There’s no place like HOME

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One year ago, I was sitting in the rehab wing of a nursing home, helping my Dad get settled in for his stay while he recovered from pneumonia.  As we were chatting, I remember looking up at the TV screen to see CNN covering the tornado damage that just hit Moore, Oklahoma.  Even as I looked at the debris on the ground and neighborhoods where houses once stood, I couldn’t comprehend the depth of it all.  My head was in San Antonio with my Dad but something began tugging at my heart.  That was my home of 7 years, Oklahoma.  Shortly after the news, I got a phone call from Coach Gasso, the head coach of Oklahoma Softball.  When I brought up the rain, she said “Rain?  How about the tornado?”  Once I heard first hand, all I wanted to do was go home.  Coach Gasso shared with me that the team’s academic advisor had lost her home in the storm and asked if the Diamond Club would be interested in helping her and her family.  Later that night, I set up a fundraising site for people to donate. 

A day later, I was headed to Austin, Texas for a conference.  As soon as I checked in at the registration table, they saw my Oklahoma shirt and said “We’re thinking of you guys.”  I smiled, tried not to choke up and said thanks.  After multiple introductions to conference attendees, I was frequently asked how everyone was doing.  It was really sweet.  On the opening day of the conference, they announced each state.  When it came to Oklahoma, there was a rousing round of applause and I put up my hand in acknowledgment. I almost teared up and definitely felt the outpouring of support.  I received another call from Coach Gasso that day.  She shared with me that one of the children that died was a huge Keilani Ricketts and OU Softball fan.  She was survived by her sister and parents.  With super regional play just days away, Coach wanted us to do something in recognition of the “Bring It” team and Game Time little league teams that coming weekend.  I basically told her we were on board for whatever she wanted.  Per her prodding, I got in touch with a friend who at the time, worked for Printing Services.  We arranged for a banner to be made welcoming the teams.  At one point in the conversation, Coach stopped and said, “Oh sorry, are you at the conference already?”  I told her it was fine and even replied, “Gosh, I’m tempted to get on I-35 and come home.”  Her response was simple “Do it.  I could really use your help.”  I was not in the right frame of mind to be at the conference and after letting my colleague know, I headed north getting into Norman a little after midnight. I drove all the way through on adrenaline, stopping only a few times to stretch my legs.  During the drive home, I kept thinking about the team and Coach Gasso.  Their priorities made me so proud to be affiliated with them.  

Due to anticipated rain, the first day of super regional play was postponed.  Instead, we welcomed the little league teams to the field, gathered around for a prayer with our players and just comforted each other the best we could.  In an effort to serve as a distraction, Coach Gasso invited the group of young girls to run the bases with the OU players and just let loose.  I peeked in on the team during this and smiled at not only the little ones having fun, but our players as well.  Anyone who watched Keilani Ricketts during college knows she is a pretty serious person and player.  The quiet yet determined player, who can throw a change-up and hit with a vengeance….was full of smiles as she held Casey Angle’s hand (sibling of Syndey Angle).  Casey became a fixture in the OU dugout throughout the rest of post-season play.  She was “one of the girls” and was welcomed with open arms by the team every time they saw her. 

As I think back to the day we won the national championship, I can’t help but smile. Yes, the plays, the pitches and the hits were unbelievable.  However, there is one memory that will stick out in my mind…seeing the team carry around the state of Oklahoma flag around the field after they won.  They did not win the championship for themselves, or for Coach Gasso….they won it for the state-the place they have called HOME during college.  They were playing for something MOORE than themselves.  Anyone who has watched the team play this year will notice the stickers on their helmets.  The HOME sticker was first placed on their helmets during the WCWS.  The other stickers represent Sydney Angle and the other lives that were lost.  I loved hearing Coach Gasso say that sticker was not going anywhere. 

Fast forward to today….one year has passed.  The lives that were lost will forever be remembered.  The house and businesses are being rebuilt.  Briarwood Elementary had its new dedication today.  There is hope and the community has come together once again.

You never know what kind of impact you will have as a person, a player or a team. The seniors from the 2013 team may not be playing anymore, but their legacy will live on forever.  Their talent and work ethic are intangible and sorely missed along with their unapologetic values.  They didn’t play for the individual glory or accolades…they played for their team, their school and in 2013, their state.  If you attend a game where OU is playing, pay attention to what the girls do after every single game: they pray.  They take the time to thank God for their health, their safety and the gifts he’s given them.  Win or lose, they “give the glory to God” as you’ll frequently hear Coach Gasso say.  What parent would not want their little girl to emulate that action?  

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2013: A Year Unlike Any Other

For the state of Oklahoma, 2013 was full of life-changing events.  Some were exciting and some unbelievably devastating.   Throughout the course of the past 365 days, I have been to my home state of Texas at least 5 times, California twice and Florida once.  As much as I love to travel, the word “home” took on a whole new meaning to me.

