Friday, May 31, 2013

A Perfect Memorial Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend Camping has come and gone again. It's crazy how long this has been going on when I really think about it. It started with my uncles when I was very young and eventually my cousins and I were old enough to have our own little campfire and set up tents. 

Once my brother got to high school the original campers had dwindled and their celebrations no longer happened, but Nic and cousin Joshie continued the tradition with their friends. The modern Memorial Weekend began in about 2001. Once Nic went to Bellarmine it only grew as it is the one weekend of the year when many out of towners make the trip down to "The County," as it has come to be called. We realized just how long the camping has been going on when Gress pointed out this year was his 10th Memorial Weekend in The County.

Given I was not around last year (due to bachelorette party fun in Chicago!), but there was a definite turn in what the event was this year. The craziness of a bunch of college kids causing shenanigans in the woods has turned. Now it is a weekend of turning off cell phones and enjoying a break from "real life" while enjoying the company of great friends. 

Coolers full of beer and hot dogs are not the staple any longer. We've upgraded to having a deluxe smoker and a table spread of deliciously grilled food. We ate elaborate breakfasts complete with fresh fruit, biscuits, eggs, sausage, cinnamon rolls, hash browns, Bloody Marys, and bacon. Dinners included grilled asparagas, barbequed rabbit and chicken, steaks, turkey sausage orzo, sweet potatoes,  potatoes, burgers, deep friend frog legs and ribs. 

"Early" to bed is no longer 2 a.m. but instead 11 p.m. and the late nighters of 4 a.m.--no all-nighters--are few and far between. Terrible morning hangovers are over and productive, enjoyable days ensue. (I'm sure the perfect 70-degree weather with no humidity aided that.)

We even have kids and babies camping with us now and with Michelle and I expected to have little ones of our own next year, no doubt baby festivities will only continue.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Family Baby Boom

I'm overdue on reporting anything on here about the biggest thing going on in our lives in 2013...and, no, it's not breaking ground on a house. That project is still progressing but something else came along to take priority... a baby!  Here's the story as I told it to our family...

2013 was the year Mingus and I had high hopes for breaking ground on our future home in Knob End. While progress towards that goal still ensues, God has put a new and more important responsibility into our lives: bringing our first child into this world. 
The Peangling: Due October 21
Mingus and I have maintained Natural Family Planning through our marriage, always leaving the window open for God to take the reigns if his timing for kids comes earlier than ours. We were grateful to have a year to settle in to both married life and life in Clan Valley prior to having any ids. And while the goal of building a house prior to starting a family always won out with logic, I truly believe God softened our hearts to the idea of a child in the coming months before we conceived, so that his hand could guide us to this point with our hearts wide open to his will. Getting pregnant was not a openly planned thing on our parts, but we both knew that somewhere inside, while still scared and hesitant of the unknown challenges, we were excited about children of our own. Logic just told us it wasn't time. God said otherwise, and for that we are grateful. 

I shared our news with my brother and his wife, Nic and Michelle, the week after we found out ourselves. I knew the outlook for kiddos was sooner on their future radar than ours, but never knew the exact details of that timeline. Little did I knew they had already crossed the line into trying for a family; but little did they know, on that particular day, life grew inside Michelle as well. It was only after I had left Louisville for the week that they found out themselves. They did not immediately share their good news with anyone besides Jon and myself. "Preggers privileges" I suppose.

The following Friday was our first trip to the doctor for the official confirmation of our pregnancy. About the time we were leaving I received a text from my cousin and best friend, Jo, letting me know she was canceling her "St. Patrick's Day" gathering in planned for few weeks later. My immediate thought/hope, Mingus spoke for me: "Is she pregnant??"

