Monday, April 24, 2017

The Bitter and The Era comes to An End....

 Hallie and Gina, Steven and I headed to Dallas for her final Nationals volleyball tournament as a high school player.  Kadie Grace Dewey rode with us down to Dallas, and it was a fun, laughing, joyful ride.  And then we got to the hotel, and as the kids are pulling their luggage out of the back, Hallie asks,  "Who packed my suitcase?" which actually was code for, "No one packed your stupid suitcase, including stupid you, and now stupid mom has to stupid drive back to stupid Oklahoma and spend all stupid night stupid driving".

Lacey saved me and met me halfway (well more than halfway, since I got lost and looped 635 for almost an hour before I realized I was lost) and by 1 am, we were all asleep.  (Sort of)

Friday games.  Winner Winner chicken dinner all the live long day.  Looked great, felt great, kicked some volleyball booty.

Friday night, some of the girls dined together across the street from our million dollar hotel (SOOO nice, and almost the price for three nights), and Alli Evans gifts them with tshirts from their soon to be colleges.  Amazingly enough, every girl on this terrific team is college bound playing volleyball. That is spectacularish.  I mean, for reals.

 / //>>>>>>>>>

But more about that in a minute.

Saturday, first game- big play on the outside and all of the sudden Alli Evans is on the floor holding her knee.   I cannot begin to express the panic and terror that goes through a parent's heart when you see your athlete on the floor.  It's just mind numbing.  As her dad and another dad carry her off, we all just say a prayer over her that it's nothing too serious.  As I'm typing this, I believe that she is getting an MRI and we will have results soon.  Still praying, asking for yours.

After Alli went down, we won that game, but lost the next two.  Fast forward to last day... just lost the first set of our match, and we are now down 18-23 in the second set.  2 points and it's all over ...  I'm going to (with permission) borrow Greg Dewey's post about that match....

 And just like that my baby’s club career comes to a close. I can still remember her first club season when her spandex were as baggy as NBA shorts. But in the blink of an eye, she is serving the final match point at her final nationals. So why was this one of my favorite points in nearly 3 decades of volleyball? I have been fortunate enough to be a part of some pretty fun Sunday finishes over the years, yet this is the championship of the silver bracket. Sometimes it is hard to get motivated after missing out on a chance to go gold the night before. Especially when one of the team’s great players is hurt on the sidelines. Compound that with now being down in the first match of the silver division 23-18 after losing the first set. Many…dare I say most…teams would have packed it in and called it a season. Two points from elimination.
What is there to play for at that point? Pretty good question, huh? This may be one of those incredible lessons that sports can subtly teach yet stick with you the rest of your life. What is there to play for? How about the person next to you? The one that has made so many sacrifices just like you. Missed out on social events due to practice and tournaments. Stayed up late to study for a test or finish homework in the backseat of the car headed home from a long weekend. The one who has played through all kinds of ailments and illnesses just like you over the years. Or how about playing for the one who has gone through one of life’s most challenging seasons of life this season? A season of life where quitting and throwing in the towel is just not an option. Where picking yourself up and giving your best the next point…the next day is all you can do. Or how about for that injured player who is sitting on the bench watching for the first time in her illustrious career. You know she would kill to be out there so you play for her as well.
What is there to play for? How about for the most incredible set of parents in club volleyball? As a group they are a supportive, unselfish, self-sacrificing, giving, loving, sharing, Jesus-modeling bunch. Sure they are focused on their kids BUT they view all the kids as their kids. They have given so much financially and with their schedules to make club possible, but they have also been a primary beneficiary.
What is there to play for? How about that audience of One who created you and gave you the ability and opportunity to play a sport, this sport, with this group of girls and this is your last day to do it.
Well, they did not pack it in. They did not give up. They played for each other, their parents and the Lord. They scraped and clawed back to win that set and ultimately the match; then went on to win every set the rest of the day culminating in this, one of my favorite points ever.
I was reminded yesterday of one of my favorite points by watching one of my favorite points…and that is, there is ALWAYS something to play for. Sometimes you just have to pause long enough to answer to the question. Well done chicas. Well done.

Well done, Dewey, well done.  :)  I would attach that video of Kadie Grace serving her whomping serve and then the pass to her perfect set for Mia K to ace us to victory...but alas, I am a short bus when it comes to technology and cannot figure out how to do that.  So you will have to just imagine it in your head and go from there.  (close your eyes, best play ever..there ya go).

I loved Dewey's take, and it sums it up better than I could do.  So we took home the silver.  9th out of 48 isn't too shabby in my opinion.  But what we took away from that tournament was far more than wins and losses.  We come away winners, with friends, that are more like family for life.  