This year was yet another reminder of how fast things can change, and that if we are not careful, we will lose the opportunity to spend just a few more minutes with the ones we love.   We all learned that lesson firsthand when we were surrounded by the destruction of the May 2013 tornado.  I was in Texas visiting my Dad who was recuperating from pneumonia.  As I watched the news on the screen, my head was with my Dad, but my heartstrings were being tugged toward Oklahoma.  It wasn’t until I was called by our softball coach who relayed just how bad it was that I began to fully comprehend the damage and reality of it all.  I was due to spend the weekend in Austin at a conference.  After sitting through a few workshops and thanking people for saying they were praying for the state of Oklahoma, I was simply going through the motions.  I ended up leaving early.  A day later, due to a weather delay, there were no Super Regionals.  Instead, we hosted the “Bring It” and “Game Time” teams from Moore, OK at the OU Softball field.  There was not a dry eye in the group after the team chaplain, Sarah Roberts, led us in a prayer.   Selfish as it may have been, I am glad I was there.  Watching our players wipe away tears and spend time with the young players made my heart swell with pride.

To let off some energy and take their minds off, Coach Gasso let the girls run around the bases and hang out more with the OU players. One girl who became especially close to the team was Casey Angle, the sibling of Sydney Angle, who died in the tornado.  Whenever she wasn’t playing, Casey could be seen in the OU dugout throughout the rest of Super Regionals and into the WCWS.

Weeks after the deadly tornadoes, the OU Softball Team was not only playing for their university and fans, they were playing for the whole state.  On June 4, 2013 there were tears of joy as the team ran around the Hall of Fame Field after winning it all, carrying the state of Oklahoma flag and signs that read HOME.

Tragedy continued to strike close to home.  In August, the OU Softball Family lost a devoted fan in Gene Fuzzell.  Our spring tailgates will not be the same without him.  Then in October, a dear friend’s husband passed away after a short but courageous battle with leukemia.  Karl Moyer was such a great man and is missed every day.

Life is funny-we begin the year with new resolutions and a new attitude about making positive changes in our lives.  We create a plan and expect everything to go according to schedule.  Perhaps just when we were getting too comfortable, God felt we needed to be woken up.

As I begin 2014, I am grateful for my faith.  Without it, I would not have been able to understand the challenges faced this past year. I am hopeful for what lies ahead.

Make the most of everyday.
Mary

Cool new find in Oklahoma: The Blue Bean Coffee Company

A few weeks ago a friend and I met for coffee.  He (John) had me choose and I wanted to find some place different, as in not a Starbucks.  Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against them….just wanted something different.  Moving on, so I went to my trusty friend (aka Google) and searched for coffee places in the area.  One result was The Blue Bean Coffee Company located technically in Oklahoma City, though to me it is in Moore.  I’m splitting hairs.  Anyway, I had read a little about it online and it looked like a place we would like.  As soon as we walked in, I was greeted by a warm, friendly face (whom I later learned was one of the owners).  There was a group of people sitting down at some tables that looked like they were regulars.  My friend and I walked up to the counter to order.  While we were both deciding on what to get, I looked around and smiled when I noticed the various Chicago memorabilia and decor.  I knew I had made the right choice in coffee shops (and I hadn’t even gotten my drink yet).  We got our drinks and picked a table nearby.  On the wall opposite us, I saw various photographs that I assumed were from local artists or friends of the owners.  I mentioned to John that one day I’d like to have my pictures displayed in a shop someday.

Later that same day, I wrote the owner an e-mail and being my mother’s daughter (both my parents are from Chicago), I asked the owner if she was from Chicago after seeing the decor in shop).  She replied that lived there 25 years.  One week later, John and I met at Blue Bean again and this gave the owner and I a chance to visit about where my parents grew up.  I couldn’t help but laugh knowing my Mom would be so proud when I told her about the conversation later.  Like last time, John and I chose a table where we could sit and enjoy our coffee (which is great by the way).   Danae, the owner, was nice enough to offer me the opportunity to hang some of my pictures in the shop. I will be delivering the pictures soon.  I have no idea what kind of price I’ll put on them, if any.  I’ll be flattered if anyone shows any interest.  It is just cool to have this opportunity.  So my point in all of this is to encourage you to come and try out Blue Bean Coffee.  Not only will you get friendly service, good coffee but you’ll get to see my pictures….so you there yet?  Also, go “like” it on Facebook as they give away drinks to those who become fans.

Urban Spoon is also a great place for reviews.

http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/46/500119/restaurant/Suburban-Southside/Blue-Bean-Coffee-Oklahoma-City

Sincerely,
Blue Bean Fan (and amateur photographer) in Norman