Now, a little backstory... Since Jo and MJ's wedding, we have done much praying for each other as couples. What started as somewhat of a joke, became a regular thing for both of us. Jo told me back in the fall that, after a dream MJ had, the two of them had started praying for our baby. (The one that did not exist yet...) When I shared this with Mingus, he immediately said, "Oh yeah? They're going to put that on us, huh? Well you tell them we're going to start praying for their baby then!" And since, we have always prayed for our future children. With this 'joke,' Jo and I often spoke of when kiddos would come and how crazy it would be if we just 'happened' to get pregnant at the same time. Of course, in a more realistic outlook, we also always said that if it happened to one of us, it was going to be heavy pressure for the other to jump on board.

As it turns out, no pressure was needed. God did the work for us. Because of MJ and Jo's regular prayers for our babe-bo, we felt it was only fair for them to know their prayers were no longer hypothetical. I shared the news with Jo after we left the doctor and she called me in excitement. (Although, she was not in normal Jo-excitement voice level due to being at work and not wanting to cause a scene.) Jon took his turn on the phone to give her a message for MJ: "Your mission this weekend is to make a baby." She laughed. And laughed. We thought we knew why, but we did not.

Jo & MJ are due October 25
Michelle & Nic are due November 5
Her laughter came out of the joy and irony of Mingus's request: she already knew life was growing inside of her. A week later she and MJ had their first appointment and confirmed the pregnancy as well and I got the call the following Saturday morning to tell me what I truly think we could not have planned: she was pregnant as well!
It's been a fun few months of "Preggers Privileges" and sharing this secret among the six of us. (It has been oh-so-confusing keeping track of who knows about who and when you can talk about what!) I think I can speak for all six of us when I say, we are happy to share this news with the entire family, as we all know we will now be gaining an extra load of prayers and support for the coming months, as well as prayers and love for the new Clan babe-bos who will have the opportunity to grow up especially close.

This is the video put together for our Spring family gathering. We held a celebration for what would have been my Grandy-Bo's 90th Birthday. This is also when the three couples announced our news. 
Birthday Bash & Spring Celebration 2013 from Rita Harris on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sports Talk: The Underdog District

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published May 29, 2013. 
Every athlete is always reminded that anything can happen in the post season and we have all seen it happen, but the excitement of when it does (as long as you are the underdog, that is) never gets old.
What an unpredictable outcome for the 47th District softball tournament last week! Not only did the top two seeds not even make it to the championship game, but the only team to not pick up a single regular season district win, won the tournament title: Rockcastle County.
The upsets began with our very own Lady Rebels taking on the number two team of Pulaski County. This was a team they lost to twice during the regular season: 0-2 and 2-9. Those girls did not just defeat Pulaski in their tournament game, they creamed them. As in, 12-2 so they did not even have to play all seven innings.
I’m not sure if Rockcastle was motivated by our own Lady Rebels, but they followed their lead in the next game and jumped out on the number one team of Somerset to take a the win 12-5.
Unfortunately for our girls, the underdog trend continued into the championship game where they were overthrown by the least likely team to take home the championship trophy. As opposed to the two opening tournament games, though, Casey put up a solid fight for the title and only lost by one run and the game came down to the last out. Just one more hit and Casey could have easily scored to tie the game.
Seeing the tears from our players after accepting their runner-up trophy showed exactly where their hearts were in their post-season efforts. They believed and played as though they could win no matter what had happened in the regular season. The risky part about having that belief is that when you fall short of your goal it hurts that much more.
I will admit to have never expected the season these girls have had when it began back in March. The team saw only three wins last year and the first one did not happen until May. When they got a win four games into the season I should have known this team would be different. The past would not dictate who the Lady Rebels were this season or even from one game to the next. They proved that game after game. Sure, they saw their fair share of losses and games that they would quickly take a do-over if possible, but every team or athlete experiences that.
To the four seniors especially, be proud of what you helped your team accomplish in your final season. You have left what could easily be the beginning of the turning point in this program. You gave the leadership necessary to a team that could have gone through a season expecting very little of themselves. Instead you led them to accomplishing something not done in nearly a decade.
I also want to give credit to the coaches, although I know they both give all credit to their team. I have no doubt your belief in your girls never failed and was necessary in getting them over some of the mental hurdles after tough games.
Way to go Lady Rebels! You’ve given us a glimpse of what potential is in your future!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sports Talk: Storybook endings to track and field careers