I'm going to introduce you to the Who's Who of volleyball in the state of Oklahoma...starting with Miss Malia Leatherland..

Malia has been at peak for a few years, but always has played up.  We were lucky to have her this year and her stellar skills as an outside hitter and passer....just LOOK OUT.  She may not be the tallest on the team, but she can FLY when she jumps, and her arm...I always felt a bit sorry for anyone that got smacked by a ball she hit, because whoa, she has got an arm.  Malia's parents Mike and Heidi tirelessly drove her from Tulsa (mind you!) to practice, and her sweet grandma never missed a tournament.  Just adore these sweet people, and will miss them!  Malia will be attending OBU next year, playing volleyball for their team!  Outstanding job, missy!

 Glen & Rachel

Next up, one of the players Hallie has personally played volleyball with the longest time, is our Defensive Specialist and Libero, Rachel Krutz.  (krootz, say it right, please).  Rachel is a tireless energizer bunny who can defend the back line like the boss of it.  She has a wicked serve that can spin right out of the unsuspecting receiver's hand and go sailing into the far blue yonder.  Hallie and Rachel played ball at Norman North together, and also played beach volleyball together, going to Nationals in California, and together, I'm thinking these two beasts can do about anything.  Her parents, Glen and Julie are an amazing force.  They raised (in addition to the non stop Rachel) two boys that are sports geniuses as well.  Matt played golf in college and Ryan is playing soccer at Notre Dame.  Rachel is going to attend Colorado College this fall and show them how to defend a back line, too.  This family is a well traveled, sports playing bunch and I take my hat off to them.  Just love me a whole lot of Krutz.  (say it right).

Next up is Ericka Scholl.  I feel dumb as I scroll through all my pictures, because I didn't get one of Ericka with her parentals, Rob and Zona.  Maybe because I was scared to take any more pictures of Rob (see above) as he is the picture taker, and NOT the picture Takee.  Zona has led me through this club volleyball with humor and good grace.  Remembering the phone call to her, "Hallie just got offered Peak 16-1's, do we take it??"   a slight pause, followed with, "ARE YOU STUPID, CALL THEM BACK."  Zona Scholl, you know you said that to me.  And with that we were teammate parents.  I love everything about Ericka Scholl.  If you look up "Kind" in the dictionary, there is a picture of her.  She is so stinking nice.  To everyone.  About everything.  Kind of annoying.  But in a really NICE way.  :)  (I'm totally kidding, she is terrific).  She is going to UCO this fall and play volleyball there.  Also study forensic science, so she can start her own CSI: Oklahoma show.   Ericka is our setter.  She is also our Right side, in times of injury.  She is also the most amazing getter upper in the land.  I have seen her dive straight for the ball, use ONE HAND and up it over to the outside, perfectly getting it into the hitter's reach.  She is a powerful force to be reckoned with, and I am thrilled to watch her grow and go.  CSI: Oklahoma, Nice to Know you.  

Speaking of UCO, they are going to be one lucky program.  Garnering 5 of our 11 players.  Jordan Cramer, our Libero and defensive specialist is one of them.
 Jordan and her mama, Stephanie

The Cramers

When I first met Jordan, I couldn't believe that someone so short, could cover as much floor as she could.   Jordan is everywhere at every second.  She is a blur, she thinks absolutely NOTHING of diving straight out, arms out, pushing that ball to the front line, getting that pass going.  Her serve makes the other side weep with anguish (how's that for drama) and she was the first person that admitted (proudly) that she stalked Hallie before she knew her.  I LOVE this family.  Her mama, after watching me and hearing the story of my fosters, decided to foster for herself, and she and her husband Chad have opened their home to 3 littles this year, and have been shown the blessing of loving outside yourself in the way only you can know it, when you take in other's children.  Stephanie will tell you she was TERRIFIED before it happened, and after getting the baby, the thought of taking his older bro and sis (all under 5 years old, mind you), didn't even really faze her.  It's like God destroys your fear brain cells when you foster.  You just take it minute by minute and let God do the rest.  This family is blessed BIG by this, and in turn blessed all of us watching them walking this very obedient path.  Sister Aubrey, (her own beast mode player 14's) is part of my pop tart club, and will be missed by Gina and Steven every day forever.  Cramers = Love and that is NO joke.   (oh and PSA, if you live in Edmond and you don't use her Puppy Paws Salon you are missing out, your best friend Fido has a new home away from home, find them on facebook)

Chad and Stephanie...

