Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sports Talk: Sports Struggles in a Small Town

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published July 31, 2013. 
I was delighted to see that the U.S. won its fifth Gold Cup title this past weekend after taking out Panama in the championship game. Currently Mexico is the only country topping the title count, with six.
Personally, I enjoy seeing our country moving forward in the soccer world. Soccer was never a big part of my athletic growing up years. Not only did I not play in any of my youth, but it wasn’t even a sport I was played in an intramural sense through school or I learned the rules to—like softball or volleyball. With Casey schools not having soccer,  I never attending any games until college, but having been to a game while visiting Brazil three years ago, there is no doubt the level of excitement the sport holds.
While I loved my Casey County school experience, as with anything in life, you give some and take some. There are a ton of sports out there that our school system does not and cannot offer for one reason or another. Some you can find only a county away; some you will only find in Louisville or Lexington; others you might not even find in the state.
It is a tricky dilemma to argue about—the lack of any particular sport in our area. During my time as a Casey County student I saw the school add girls’ volleyball and both tennis teams. Cross country was added as well after it became a sport I personally pursued. While this was a major accomplishment and advantage to me at the time—something I was very grateful to those who helped me—I admit it was an easier battle to win than trying to get the school to add a new team sport. (All I needed was my own two legs and some open fields for running—we’ve got plenty of those around here.)
Soccer seems like such a basic sport, so it’s almost like we are selling students short by not having a program. (I’m glad we have our youth programs.) At the same time, we are a small school system. There are only so many students total. Of those students, only so many of them have any interest in athletics. It’s a great thought to offer an array of sports, but the reality is that most students have to narrow down their extracurricular to a select two or three.  While we want to see options for sports, we also like to see successful programs in our sports, and the more we spread out our athletes and their focus and talents on any one or two, the harder building successful programs becomes.
It definitely is one of the tough parts about a smaller school system. With my husband having been a soccer player and a big fan of the sport, I do wish I had at least learned more about it in my youth, even if I’d never played on a team. (I never played softball or volleyball on a team, but I know the basic rules.) At least having a youth program gives our children the opportunity to discover this sport and find out if it is something they are passionate about or have natural talent.
The beauty of this day and age is even if your high school does not offer a particular sport or extracurricular, it’s likely you can find a travel team or area league to join.  Whether the high school ever offers soccer (or any other new sport) I understand is a tricky item to tackle for many reasons, but I think it’s more important to simply give kids at a young age the exposure to more sports or extracurricular so they have a chance to learn about them if they so desire.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Baybo-SPLOSION Shower with the Fam!

My first baby shower was last weekend and it was fabulous! I honestly think part of it's fabulous-ness had to do with the fact it wasn't just for me! I always feel slightly awkward about showers for me. It's one thing growing up as a kid opening presents in front of everyone on your birthday, but as an adult it feels a little strange. For the wedding it was extra weird to me because these were all people who were probably going to also buy me a wedding gift... and it's not like the gifts I was being "showered" with were things I needed in order to get married. At least with a baby shower I feel SO grateful that people are willing to help me out with the (what seems like) millions of essentials I'll need in order to take care of this little child growing inside of me!

But in this case, the shower was not just for me. The Dixon family hosted a shower for Michelle, Jo and myself. So not only did I feel extra grateful for the support I was getting from my family, but all of the attention was not solely on me!

On top of it being spectacular just because I got to share it with two of my closest, best friends, the fam did an excellent job with everything about the shower. It's the first baby shower the family has had in, wow... over 11 years? These babies are quite an excitement among the fam! 