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published May 22, 2013. 
The ending of Micah Smith’s high school career brought back memories of my own “storybook ending,” as I once called it. He not only won the title but his very last high school meet saw his best performance ever.
A lot of pressure can build up in that final meet after putting so much into your athletic career. The last thing you want is it to finish feeling like you fell short in your final performance.
From Danville Advocate Messenger
 While many people pushed me to focus on the 400, and I love-love-loved the competitive nature of the meet-ending 1600-meter relay, the 800 was what I loved most.
After running a great time at region—but not my personal best—I wanted nothing more than to finish out my CCHS track career at state—back then it was on U.K.’s fancy blue track—knowing I had run my best race ever.
God has an interesting way of working sometimes and he decided to play a little trick on me that particular day. In regular meets my dad or someone would always call out my first lap split so I knew whether I was on pace or not. At state I could simply look at the large finish line clock as I passed by on my first lap.
My heart sank to my gut when I saw that my time was about four or five seconds off on my first lap. What was worse is that I had been gunning for a fast first lap in order to better my chances at a P.R.
The fear of living with a less than satisfying final race outweighed my fear of dying or the pain my legs or lungs were feeling. I pushed harder through that second lap, in attempt to make up for the slow first lap.
I finished in fourth, a much higher finish than I’d been ranked going into the day but saw a time that was even slower than my regional time. Despite my place, I could not help but feeling disappointed, so I was rather confused by the excited greetings and congratulations I was receiving once I exited the track.
It turns out the display clock had been showing a time that was about five seconds off the real timer. Not only had my first lap actually been extremely fast, but my overall time was a personal best and the new school record. Had the clock incident not happened, I may not have run my second lap as well and finished with the time that I did.
I still remember that feeling of capturing the perfect race on my final day as a high school athlete. My excitement to know Micah had not only won his event but had the perfect day to end his career brought back those memories and feelings and makes me that much happier for his hard work and accomplishments.
Then there is Shelby Stringer, who has blown everyone from her coaches and fans to her competition away with her stellar performances this year. State was no exception with her 10’ vault and tying the state record. For Shelby, she has an entire season left to raise the bar that much higher—literally and figuratively!
From Danville Advocate Messenger
 But any experienced athlete in Shelby’s shoes knows there is nothing to be taken for granted and her achievements this year do not guarantee a cakewalk next year.
The thing about track and field is that you simply never know from season to season who is going to come into the mix of competition and just what kind of day you are going to have when it matters most. Unlike team sports, if you have a bad day, there is no one else for you to look to for picking up the slack.
I was overjoyed with another area title achieved last Friday when my cousin, Clint Hellyer, took the gold in the 300-meter hurdles. While I wanted nothing more than to see him accomplish this, I could not help but see the other side of this situation. This was Clint’s first year on Boyle County’s track team. 
From Danville Advocate Messenger
This means he was not only not in the mix of 300-hurdle competition last year, but he never was. No matter how well other athletes did in the past, they had no way of predicting Clint would be a state contender until this season arrived. There were guys gunning for that state title this year who have been hurdlers for years, yet Clint came out and captured it with one season under his belt.
I saw the same thing happen to friends and teammates back when I was running for Casey. The important thing is to relish the moment while it is I here and be proud of what you accomplished and take the time to live in this particular moment. Whether it’s your first season or last season, a state title or a personal record, celebrate.
As for Shelby’s final season as a CCHS vaulter, I am stoked to see the milestones in her future. Plus, I have seen her compete enough in all of her sports to know the dedicated competitor that she is. There is no doubt in my mind she is going to do everything in her power to seal back-to-back state titles—and claim the state record for herself.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Congrats Class of 2013--especially you student athletes!