Teri & Callie
Callie Bangasser is attending UCO, playing volleyball this fall also.  Callie is the calm on our back row, Miss Consistent and the most talented at stopping a kill shot and ruining the other team's mood by effectively digging up even the most ridiculous kill shots.   I love this kid.  She is seriously the calmest cucumber I have ever seen.  Her parents are Terry and Teri (so that made it easy on me) and I know where she gets it.  I love this chill family.  Callie Jo (I love that) has the most wicked serve too.  The best part of that serve is this little hop and kick she delivers (every.single.time) right before she wails the tar out of it.  It is magic to watch.  I love this wonderful family.   

Also heading to UCO is Malia Kaaiohelo.  Don't let this beautiful face fool you.  She is a BEAST.
Malia is our Middle Blocker and she is a fierce, fierce presence.  I LOVE it when she gets a block, she is one of the most enthusiastic celebrators we have.  It's just delightful.  She has a wicked kill shot and is so quick on the block, she can be just about everywhere at once.  She also has a wicked serve that flies over.  This girl is just as beautiful inside as she is on the outside, and she is going to go Far Far Far.  Her parents, April & Jason are just the best cheerleaders ever.  Her older brother Hayden is playing football in Texas and her younger brother, Cason, is Steven's best good friend.  They LOVE hanging out together at the games and it's pretty fun to see.  Back 2 years ago when they were just starting out as friends, Cason was just a tiny bit taller than Steven.  Now, he is almost as tall as me, and could tuck Steve in his pocket.  It's just so much fun to watch them together.  I'm so going to miss this family.  I truly love all of them so much.  

The three amigos, Cason, Ben & Steven

And speaking of Ben Emmert...we will just go ahead and talk about the Emmerts.  Ryan Emmert is our beast blocker heading to University of Houston this fall to play volleyball.
Ryan and her parents Jennifer & Greg
Ryan had one of the best days I have seen her play on the Friday play of Nationals this year.  It became sort of thing with another mom and I, because I am not kidding here, she couldn't miss anything.  If she just "kind of" blocked it,  she would still be airborne and hit it again and knock it to the ground.  Just kind of hovered up there, waiting.  it was EPIC.  I'm serious.  I was glowing with pride at her that day.  And HER MAMA WASN"T THERE!  ACK!  But I live streamed it, so it was kind of like she was.  LOL.  Anyhoo, these people are great people and if you need a vet in Norman, this is your guy.  Even though a 90 year old woman literally drove through his clinic on the Friday we were in Dallas 
seriously, can't make this stuff up!
Just sit on the south side if you go to his clinic and take your pups and cats.  :)  Good Luck Ryan, I'm expecting GREAT BIG THINGS from you!

Speaking of Big Things, Kassidy Muse is going to RICE UNIVERSITY!  Can I hear a collective AMEN?  Is that just the most incredible thing?  
Kass and her mom, Ashleigh
This family has gone through some hard stuff this year.  Our volleyball family lost Keith to a heart condition right before our first tournament in Kansas City, and watching Kassidy overcome that loss and just PLAY HER GUTS out every single live long game, would have made her daddy so proud.  She is ridiculous.  She had to play middle awhile at the first of the season, and back row awhile, and then outside on Saturday after Alli got hurt.  She slayed it.  I mean.  SLAYED it.  Rice is lucky as crap to get her.  She is so smart she could have gone ANYWHERE and she chose them.  Lucky lucky people.  Her mama holds an incredibly special place in my heart.  Strongest lady I know (literally) as she pops my neck like a boss and makes me feel like a new human after every fall I have (and that's been too many lately).  If you need a chiropractic wizard/genius/doc, she is your gal.  I can't talk about Kassidy and not mention her grandpa Jim, and ole Mo.  (grandma, Janet Muse).  Jim, to my knowledge, has never missed a tournament.  He is there, like clockwork, cheering on his girl and her team.  He hit most of the practices too, and is the first one to make friends with the other team and knows all the best ways to get around all the places we go.  He's your travel guru.  Janet is a shopping genius.  They bought the girls bracelets for graduation presents, and Hallie declared it "the nicest thing I have ever owned".  (says a lot for moi).  Holy moly, I am going to miss the Muse's.  (though chances are I will never quit seeing Ashleigh, as I'm falling about once a month lately)
What a trio.  Strongest people I know.  I just love these faces. 

Kadie Grace Dewey.  Her daddy wrote the post I borrowed, and this family....  This Family.  Alicia and Greg Dewey adopted two little boys as newborns just shortly before I met them.  I've been honored to watch these little scamps grow up, and Kadie is the best big sister ever.  
 Eli and Ike.  They know me as the lady with marshmallows in her purse.  And Gum.  And vanilla wafers.  And Steven's mama.  They call me Lolly.   It melts me in two.

And so does this.  Steven just LOVES them, and the feeling is quite mutual.  They were not happy campers when he ran off with the big guys to go do big guy things.  He is their MAJOR bud.

