Finally Friday: Start of A New Chapter

Forgive my not having done a Finally Friday segment in a while. Tonight is the preseason “Meet the Sooners” banquet for the OU Softball team. I have been involved with the program (specifically the booster club) for a few years now and have thoroughly enjoyed it. This is such a fun night where we get to interact with the players, fellow donors and fans and of course get an introduction to the new season and team. I have been told the girls are raring to go and get 2015 off to a great start. Speaking of, their first game is only days away and will take place in Hawaii. When the possible tournament and their choice to play there was shared, I couldn’t help but be interested in going. I mean, it’s Hawaii…what was there to think about? How long do I stay? Who do I want to go with? Those questions were quickly answered and the ball quickly got rolling. Now, here we are, 4 days away from leaving Oklahoma City for Honolulu. Needless to say, I’m so unbelievably excited and am looking forward to the trip for so many reasons. I’m going with a friend of mine who has been there before and has been on cloud nine ever since we chose to go. I love seeing her so happy and excited…she’s been like a giddy child and has been fun to watch.
This will be my first time to Hawaii so I’m ready to enjoy every moment. As a friend just told me yesterday, “Life’s too short.”

So as I enjoy a day off from work to do some errands and get ready for tonight, I wish you all a great Friday and weekend ahead. There will definitely be more blog posts about this new chapter and this amazing trip. Continue reading

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The Joy of Anticipation

Two months from yesterday, I will be flying to Hawaii with a dear friend of mine, Terri.  From the moment we booked our flights, Terri (and I) have been like little kids, breaking out into huge smiles as we tick away the days until we leave.   This will be my first time there (though not hers) so she’ll be able to have some insight.  When we were in the early stages of planning our trip, she asked what all I wanted to do, how much I would be up for spending, etc.  I told her I wanted this trip to be awesome and am up for it all–from a helicopter ride to snorkeling….anything that will create a lasting memory, I say “bring it on.”  We went to lunch two days ago and she reached over to grab my arm and said, “Two more months, I can’t wait.”  I just smiled because I loved seeing her excitement. Terri is one of those people who would do anything for her friends (or really anyone) so with this being a trip that benefits her as well, I’m thrilled.  Oh, and we didn’t just randomly decide to go to Hawaii.  The OU Softball team is playing there so we figured that was a good enough reason for us to join them.

We’ve all heard the phrase “Life is short” but that took on a whole new meaning in 2013.  Between my Dad getting pneumonia, a horrifying tornado ripping neighborhoods in Oklahoma to shreds and taking innocent lives with it, to losing two dear friends (one of whom was Terri’s husband), we’ve both embraced a new motto of living life to the fullest….now. We’re not waiting or wasting any opportunities.  Though I have written on this topic before, I never tire of expressing my appreciation for God giving me another chance with my Dad and my friends.

In closing….I love the feeling of anticipation and seeing it in someone else’s face.  You look forward to seeing a friend for lunch and when you lock eyes, you both smile because you’re happy to see them….I love that.  To me, life is truly about making the little things count and creating memories from them that will last a lifetime.

Enjoy each and every day.

 

Celebrating one last time

As I read the comments and look at the photos from the OU Softball team’s trip to the White House yesterday, I cannot help but smile and feel unbelievably proud.  I have been around the game of softball a while because my sister’s best friend played in high school and college.  She was always around so I would support her at games.  I never completely understood or immersed myself in it until a few years ago.  I was (and for the most part, still am) more of a basketball person.  I would play and shoot until I couldn’t see the backboard anymore.  Then something happened that threw me in the deep end of the OU Softball program and I have yet to get out of the pool.

A few years ago, I directed an athletics donation be given to the Diamond Club, the booster club for softball.  A short while after, the coaches’ secretary asked if I’d help with a tailgate.  I said yes and showed up to help at the requested time.  I began meeting donors who were fans and realized this was a great group, a group I was now a part of unintentionally.  The next week, I helped out again.  I started learning names and interacting with current members.  Come the summer of 2011, I found myself being asked to be the Secretary (aka Communications person).  I laugh when people randomly come up to me at games and tailgates to ask “Are you the one who sends out the e-mails?”  I hesitate before answering…”If you’re happy with them then yes.  If not…then no.”

