Why I Love College Football

This weekend kicks off college football, and I couldn’t be happier.

A few lot of years ago, I was starting college at the University of Florida, without a clue about football.  My parents weren’t football fans, and my high school won 2 games in 3 years, so it just wasn’t something I knew about.

But I quickly learned.  I was dating a guy who loved the Gators and taught me a great deal, and had a good friend who was born with Orange & Blue blood.  So I went from not knowing what ‘1st and 10’ meant, to being able to recap players and plays, better than most I knew.  The boyfriend was proud.  I even spent a few seasons working with a team of girls helping with recruiting, and was able to see parts of the facilities that most never do, as well as meet high school boys who would go on to become great players with big careers.

I learned about more than just X’s and O’s, and learned about the strong history, the players and coaches backgrounds, and knew I was cheering for more than just a University, but for people who were living their dreams.

I love it all.  I love college football, and especially my Gators.

In the years since college, I’ve grown to appreciate those stories of triumph even more.  And today, I’ll be watching to see who becomes a legend, who writes a page in our history book- who makes the dream happen.  I won’t just be cheering for the hard hits, spiral passes and touchdowns, but I’ll be cheering especially loud for these two players, who have stories worth sharing.  They’ll remind you that today is about more than a score.

#20, Marcus Maye, takes the field today honoring another #20 from years past who drowned just before his first season, and never did run on the field on game day.  He carries with him the heart and support of the mother who didn’t get to watch her son, James McGriff, play.  His story will touch you. 

#37, Mark Herndon, went to bed hungry most nights last season.  He was a walk-on to the Gator team, who came from a family that struggles financially and couldn’t send money to their son.  Not being on scholarship meant not even being able to eat with the team, so Ramen was his meal of choice.  He worked hard.  He went hungry.  It was worth it to pursue his dreams.  And this week, he earned a scholarship, which means he’ll now be able to focus on school and football, not on where his next meal comes from.  I’ll be cheering for him today.  And I’ll be sharing his story with my boys, who need reminders that dreams don’t come easy, but can be achieved. 

These are the reasons that College Football season is the best season of all.  The history, the dreams, the battle.  I love it all.

Go Gators!

 

anita

I’m Not Ready!

School starts this week for the big and the little.

We have the supplies, we’ve met the teachers, and even been shopping for food to make lunch boxes.

But we had hopes of more beach trips, more time with family, more some craft projects, more bike rides, more popsicles.  We were going to get organized (you know, for the first time ever) and have our home office area a space we would want to work in and keep things well organized in.  We were going to finish some painting, finish some floors, and finally design our bedroom retreat.

Now we jump into mornings of hurry, nights of homework and bedtimes, worse traffic, calendars and papers galore, and juggling more than ever.  I’d like to put a hold on time.

I’m not ready!

Since I can’t, my backup technique is reminding myself of all the good things.  So here is my list of the top things I’m looking forward to in the next few months, and why I’m almost celebrating back to school.

1.  Sports.  We’re just weeks away from the start of College Football- here in the South, NFL is fun, but mostly for when there is no College game on.  Go Gators!  Along with that is the start of another baseball season.  We don’t take many breaks with Drew, but he’s had a longer than expected break this summer, and we’re all ready to get going.  PLUS!  Ben starts t-ball!  For all this alone, it’s almost worth the end of summer.

2.  Cooler Weather.  HA!  Summer is only actually halfway over, and we have plenty of near 100 degree weather left here in Florida.  But we like to think that it’s around the corner, and start to believe that we’ll have relief one day.

3.  Learning & Independence.  Drew likes to learn, and even Ben has been pretending to do homework recently.  They soak up knowledge and the chance to expand their thinking.  I love seeing that happen, and as many good things as we’ve had about the summer, lots of learning was not one of them.  It’s also time where they can be outside of our wings, but still in a protected place, growing and finding out who they are.