So, the first time Dewey watched Hallie at the tryouts, other than saying "Who in the world is this kid??" (he didn't get to Norman North games much, clearly) he told me it was one of the best tryout performances he had ever seen.  Now maybe he was saying that for me to pick his club  (CALL THEM BACK STUPID AND SAY YES, is ringing in my ears right now, Zona) and maybe he was just THAT surprised a kid had flown under his all watchful radar, my kid Loves her some Greg Dewey.  Now I probably couldn't have typed that last year, when he coached her.  She came home bawling just almost every time.  Fast forward to this year,  "I do better when Dewey is there".  "Can we call Dewey and see when he will be here?"   Greg Dewey, you feel like moving to New York and going to all the West Point games??  You certainly helped get her there.  Greg wrote one of Hallie's recommendation letters, and it seriously made me cry.  He told me it made him cry too.  Greg Dewey is the real deal.  And when you have real deals, you have real deal Wives too, and Alicia Dewey is the real deal.  These two.  And their kids.  What am I going to do without some Dewey fixes?  I really don't know.   (cut to go cry in a kleenex).

Last, but certainly, not least, are my best dear good friends, the Alli Evans family.  We have traveled to several tournaments together, and Jon feels like an ornery little brother and Johnelle is the sister I always wanted and never got to have.  She says I look and act like her sister, so there ya go.  We seriously share a brain, and usually say the exact same thing at the exact same time and it kind of freaks us out.  When Norman North lost at state this year, ultimately to Alli & Malia Kaaiohelo's team, Edmond Memorial, it was with pride and respect I honored Alli, because as MVP of the state tournament, she played her heart out and she and Malia just stopped Hallie dead in her tracks in that tournament.  And that ain't too easy.  But, what I'm trying to say, it's easy to honor Alli Evans.  This example of Jesus in a human is an easy kid to love.  She is kind, gentle, good, humble, caring.  There aren't enough words to describe this gentle giant.  And when she fell to the ground on Saturday after making a kill shot (tore her ACL and miniscus, surgery on friday, prayers appreciated), my heart just stopped.  It hurt me as bad, as if it had been Hallie.  I seriously LOVE this girl.  Her mom and dad have stepped up and up and up for me.  Steven needed a bicycle, boom, he had a bike.  They had a ping pong table laying around, You want it?...oh having a garage sale, need $300 worth of stuff?  No problem.   They have super powers of kindess and I'm not just saying that.  I ran out of gas coming home from a tournament last year, and after she stopped laughing at me, she and Alli came right out to bring us gas.  Friends with no limits.  That's what the Evans are to me.  

Sometimes in life you get lucky to have 4 or 5 solid good friends.  Hallie's volleyball life brought me 10 families that I consider my own.  We have experienced traumatic loss this year.  We have experienced the sweetest of joy, winning a national bid, all the girls wearing Keith's socks.   I watch this group of people, surround each other with encouragement and love and pick themselves up and keep on moving.  We've shown each other love and respect and pride and I know that will translate to our children's futures.  I can say with no irony, that this is the best group of ladies I have ever had the pleasure of being with.   I know their futures are so very bright, and it is with great sadness I watch this era end.  These families, these girls, the fun times and the hard are what make memories to treasure.   As we were driving home Sunday I told Hallie that the day was so bittersweet.  Her response, after thinking about it for a minute,  "So much more bitter than sweet, mom.  I'm going to miss all this.  My childhood is coming to an end".  So many feels, people.  Big Gooey Sad Ones.  

I will miss all of you, and think of our years together as the best of my life, and I promise, I will NEVER EVER stay at La Quinta in Indianapolis EVER again as long as I live.  

Love and hugs,   Laura   

Forever live...Lolly's Pop Tart Club

Oklahoma Peak 18-1's - Friends Forever..-

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Things I Took from The Shack

I not only took this movie in the first time (sobbing into my kleenex, wrecked and not even absorbing most of it), I took it in twice.

The second time, I was armed with my NOTES section on my phone under my hoodie, as not to disurb my neighbors, and an entire wad of kleenex.  (My movie buddy, Stephanie Cramer, didn't get the memo about the kleenex and will tell you she destroyed the front of her shirt, crying on it... "Look at these snot circles...I'm surprised it's not just covered" she told me as we left the movie theater).

You guys.  The book of this movie wrecked me.  I read it, while we had Laynie and just so many parts of it, spoke directly to my heart.  My brother will tell you it changed him.

So here goes... my love letter to the makers of the Shack and why it meant so much to me.