Jo's sister, Belle, spearheaded most of it. We had it a little earlier than showers traditionally come, but I am more than OK with being able to already scratch things off our list. She designed super cute invites and she and her mom prepped the Rumpus Room at the family Hall for the shower. They also shopped for small gifts to give to us preggo ladies every time there was a door prize. Our cousin KK organized the games. I'm not always a fan of shower games but she did a good job picking out fun ones. Maybe, in general, I just like baby shower games better than wedding shower ones. My sister, Rachel, coordinated food. Since we had it on a Sunday morning it was brunch themed. It was complete with quiche, fruit, coffee cake, donuts and a trifle. Our cousin Jerusha decorated the Rumpus Room and she went all out with it. She and sister Als were up past midnight working on the room the night before and they really transformed the space making the event that much more special.
I loved everything I got... Even though I am going to cloth diaper, I got quite a few regular diapers which I know I'll use and be glad to have on hand. I did get a couple more cloth diapers, diaper rash cream, shampoo, wipes... I got our bath tub, a feeding pillow, an activity mat, humidifier and a wipe warmer. Jerusha and Als win the creativity award. Jerusha's gift came in a cupcake box and looked like a bunch of fluffy icing cupcakes, but they were rolled up onesies (with a sock in the middle for color). Each onesie she had a custom design on it--we each got nine and they were all different and so cute! Als made us each a mobile and I love ours! Mingus was even extra excited about it. It has little farm animals and such. So cute and so personal!
 It was a great first baby shower experience for me and the Peangling. We grateful for all those who came and everything we received, but most of all we're grateful for a family who is so supportive and we know is sending prayers our way.
All of the Cousins!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sports Talk: Academic Athletes at UK and UofL

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published July 24, 2013. 
A new award honoring academics from the National Association of Basketball Coaches was presented last week and two of the five high-major men’s basketball programs receiving the award were the state’s two most popular institutions: the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky.
The inaugural Team Academic Excellence Awards were given to teams with at least a 3.0 GPA for the 2012-13 season. A total of 96 programs were recognized in NCAA Division I, II and II and NAIA Division I and II.
The Cardinals had a collective 3.295 GPA for the year and a 3.41 in the fall, a record high for the UofL. The Wildcats achieved a 3.23 GPA as a team for the year, which was a team record.
Sometimes we overlook the academic side to the adored college athletes on these two teams. We see them strictly as athletes and forget they are students as well and that their studies should be their number one focus. We allow our children and young people to idolize these stars for their big moments on the basketball courts or elsewhere, but it’s nice when the occasion arises and we realize there is more for children and young people to look up to these athletes for than just their athletic skills.
Having been a college athlete myself, I know that most colleges and universities take great pride in the academics of their athletes. Pushing their athletes to stay focused on school and studies is always a priority of coaches and athletic departments, but for the big schools like UK and UofL, outsiders that just watch the games on TV and keep up online like us never see that side of life for these students. Honestly, I think a lot of us forget they are actually students when the big games, big drafts and rankings come out.
I find it great that these two universities who have basketball programs we love to follow were made up of players who had such success in the classroom this past year. I hope both programs continue to pursue athletes who show the same dedication in the classroom as they do on the court. I hope they continue to push their athletes to be dedicated to both as well.
And we should always remind our children and young people looking up to college athletes the importance of learning exactly what dedication is and while it is important to be dedicated to the sport and team and you love, your studies deserve dedication as well.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Baby Growth: Weeks 22, 23, 24 & 25

I can't decide if time is moving quickly or slowly... Here we are, halfway through summer...yet, at the same time, 18 weeks seems forever ago and I still have awhile to reach 40! Either way my tum-tum is growing, but the best news is the Peangling is very active with all sorts of movement going on in there on a daily basis. We're continuing to slowly acquire the things we need. We're grateful for a bassinet from Mingus's parents. His sister Cassie is also letting us use two of her carriers--including the large, metal framed back pack (at least until she needs them again!) 

We've also gotten some of our first cloth diapers. Thanks to Cassie's mommy experience (and cloth diapering) she and her mom introduced me to and their random "seconds sales"--a great way to get some of the best brands at a low cost simply due to minor defects like a flawed stitch. If you're a cloth diapering parent, sign up for their email announcements to be the first to know when one of these sales takes place.

We are partway through our birthing classes offered through our hospital. I'm really enjoying it so far. There are about 10 couples in the class and the instructor is a labor hall nurse at the hospital. I learn and retain so much more this way--hearing it from someone--than if I were to read a lot of these things online or in a book. I appreciate that the hospital offers this. This week was the second of three classes and we also got to tour the women's care unit at the hospital and see the rooms we'd be in and even how the monitors work. It definitely adds a level of comfort for what's ahead.

