 

It was also neat to share the dedication with our friends, and think that our children will grow up in church together and hopefully become friends as well. 

Becks, you are so sweet. We pray that we can honor our promise we made to raise you in His word and in His ways. I told your dad this month: Blythe made us parents. You made us a family. 

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