"Will God make me jump off a mountain?" started it off for me!  So many times, the thing God asks of our heart and our lives seems like jumping off a mountain.  For me, it was the advent of 3 foster kids.  Did I realize I was going to jump off a mountain and adopt them?  For Lacey, she will tell you it was Laynie.  When Lacey prayed a powerful prayer the beginning of October 2007, and her mountain was the beauty and pain of Laynie Hope.    When God speaks to your heart and asks you to jump off a mountain.   Holy moly.

It would be easy (OH SO EASY) to have a loss, and blame God.  When Mac (the main character) goes to the Shack and yells at God, "You brought me here and didn't have the guts to show up."  How many of us have thought this time and time again?  We are in a painful, brutal place and feel like God isn't there??

And then God arrives, in the form of Jesus, and tells Mac how glad He is to see him and told him almost first thing, "You have no idea how much I love you"

This movie resonates with love.  There is evil in this movie, yes, but friends, isn't this world brimming with evil?  And in the center of the evil, we live our lives, trying to do the right thing, trying to make the right choices for ourselves and for our families.  And God is there, loving us and waiting on us to lean on Him.   When Mac asks, "Why did you bring me here (meaning the shack), Papa (the God character) tells him "Here is where you got stuck.  It has caused a great gulf between us, and I'm especially fond of you".   He is so angry and Papa tells him,  "There is NO INSTANT FIX, a little bit of time and a lot of relationship will fix this Great Sadness".

POWERFUL.  And so true.  I see my own life now as Life before Laynie Hope, and life after Laynie Hope.  Before Laynie, I  just lived, I hit and missed church, I tithed when I wanted to, I rarely shared Jesus to friends, I recklessly pushed my way through life.   I thought I had a good relationship with Him, but I didn't KNOW Him, I didn't seek His face in everything in life, and then we found out about Laynie, and I knew I had to have Him with me every step of my life.

When Mac is telling Jesus, "You abandoned her! A little girl".  And Papa tells him, "When all you see is your pain, you lose sight of me.  Love always leaves a mark.  I never left"

Wow.  Holy kleenex, wow.  How many of us, during the hardest times, give in to the pain and don't seek God?  The hardest of times, when we are down on our knees in pain, are the VERY TIME we SHOULD SEEK HIM.  We are already in the position, just GO TO HIM, and let HIM SPEAK life into your pain.  Go. To. Him.

In the movie, it shows Mac in a boat in the lake and the water turns inky and he sees his son in the water, and can't get to him, and the boat starts to splinter.  As Mac begins to panic, He hears Jesus tell him, "Look at me, don't look at the chaos around you, Keep your eyes on me".   Kleenex time extraordinare for me.     I think of all the political unrest now, all the worries of Isis, even as small as my kid going into the military (is that small?) and I can hear that voice,   "You're imagining a future without me and that future does not exist".   God is always there.

Kleenex alert, here.  Just saying.

I had no idea how fast I am to judge.  It's just a daily thing for me.  I judge on appearance, on what I feel, what I've heard, and bottom line is, it's not my place to judge.  All I am put in this world to do, is love.  That's it.  And when crap goes wrong, first thing I do is the blame game.  I have held on to a grudge for YEARS, and watching this movie, I realize it's not mine to hold on to.  I have to let go of the anger and pain I feel, to truly be God's child.   "Forgiveness doesn't establish a relationship.  It just allows your heart to heal and love without constraint.  You may have to ask it a thousand times before it gets any easier, but it will, and remember, you don't have to do it alone".

When Mac sees his daughter at the waterfall, after realizing how he had been blaming God, and she is "Running and Running and Running"... well you have to know what happened to me.  And when she jumped into Jesus's arms.  It was exactly how I pictured Laynie running and jumping into God's arms.  And knowing that for me, gave me the healing I needed during those despairing hours after losing her.   She was Home, with Jesus.  Running and running and running.    *tears****

"It always works better when we do it together, don't you think"

And finally the realization,  "I've been pretty hard on you, God".  and papa's response, "Maybe we can put it in the past where it belongs".  No condemnation, no judgement, just love and acceptance.

This is where I was hung up for YEARS.  I did a lot of terrible things.  I made bad choices and hurt many people.  I didn't feel worthy of God's love, and became the judge of myself.  It took me many many lost years to realize, that I am worthy, and God loves me in spite of the things I did.  And I promise you, He loves you as much.  We are his children.  We love our children.  Even when they screw up and do stuff we don't like, our love never wavers for them.  I don't know why I never understood that.  I wasted years thinking God couldn't love me.  Years.  Don't make that mistake.

Forgiveness heals.  No matter where you are in your lives, a relationship with God (his son, and his spirit) will heal you.  You don't have to fight whatever you are fighting alone, you have a father that loves you and yearns for you.  Don't make the mistake I did and not seek His face.  