I'm actually into week 26 but I'll post that picture with the next batch. I'm looking forward to my first shower this weekend. It will be a joint shower for myself, Michelle and Jo thrown by the family during our Hurray Day family festivities. I'm MOST excited about getting to see the both of them. I got so used to seeing Michelle EVERY week when I was traveling to Louisville for work and staying at their house, but now it's been over a month since I saw her and her growing belly! I have not gotten to see Jo since the celebration at her parent's house in early June; however, we touch base at least weekly. I'm pretty sure the three of us did a lot of registry comparison when we got those set up a few weeks back. It's nice to compare notes. Having each other has been very helpful. I'm currently registered at Babies 'R' Us, Walmart and Amazon.

My previous 4 weeks of growth: click here.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sports Talk: Duck Dynasty - Hunting, Fishing and... Football?

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published July 17, 2013.  
Tall, muscular, a trendy—typically short—hair style and an overall “clean cut” look: it’s a pretty good stereotypical description of a male athlete. At least that’s what movies, TV shows and books go with. And let’s face it—it fits most of our American athletes, even if not all.
What we don’t picture is an old, bearded, ZZ Top looking character. That’s the stereotypical description of a downhome, country bumpkin. So that’s why it came as a surprise to some when news came out several months back that Duck Dynasty start Phil Robertson once had a future potentially heading to the NFL.
Much because of their “redneck” appearance, a star quarterback is the last thing we might imagine out of any of the entertaining crew from A&E’s reality show. However, Phil was possibly the best athlete to ever rise out of his hometown of Vivian, La.
He went on from there to be the starting quarterback for Louisiana Tech. In fact, playing second to Phil’s natural throwing arm was Terry Bradshaw, who went on to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers and remains a regular character in today’s sports as a co-host on Fox NFL Sunday.
It was not so much football itself that brought Phil to the spotlight, but his arm. In high school he not only threw a pig skin, but he excelled in baseball and javelin also.
What we sports fans sometimes forget, though, is that just because someone is a standout athlete, it does not mean it is their life’s calling or that they even want it to be their life’s calling. I remember there was a point in my high school career when I was not sure that running in college was something I wanted—even though I did love my sport. I wasn’t sure if I would continue to love it in the same way with the pressures of college while also feeling the need to reach certain expectations if I was being “paid” (scholarship) to run for a school.
I did choose to run in a college and thoroughly enjoyed it; however, by the time I graduated from Bellarmine, I was all right to say goodbye to my days of regular track competition. While I still enjoyed it, my interests and passions for other things had grown and I was ready to pursue them with my life, rather than just a sport I enjoyed.
No one from Phil Robertson’s past can deny his love of the outdoors, hunting and fishing even throughout his days of quarterback stardom. He gave up his final season of eligibility to pursue these other loves.
The family stars of Duck Dynasty are always quick to thank God for their blessings. I think it’s safe to say that Phil is an example to all of us about following and knowing  our life’s plan. If we pay attention to the powers greater than us, we’ll end up  with a life we can fully appreciate and love. He could have continued on the path to be a star athlete in the NFL, but in his heart he was called in another direction. Would he have had success in the NFL? We will never know, but we do know that he followed his heart and has found tremendous success in doing so.
There are many ways residents of our county can relate to the Robertson family whether it be their love of God, love of the outdoors, love a enjoying the simple things in life or even a love of sports. It seems more common to have a respect and admiration for our country’s famed athletes, but perhaps we shouldn’t bypass taking a second look at those country bumpkins and what there is to respect about them and learn from them. Maybe we should be proud when we can more common ground with these people than the spotlight loving sports stars.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

O's Summer Visit to The Valley

We had a great visit from Mingus's family this past weekend! His parents and sister all made the trip from Indiana as well as our nephew and godson O! We had a beautiful Saturday for lots of fun activities including fishing, breaking and canning beans, playing in the creek, outdoor fun and a campfire! We're hopeful for the day when O can come stay for a stretch of time with us in the Valley and make even more great memories!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sports Talk: Local Sports Rivalry Facebook Page - Bring on the Smack Talk!

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published July 10, 2013. 
If you’re an area sports fan, you are likely to have a preference to either the color red or blue. No matter your level of love/hate for the Kentucky Wildcats or Louisville Cardinals, as a sports lover, you have an opinion. Recently some local fans have created a great online space for sharing these opinions on all of the latest and greatest news concerning the state’s great sports teams.
Josh Richardson, an avid blue-bleeding Wildcat fan, created The Kentucky Sports Rivalry Page on Facebook less than a month ago as a place for “Kentucky sports fans to debate/argue over current/old sports news and topics.” (And, of course, by “Kentucky” it means our great commonwealth, not the university.)