A class act program headed by a coach who has now not only won one championship but two..and who has met not only one, but two presidents.  A girl from California who took a chance and made her case on why she should be the head coach of a program that was in shambles.  Thank God for taking chances…

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

A Loss to the OU Softball Family

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When I chose to make a donation to the OU Softball program a few years ago, I had no idea of the blessings I would receive in return.  In the early stages of my being a member of the booster club (appropriately named Diamond Club), I was more of a spectator.  In a short amount of time, I encountered a wonderful group of people, some of whom have become friends.  Thanks to some persuasion from our head coach, it didn’t take me long to get more involved.   I’m now the Secretary or “Communications Director” as I have jokingly  dubbed myself.

The Diamond Club is a group of softball fans who have chosen to give their time, money and resources to the OU Softball program.  They come and help because they want to and believe in the vision that Coach Gasso has created.  Whatever path led them members have joined and their interest is contagious thus leading to more members by word of mouth.  We have grown to care about one another so when someone is sick or has surgery, phone calls are made and e-mails are sent.  Cards get signed and prayers are a given.  One person we can always count on to express her concern in a genuine way, along with her staff, is head coach Patty Gasso.  She is down-to-earth, approachable and one who will jump right in and help when she can.  These attributes help members feel appreciated and even more motivated to help.

Take our last Christmas party for example.   Always one to try to divide her time between personal and professional obligations, Coach Gasso e-mailed me a few days before the party notifying me she had a conflict the night of our party.  I simply wrote her back saying that any time we can have with her would be great, but totally understand her having to be short.  In typical fashion, Gasso stayed longer than she probably should’ve but never appeared in a rush.  She stopped by each table, visiting with members and never saying no to a picture.  Thinking about one member in particular who was in attendance makes me smile.  As Gasso approached the table where Gene Fuzzell was, he stood up to greet her.  When Coach speaks, Gene’s attention is held and the respect he has for her is quite apparent.  Moments like this are even better when captured.

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This past Monday, shortly after I got to work I received a phone call from Barbara Stemm, a friend and the co-president of the Diamond Club.  She shared that Gene was in the hospital and his cancer had returned in an aggressive manner.  I sat there numb with a lump in my throat, not wanting the call or news to be real.  Before the tears started to fall, I told her I would send out an e-mail to let everyone know and vaguely recall mumbling something like “Okay, keep me posted” before managing to hang up.

Fast forward to Friday and I got the call from Barbara I was dreading since Monday.  Our sweet and kind friend Gene lost the battle to cancer and had passed away.  After I hung up, I called Coach Gasso who had just recently returned from being out-of-town.  When I told her he had died, she said, “I was just there visiting him.  He was still on the respirator.”  As I write this today, I can’t help but think of an expression we’ve all heard many times “God works in mysterious ways.” I do believe that Coach Gasso was meant to get back when she did so Gene could see her one last time.  He was taken from his family and friends all too soon.  However, he is in a better place with no cancer and no pain.  Though he’ll be missed greatly, I know he’ll be smiling down on all of us, especially when we cheer on the team he loved so much, the Oklahoma Softball team.

Dedication or Insanity?

When the new OU Softball game time was announced, I made sure to mark off my calendar so I could make the home opener.  I kept thinking to myself that a 3:15 game start, on top of the windy and cold conditions, would not draw a large crowd.  With it being Friday, this was understandable.  As Jenkins St. began to come into my view from Constitution, my eyes immediately went toward the softball field.  I just smiled as there were already a large amount of cars in the parking lot.  There was no question in my mind our fans were ready to see this team in action….and to have our girls back home.    I was armed with multiple layers and a blanket.  I headed toward the stadium and was greeted immediately by friends.   I saw Jessica Shults’ grandmother and stopped to give her a hug. The seat next to her was open so I joined her.  As we sat huddled together, ready to cheer on our girls, we chatted about rankings, movies and when in the world will the wind stop??

The wind never died down…and as each inning went by, my feet got more and more numb.  But I was not about to leave or miss this game.  This is not only the #1 team in the country, but this is a special group of young ladies whose talent is simply fun to watch.  When the game ended, I heard a fellow booster club member say “Gosh, are we crazy for coming out here in this weather?”  I just smiled, looked at her and replied “Dedicated sounds a little better…but all worth it.” 

I was so impressed with the crowd as was Coach Gasso who mentioned it during her press conference.   

Is there something that you are that dedicated to where you wouldn’t let poor weather conditions or anything stop you from being a part of the action?

Sincerely,
Dedicated in Norman