When you lay in bed at night and the worries of the world enter your heart and chase sleep away, keep your eyes on him.  Focus on him.  Pray to him.  I imagine his giant hand reaching from heaven, (imagine King Kong reaching for Fay Ray) and me, just climbing up over the thumb, and sliding down his fingers, and resting in His palm.  Asleep in His hands.   It works for me, EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Do yourself a favor.  Grab a box of kleenex, head to a theater and go see, "The Shack".  It will change you.


Keep your eyes on Him, for He's especially fond of you.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Special Gift....His Name is Steven

When this little soft spoken boy came walking into my house the first day, I fell in hopeless, bottomless love.

His overwhelming need to please, his precious outlook on life, in spite of all the trauma and pain he had suffered, truly inspired me.

I have had this little love bug for 1550 days.  I've watched him blossom and try new things, I've seen him trigger from his nonstop PTSD and just go a bit crazy, and I've watched him melt down over something simple as a TV show.   It's all been a bittersweet journey.

He has been in counseling for his trauma most of the time I have had him.  We have been peeling layers and layers and still it keeps coming.  I won't betray his confidence and share his pain here, but I can tell you that it is layered in him as deep as the bone, and it's taken hard, incredibly painful work to get him slowly to a healthy place.

He won't mind me sharing this with you, because I think it will resonate with so many.  I take for granted my pretty normal (whatever that means) childhood.   These kids, mainly Steven, went through more than anybody ever, EVER, should have to go through.

And he is coming out swinging.  Every time I have a parent teacher conference, I know what they are going to say about him.  Any new parent meeting him for the first time, same thing.  All his church leaders, all his friend's parents.  Everyone loves them some Steven.

Yet he lives mired in pain and anxiety that he is not wanted.  Because his son of a bitch father (I don't even feel bad typing or saying that, because I'm pretty sure this dude's picture is by this word in the dictionary) didn't have enough brain span to see what an incredible child he managed to father, and beat him daily.... and gave him up in court without a backwards glance, and terrorized a tiny boy so badly that he started to have panic attacks walking home from school, Steven still feels the loss of not having a father's love.  "Lolly, why no one want me?"

And that is the root of everything.  So we have been working on this in counseling, and after last week, after a really really hard session....I shared with my friend, who told me that her husband had Steven on his heart for awhile and wanted to take him to a thunder game, did I think he would want to go?    Well.  Hello.   This kid is a walking rainman of stats and can almost tell you every play of every game with his photographic memory.

Here is a picture with the trainer of the Thunder team, and Russell Westbrook signed a hat for Steven.

And he and his friend Kason Kaaiohelo spent a fun filled evening in a SUITE at a thunder game with Jon Evans.   And freaking loved it.

My ears were bleeding when I got home with him.  He TALKED ALL THE WAY HOME.

It. was. stinking. awesome.

Then yesterday one of his best friends that goes to another school, shows up on our doorstep with his dad and they sweep Steven up to an OU basketball game with them, and again..... thrilled and overwhelmed, he goes to bed speechless.

SO HANG ON PEOPLE, it's about to get Real Good.

Today, at counseling,  as we are driving back to school, my precious little son, says to me. .

"Lolly, you know how Pastor Craig is telling us all about Divine Direction at church?  It just crazy to me how everything he say (Yes, I'm using his language, because it's perfect) always speak right to my heart.  Because, I know that even if my dad here on earth don't love me or want me, that my father up in Heaven love me and want me, because this week, God showed me His face, with Jon.   Jon take me to game, and show me how fun it is to be a man, and make me think that I can be a good man too. I know that everything is going to be ok, because God in heaven is watching me everyday."

Well slap my face and call me Shirley, I was a puddle of goop, trying to drive a car.  

When I get discouraged and think I'm not doing one thing right for these kids, something like this happens.

And God shows His face.   Through friends, phone calls, texts, groceries on my porch, gift cards, He shows His face.

Through friends that love my kids, and treat them to a big night out.  

He shows His Face.

Profound moment for my teenager.  Some people never know what that means their whole lives.  This kid grasped it at 13.

This precious son of mine is going to be a world changer.

Because Steven saw God's face, and he KNOWS how much his Father in heaven wants him and loves him and watches over him....

for God is good, All the time.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Let's Try Volleyball, Mom

Hallie signed her Letter of Intent to play volleyball for West Point this morning.  It was fun listening to her coach talk about her and tell everyone, "When she was a freshmen, she was a baby giraffe, I'm not going to lie."  And how true that statement was.  How far she has come, in 5 short seasons.  There are soooooo many people to thank, on her way to making it from a baby giraffe to a West Point cadet.  Let's review.... (and I apologize in advance for the bragginess of this blog.  My older girls have asked me to be sure and "write everything down that she has won", because it is just short of amazing).