Shortly after creating and promoting the page, Richardson decided it was only right to keep the page’s administration as unbiased as possible. He appointed University of Louisville graduate and Cardinal fan Chris Edwards as a fellow administrator of the page.

If you spend any time on Facebook, you know it’s pretty common to find a debate of sorts ensuing on a friend’s wall over a comment made, link shared or photo posted. I have found most of these debates to stem from either politics, movies and tv shows, or sports. Living in the state of Kentucky, though, it seems sports is the most common hot topic found on my news feed.

Usually the banter is friendly enough, but sometimes it gets heated. Any sports fan has the right to be passionate about their team, right? However, the idea of having a centralized place is great if you ask this sports fan.

The beauty of this new Facebook page led by two Casey County natives is its straight forward purpose: to serve as a debate ground. Cards and Cats are going to debate the big games and big announcements. In fact, I think it’s part of what we love about being a fan.

The other aspect I love about this page is that its roots are local. Because of this, it is more than likely you will know a lot of those in the great debate. Arguing with perfect strangers, in my opinion, has little value and usually goes nowhere. (If it’s in person, such as at a game, that’s a little more understandable.) Debating with people you know a little better tends to keep things lighter. You can throw in a low blow to a close friend, because you know at the end of the day you’re just two die-hard fans.

The Kentucky Sports Rivalry Page already has over 100 followers with regular posts and announcements about both universities being made. The debate has already begun and I encourage any Cardinal or Wildcat fan who loves to keep up with the debate to join the page and join the ongoing rivalry. The fact this page already has regular comments and posts with college sports in their off-season due to summer says a lot. Just wait until September rolls around and I can only imagine what the upcoming basketball season has in store!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sports Talk: Summer and The Sandlot

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published July 3, 2013.  
I could not help but noticed how timely it seemed that I had the opportunity to interview with former St. Louis Cardinal and Casey County graduate, Don Durham.
It’s hard for me to believe that it was twenty years ago that one of my generation’s favorite childhood movies first came to the big screen: The Sandlot. The coming-of-age film is the story of a young group of baseball players during the summer of 1962.
A ragtag bunch of kids, for the most part, they all know everything there is to know about America’s greatest pastime and they all dream of playing in the big leagues. They meet up daily and almost always it’s at their neighborhood ball field. The end of the film tells you that one of those boys went on to play major league baseball.
A great summer movie, The Sandlot was my first trip to the drive-in theater—another great summer activity from yesteryear that carries a sense of romance. For that reason, the movie has always brought back to me a sense of summer fun and freedom you only find in your youth.
Hearing Don’s story recently brought that fictional story to life. I attended Middleburg Elementary as a youngster in Casey County and I remember the old, fairly unused baseball fields in the area. We never really used them for the sport during my elementary years and I never thought much of these fields. I wasn’t sure if anyone used them and why they were even there.
But these fields were exactly the special places The Sandlot, as a movie had to create in order to bring forth a sense of summer fun and childhood dreams. The difference is the fields I looked upon, empty, in my childhood, were the real fields where stories like The Sandlot truly took place—and Don Durham is living proof of those stories.
In addition to Don’s story, the Fourth of July tends to make me think of this classic movie also. I spent three college summers working for the Governor’s Scholars Program at Bellarmine Unviersity. With over 300 students on campus, it was quite costly to transport the entire group off campus. It was always a disappointment for students to find out they would be missing out on any firework shows for Independence Day, but it just did not fit the budget.
Instead, the program would have a big-screen showing of The Sandlot for the Fourth. Not only was it a great summer movie, but one scene includes a great firework show, so in some sense, the students got their fireworks for the holiday.
For those in school, summer is already half over. It may not be 1962 anymore, but be sure to get outside and enjoy all that makes summer, summer: swimming, carnivals, baseball, fireworks, drive-in movies and most importantly fun with friends.
If you need any inspiration, try watching The Sandlot. If you’ve never seen it, you may finally understand when someone says to you, “You’re killin’ me, Smalls!”