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published May 15, 2013. 
Graduation is always a bittersweet time for everyone connected to a senior student—teachers, administrators, coaches, friends, family, and, of course, the seniors themselves.
Every student who is closing out their time at Casey County High School has accomplished major feats and some may be more obvious than others, so never assume that those finishing at the top of the class have accomplished more than others. You just never know what it took for any one person to be where they are.
Having said that, I do feel the student athletes deserve an extra pat on the back. Now, I’ll be honest and say that when I was a student athlete, in many ways I found being heavily involved in a sport bettered my work ethic when it came to the books. This was mainly because my schedule was so booked up with games, travel and practices, I had no choice but to squeeze in studying during the windows in between, rather than putting off your studies because you could do it any time.
Then again, working like this became my norm and probably does for any student athlete. You don’t have the convenience of “free time”. If you aren’t practicing, playing or studying, you are probably sleeping—because you can’t get enough of it!
Despite what became the norm for me as an athlete, you have accomplished something special.
First off, we all know that in order for them to even compete in athletics, their grades must reach a certain standard; therefore, all of Casey’s senior athletes were making time for school.
Second, being a part of a team is a learning experience in and of itself. The classrooms teach you the facts, how-to and prep you for college or a career, but sports teach you lessons you can carry through life about the kind of person you want to be; the way you dedicate yourself to something; the way you handle problems or defeat and the way you work with others. 
No matter if you were a four-year athlete or you came out to a sport for the first time as a senior, you’ve accomplished something special. Regardless of whether you plan to continue your athletic career at a collegiate level or not, I can guarantee you nothing will be the same as what you experienced while being a part of a high school team.
Be glad and proud that you took the opportunity to participate in one or multiple sports while you were at CCHS. Whether you were a starter, benchwarmer, record setter or MVP does not matter. You took the opportunity to be a part of something you may never get the opportunity to try or do again.
Congrats to all of the graduating Rebel and Lady Rebel athletes!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Way to keep it classy, Ladies--both on and off the tennis courts

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published May 8, 2013. 
Living in the basketball-centric state that we do, it is always exciting when Casey County has a successful basketball team. District titles are always a major celebration and even runner-up is an accomplishment. Regional titles are a whole other ball game of excitement.
Sometimes our other sports teams’ and programs’ accomplishments get overlooked due to the fact they are simply not basketball. As someone whose primary sport while attending CCHS was track and field I know this. Regional titles got (get) some recognition and a pat on the back. Other state qualifiers may get noted in an article in the paper. Those who place at state are known by some and those who earn runner-up and state champion titles are celebrated but often time lost in the late school year hub-bub.
But despite the sport, regional titles and state berths are huge and I hope even those who do not closely follow the boys and girls tennis programs (or are not necessarily tennis fans) recognize this with what they’ve accomplished this season. Casey County, year in and year out, has stand-out tennis teams from the boys and girls side of the house. Repetitively do they have winning records and are ranked top in the 12th Region.
The boys’ team earned the regional runner-up title after only sending a single player to state last year—and that player having graduated.
The girls, made school history with Casey’s very first regional title. What an amazing accomplishment. To top it off, all six girls who competed made it to the semifinal round of the tournament, earning an outright bid to compete in the state tournament.
That team of girls has worked hard for two solid seasons to earn their first regional title. Having not lost a single player after the 2012 season ended, they built off of the regional runner-up title they earned last year after going 11-2 during the season.
I have also been told that the young ladies who make up the tennis team are not only stellar at how they perform on the court with a racket, but they are also superb with how they perform in the classroom with the books. The entire team—not just the regional team—is made up of students with 3.5 or better GPAs. Both seniors, Tylyn Leigh and Allie Tinsley, carry over a 4.0 GPA.
Congrats to the entire team on being phenomenal all around and best of luck to you at sectionals, state, and the road ahead!