Back when she was starting (5 short years ago), she didn't have a clue what she was doing.... her first coaches (at Longfellow) were Kevin Hogan and Cara Sumpter.  Coach Hogan spotted a giant 8th grader walking in the halls and urged her to try her hand at volleyball.  "Mom, do you think I can do this???"  Me,  "Uhm, no" (how's that for parental honesty)  and  bless Cara-- she was the assistant and she worked with Hallie a few times to give her some tips, because seriously, in those early days (and now still, if I'm honest), I was just clueless about everything.

In their very last tournament, the club volleyball director from Charge Volleyball club saw her play, and found me after the tournament and asked me if I had ever heard of club volleyball.  what volleyball?? I asked.  And that began the club volleyball phase in our life.

She tried out for Charge Volleyball Club her 14's year, and what a learning experience it was.  I had just gotten the kids, so Lacey was her volleyball mom and took her to the tournaments, while I stayed with my new, getting used to us, Vietnamese kids.

I got to go to a couple of the tournaments (we didn't go too far for any that year) and we did have us some fun, in fact, we got to go to Arkansas with Kip at one point, and that trip was one for the books.

Jim Zepp was her first club coach.  He will get stars in his crown in heaven for coaching 14 year old girls.  I mean, really.  Coach Zepp has followed Hallie her whole career.  I don't think there has been one school season that he missed watching her play at least one game.  I really appreciate Coach Zepp.   His take on Hallie... "when her body quiets down, she is going to be something else".  14 yrs.

Freshmen year she started on JV and moved up to Varsity when one of the seniors got hurt.  She actually played the JV games and suited up for varsity and it was always a hold your breath moment when she got the ball set to her.... But she improved drastically and  actually was starting by the end of the season, and was awarded Most Improved Player her freshmen year.

That year, I had met the club director for the club in Norman and it being 2 miles from our house, and all of Hallie's teammates playing on the team, she tried out for Premier Volleyball and was a proud Diamond her 15's year.  That was a fun fun team, all Norman North girls playing together, and they had a really good season, earning themselves a bid to nationals with a regional win.

Brandy White was her 15's coach, and I really appreciate Brandy.  She shares the love of adoption with me, and has two of the sweetest little "take-outs" along with her two "homemades" (using my terms here).

Sophomore year it seemed like everything clicked in place for Hallie.  She understood the game, she had the height, the intensity, and she was beginning to think about colleges.

At the end of the sophomore school season, she was awarded All-City Honorable Mention, had won All-tournament at 2 of the tournaments she had played in, and won the Norman Athletic Association's Student Athlete of the Year, with Senior Setter, Audrey Alford. (who was going on to play for OU)

Norman North made it to state that year, a feat they hadn't accomplished in many years.  Norman Transcript's take on state 2014

That year, since Hallie was driving, and I wouldn't have to drive her to and from club practice, we decided to venture out and see if there was anyway that Hallie could make a team at the leading volleyball club in the state, Oklahoma Peak Performance, out of Edmond. She had decided that she wanted to go D1 with her volleyball and we knew we would have to reach outside our comfort zone to make that happen.  One tryout and a sweaty superman tshirt later, she was on the Peak Smack team for her 16's year, with Coach Will Ethridge as her coach.  That year was amazing.  That team was comprised of some of the tallest girls I have ever been around, and come to find out, some of the nicest, amazing girls.
 Team went to finals in National Championship and Made it on ESPN.  I LOVED IT FOR THEM!

The moms made it on tv too!  (Oh dear) P.S.  We learned a lot that year.  (ROFL)
 2nd place in the nation, and that ain't bad. 
 Coach Ethridge
Hal stayed very close with Coach Ethridge.  He helped her achieve her Candidate Fitness Assessment requirements for West Point and we just love us a whole bunch of Coach Ethridge!

Junior year Norman North- Great season, this year team won regionals again, made it to semifinals in state, losing to the eventual state champs.  Hal was honored with 2 all tournament awards (she missed the 3rd for her sister Chaurley's wedding), All City 1st team (the only junior! what?) All Conference Offensive player of the year, and NAA Student Athlete of the year -- In Hallie's words "It was a good year to be Hallie".

This year, after taking visits at University of Kansas, University of North Florida and heading to see Univ of West Virginia, we took a visit to West Point,in New York,  and the minute she walked on campus, I knew she had found her place.  Loved it and verbally committed that weekend.

17 year club season belonged to Coach Greg Dewey.  He was probably the toughest mentally on Hallie and challenged her every time they were together.  He also wrote one of the nicest recommendation letters to the West Point selection committee and was probably one of the reasons she got in.  100% belief in her, even when she didn't have it in herself.  Kera Dukic was assistant coach and found herself stuck with us when we traveled.  She might have been weirded out by our insanity the first time she roomed with us, but she quickly grew to love us and blended right in with our crazy.
Uhm, how's the weather up there, Hal?