4Time with Friends.  It’s so much fun to hear the stories back from school of the friends being reconnected with, and new friendships being made.  And for us, we reconnect with some baseball families that we’re all friends with, connect with new families, and start to build upon the amazing network we already have.

5.  New Possibilities.  At the start of a new year, there are so many possibilities.  We can’t know everything that will unfold, and that’s pretty exciting.  What doors will God open?  What opportunities present themselves?  What closes?  While sometimes nerve wracking to think about, it also is faith building.  To know that God is in control, and tomorrow may not look like today.  Tomorrow may be even better.

We start back before a lot of other areas do, so some of you may just be starting to think of Back to School.  Are you ready, are your kids ready?  What are you looking forward to?

 

Leading the Way

Leading the Way

Painful Days

Doctors gave up on a cast after he removed two

Growing up, Austin and I didn’t get sick much.  But we more than made up for that with injuries.  You name it, we hurt it between us.  One of my parents first challenges with that was when I was burned severely at a young age.  It might have been a sign of things to come, and maybe even prepared them for having two kids who always found a way to get hurt.  Austin started young also, with a fall out of a shopping cart when he was about 2. It ended with emergency surgery to his finger.  Austin always stayed calm though, and the doctors were shocked when they were able to do it with only local anesthesia.  I however, sat in the waiting room crying the whole time!

As we grew, we continued to mount the falls, scrapes, bruises and breaks.  I was training intensely for gymnastics, and Austin played various sports.  We also spent free time playing with our friends on the land around our house, traipsing through woods, and generally making mischief.  I broke the growth plate in my elbow and spent almost a week in the hospital with an infection after surgery.  I sprained each ankle, wrist and knee more times than I can recall.  But I was pretty tough, and kept getting up when I was knocked down.  Austin was even tougher.  He was playing football in the yard when he heard a pop and had intense pain in his knee.  He was only about 8, but by now we all knew how tough he was, and when he cried about his knee day after day, there was no doubt something was wrong.  After pushing doctor after doctor to find the problem, he finally had surgery which gave him a few years of relief.  It turned out that he had more serious lasting knee issues than we realized, eventually in both knees.

A few days after surgery

Just to prove how tough he really was, he decided to fight a strand and barbed wire and lost.  But no worry, he never cried, even as they decided that he must have nerve damage since the damage to his face was so severe.  He wasn’t quite as emotionally tough we learned though, because the few tears that did fall were because he heard Dad might have gone fishing without him.

As a teenager, Austin’s knees had reached the point of needing more surgery, this time on both.  One of mine had also reached it’s limit, and we each had surgery, just days apart from each other in hopes of finding some relief.  That was the most painful time of our lives, as we were also coping with the recent separation of our parents, and our first Christmas away from Mom.  We had a pretty rough holiday, in physical and emotional pain, and unsure of what was ahead.  I was in college and didn’t like leaving him when that break was over.

During the next several years, we faced the family challenges and dealt with the pain, sometimes together.  But Austin was always a private person, so the glimpses into what he really felt didn’t come often.  The knee pain grew (as did mine, I eventually had one more knee surgery plus a few others), and he became more private.

Sometime around 2005, Austin and his girlfriend were hit while he was driving her car.  Their injuries weren’t life threatening, but for a guy with so much joint and general pain trouble, it was bad.  When Austin’s knees went into the steering column and his back took the impact it did, I believe a dark time began.  Soon after, the girlfriend broke his heart, and the the pain continued to grow.  He didn’t find much relief from the emotional or physical.

Austin had a job he loved, in a field he had been going to school for.  He had people around him that loved him.  But the pain was too much.  As the physical pain grew, so did the emotional, and trying to cope with both was too much.  We might never know how deep or real that pain was, and we may never know how we could have helped, because though we did try, he kept it hidden.

I’ll forever have pain over losing him, that can never touch the physical pain I’ve ever felt.  His whole life, Austin could take any pain, which leaves us to wonder even more, how bad it really must have been.