There’s no place like HOME

Image

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?  

Advertisements

Random idea

Dear Friends,

As I may have mentioned, I live in Norman, Oklahoma and have for the past six years.  If you are reading this blog, you know I love to write. 

Well, an idea hit me yesterday that I could combine the two subjects, Norman and writing.  When I get involved in a project like this, I give it my full attention.  So for most of yesterday, I was on my laptop tapping my fingers, trying to match the speed of my thoughts.  I would welcome your thoughts on this book idea.  Here are my goals/ideas for the book in no particular order:

  • Share how great of a town Norman is (sorry to end with “is”…I know that breaks many English rules)
  • Incorporate stories of famous or well-known people who were born here (regardless of whether they are still here or not)
  • Share pictures I have taken on random road excursions and weather/seasonal-related
  • Educate people about businesses that have chosen to call Norman home
  • Tell readers how I came upon Norman and my first impression of the town

Long story short, Norman has so many great qualities that have helped me call it home.  It is a great small town and I want people to know there is more to Norman than being affiliated with OU.  So that is my random idea…

Any thoughts?

Sincerely,
Happy Norman Resident

A True Gentleman

Facebook can be a blessing and a curse.  Most days I glance at it but don’t post very much personally, just occasionally on behalf of the OU Softball Diamond Club.  This past Wednesday, however, I was grateful for a posting by a friend and colleague, Debbie Copp.  She posted a tribute to someone who meant a lot to the University of Oklahoma, David Maloney.  I was so sad to hear of Mr. Maloney’s passing.  As Debbie and I both shared via e-mail, he and his wife are such classy people and make an immediate impression on anyone they meet.  I have just returned from attending his prayer service.  Many of the memories people shared about him were of no surprise to me and only reiterated what I already knew.   One particular story shared was by his brother, Tom.  He spoke of how Dave taught him to “stand up every time a woman walks into a room.”   He didn’t think much of it at the time (he was only 10 years old) but said that to this day, approximately 57 years later, he still stands up when a woman enters the room.

I first met Dave Maloney when I was taking graduate courses at OU.  He taught my Sports Marketing course and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing of how he was successful at getting people to donate money to the university.  Simply put, he would have a conversation with them, get to know the potential donors and basically invite them to take part in a project with OU.   Though I only had him for one course, his methods have stuck with me and think of him every time I meet with a student who wants to go into sales or development.

The past few years, I had the pleasure of seeing Dave and his wife Roberta at almost every home football game.  I couldn’t help but smile when I would see them walking, hand-in-hand, into the Santee Lounge.  He’d greet me with that sweet, genuine smile and put his arm around me for a hug.  When he asked how I was doing, I knew he was sincere.   Being an avid basketball fan as well, once football was over, I could count on seeing the Maloneys walk to their seats to attend basketball games at Lloyd Noble Center.

I consider myself blessed for knowing David Maloney.  My home football and basketball games will not be the same without him but I know he’s with us in spirit.  I was once again reminded this week of how precious life is and how we need to appreciate every day we have.

 

It’s That Time of Year….

College Football.  It’s the time of year people plan their social lives around and a time of year no one wants to end.  When the last bowl game is played in January, a heavy depression settles in over the country.   Fans immediately begin to count down until September when it all can start again.  I hesitate admitting this, but I’m more of a college basketball fan myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy football….but the sport of basketball is what brings out a different, more competitive side.  But, it’s September….and that means football.  September means waking up on Saturdays and turning on ESPN GameDay after my morning news.  A mere few weeks ago, I laughed when I asked Jenny how many days until football season started and she spit out almost an exact number and then broke into a huge smile.  Being from Texas, this is the time of year classmates from high school and friends from Texas give me hell because I now “bleed crimson and cream.” I now cheer for the University of Oklahoma, the coveted rival of the Longhorns.  I will always have ties to Texas….I was born there….my family still lives in San Antonio.  But I chose to receive my graduate degree from OU and am proud I am now alum of a great university who happens to have one of the top-rated football programs in the country.  Plus, I look better in crimson than I do orange…..

So grab a beverage and snack of your choice and enjoy today and every Saturday to come until January.  They go by fast…..