Senior Year Kudos-  All tournament MVP, Broken Arrow Tournament, All City 1st team, All Conference Offensive Player of the Year, All State, Under Armour All American Honorable Mention, and Gatorade Player of the Year nominee.  The team made it all the way to the championship for state and lost to Edmond Memorial (2 of her club teammates play for that team) and for the 3rd year in a row NAA Student Athlete of the Year.  

The Norman North seniors with Angel today.

Hallie is in her 18 years at club this year, playing with coach Edgar Miraku and we've only played one tournament, but already got a bid to nationals !!!  (so there's that).  I appreciate Edgar and the assistant coach McKenzie Fyfe (who is stuck traveling with us too, lol).  We've been so lucky with Oklahoma Peak Performance.  They have poured into Hallie and allowed us grace beyond reason, and for that I am forever, eternally thankful. 

The two people that I left out are certainly not least, but I did save for last.  They were Hallie's first one on one coaches and spent more time with her, collectively, pouring into her, building her up, yelling at her, teaching her (and teaching her and TEACHING HER) skills and basics and technique, and without these two very important people, she would not be the player she is today.

First up, Coach Stephanie Kane.  Hal's Norman North HS coach. Stephanie helped Coach Zepp out with his Big NEWBY middle the 14's year, and Hallie had private lessons with Steph .. and wow...she has tirelessly poured into her "Baby giraffe" and believed in her and supported her and loved her and WAS SO MAD AT  her so many times.  Thank you, Stephanie, for believing in this big ole kid.  Her success is your success.  

And now to T.  Coach Toriano Lands, who took a 14 year old, who couldn't serve, couldn't pass, could ONLY block and had twisted her knee toward the end of the 14's season, and the first summer he had her playing beach volleyball, with his club, Stingray, and turned her into a BEAST mode player.  I dropped her to him at 730 am every morning, and picked her up at 2:30-3.  For 7 hours every day that first summer, he worked her like a Hebrew slave.  I'm serious.  She was in the gym, then he would work her on the sand.  He knew how to talk her language, and she responded to every direction he threw at her.  He called me "Deat" (still does) and he knew, LONG before any of us knew, that she was going to be able to write her own ticket.  "Her natural talent,'s know!!????"  And because I didn't know, I would shake my head, "SURE, T I Know".   For 3 summers, Hallie played volleyball almost 8 hours a day, every day, either on the court, or on the sand.  Every. Single. live. Long. Day. 

So when people wonder how she did it, how from the age of 14 to the age of 18 she improved enough to be accepted into a college with a less than 10% acceptance rate. (only 120 girls per year)'s because she loved her coaches, this sport, and wanted to be the best she could be.  She started in sand, playing with her best friend Kassidy Miller.  Her mom, Laurie and I knew that they would either a) go to the olympics together they would be so good, or b) kill each other and us.  It almost was b, so after one season, maybe even half a season, if we're real, they split up and are still BFF's to this day.  I looked and looked in my pictures and I cannot find one shred of evidence they ever played together.  I'm organized like that.   2nd partner was Ericka Scholl.  They were so cute and so little, (well Ericka Was)  just look at them... 
And they were #1 in our books for sure.  2013
 T awarding Hal and Ericka their 1st place ribbons

Then T changed up the teams and Hallie started playing with her fellow teammate Rachel Krutz from Norman North, and the partnership was sealed.  They won 4 bids to nationals at different tournments and were a serious force to be reckoned with. 
 T developed them, and worked them, and believed in them, and hauled their sunburned, sandy, smelly bodies to tournaments and kept them hydrated, SPF'd 200 beyond their limits to hold sunscreen and fed them their weight in gummy bears.  
I love T like a brother.  He loved on my Vietnamese kids like they were his own, and my boys found a man to look up to in those early days I had them, and for that I can never repay him.

speak no evil, hear no evil, see no evil.... big dorks
This was funny because, well because it just is, but it's perfect, cause who's the man?
These were T's national teams in 2016. 

Thank you, T and Stephanie, for pouring into this girl.  

I was overwhelmed with needing to cry today, but it always stopped just short, because I am so proud for her.  My baby.  My last born.  My heart. 

Senior signers, Abbey Woodrow, Texas Woman's University, Rachel Krutz, Colorado College,
Hallie and Lexi Thompson, Seminole State!  Congrats to these awesome girls 

Kass N Hal, and Laurie! 

Good ole Hailee ..... and don't forget her teammate Rachel "C"rutz.  

All these people got you there, now go and get it.