The Running Dream

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The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen made me want to run more. It’s an invigorating YA novel, and, yes, a fast read.

Just as high school runner Jessica is hitting her stride, the unthinkable happens. On the way home from a track meet, the team’s van is struck by another vehicle, killing one runner and leaving Jessica with life-threatening injuries that require her right leg to be amputated. The story shows her struggle to overcome her depression, retain her identity as a runner, and ultimately, get back on the track.

Early on in the book Jessica pushes away her friends and family. She is understandably shattered … her dreams broken in the crash, her normal life turned upside down. In Chapter 2, she says, “Running aired out my soul. It made me feel alive. And now? I’m stuck in this bed, knowing I’ll never run again.”

She’s not even sure she wants to try again, until she meets Rosa, a girl in her math class who has cerebral palsy, a girl no one has ever noticed. Rosa inspires Jessica to take another look at what might be possible, and Jessica begins to believe that maybe she could one day “sail over the dots of blooming clover” again.

The book does a good job of explaining how a prosthetic leg is fitted, put on, and worn. We get a glimpse of the measuring, the adjusting, and the learning curve that comes with using an artificial limb. Van Draanen also helps us understand the kind of physical therapy an amputee must do daily to ensure the stump stays healthy enough for a prosthesis.

With the help of her best friend, the school newspaper reporter (also her crush), her track coach and team, and her family, Jessica learns that losing her leg doesn’t mean giving up on dreams. It just means the dreams change.

Jessica’s voice reminds me of when I was a teenager, all the angst, the doubt, the confidence, the love, all rolled into one. The writing puts you right there – you feel the stares as Jessica returns to school for the first time, you hear the whispers when she shows friends her new leg, you feel her heartbeat when the boy walks up to her during lunch.

In the final chapter, Jessica looks back and then looks forward. She’s counting “one plus one plus one plus one. Somewhere in my fuzzy mind I made a connection – that’s how everything is done. One by one by one by one. … That’s how anybody makes it through anything.

“My ones are a distance between me and victory, not days between me and tragedy.”

I was a bit distracted by the blossoming romance. I felt it was unnecessary and detracted from Jessica’s strength. Don’t get me wrong; I like romance. I just didn’t understand why she needed one to prove she was a whole person despite losing a leg. However, I get that teen crushes appeal to teen readers.

If you’re a runner or want to be, you’ll enjoy this book. If you’re facing challenges and feel overwhelmed by the odds, you might find some inspiration here. I loved this book. And when I don’t feel like running, I think about Jessica and others like her and do it anyway.

Tiffani Hill-Patterson is a former sportswriter and copy editor. She played softball in college and still considers herself an athlete. She’s mom to a bionic teen (really!) and is working on more essays and trying fiction.

This post originally appeared at BookendBabes.com.

It’s a football game not a funeral

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Ah, another “older” woman berating today’s young ladies for wearing clothing she deems “unclassy.” This time at an Alabama football game. Isn’t it refreshing?

One day we’re yelling at men to stop objectifying our daughters. The next we’re slut-shaming these same daughters because their collarbones are showing. At a football game. In 95-degree heat.

Give me a break. Today’s young women are under enough pressure trying to find their place in a world that constantly tells them they need to be:

  • prettier (but without looking like they’re trying)
  • smarter (but not too smart)
  • richer (but not wealthier than the boys)
  • taller (but not too tall)
  • skinnier (but not too skinny)
  • curvier (but not too curvy)
  • successful (but not too successful)
miniskirt

That’s me in the miniskirt and motorcycle jacket senior year of high school.

They certainly don’t need us older women judging them for the clothes they wear. My lord, Madonna and Jennifer Beals in Flashdance were our fashion role model in the 80s! And don’t try to tell me you didn’t dress like either of them at some point. We all did. I wore short skirts with cowboy boots, sweatshirts hanging off my shoulder, a skintight floral print tank dress, tight jeans with crop tops. Thank goodness there were no bloggers to call me slutty or question my integrity. (If the church ladies did, they kept it among themselves.)

 

This particular writer also assumed girls were dressing “skimpy” just to look good “for a boy”? So what if they do? Sometimes I want to look good “for a boy,” even as a 44-year-old single mom. I’m sure that writer wants to look good for her husband sometimes.

Then there are times I want to look good so other women, like this particular writer, won’t

siblinghhs

Those were extremely tight white jeans. And my annoyed little brother.

judge me for being “too sloppy, too frumpy, too fat, too matronly,” or looking like I’ve “just given up on life.” Sometimes I dress sexier than usual so I can take a selfie to remind me that I’m still attractive. And that I’m not dead inside.

All of this is okay. I don’t need your permission to dress in a way that I think might attract a nice man I might cross paths with on a given day. Or for the women in my circle or those who judge me based on what I’m wearing. Or for myself. My daughter doesn’t need your permission or your judgment either.

We want more men to respect our brains, our jobs, our sports, our parenting, our skill at walking in high heels, our chainsaw-wielding, our driving, our writing, our lawn-mowing, our emotions, our child-birthing, our independence, our political opinions, and yes, even our looks. Yet we women continue to tear each other down over clothes we deem not “classy” enough.

What is “classy” anyway? Is it classy to insinuate that a whole generation in a spaghetti-strap sundresses are sluts? Should we assume if you cover up with a scarf that you’re a cold fish? That you’re ashamed of your body? Of course not. Why do we think anything at all about how another woman is dressed? And if we do think an unkind thought, why would we voice it?

People are always posting platitudes about being kind and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s time we older women took our own advice and started being kinder to our younger counterparts. We can learn a lot from each other if we just stop judging.

 

 

 

 

 

Low Places

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The smell of corn dogs and funnel cakes coated the air and Bob Seger’s “Main Street” played on the staticky speakers when Jake spotted me standing in line for the Tilt-a-Whirl. He wore a purple button-down and jeans. And that smile. Always that smile.

That memory about a junior college crush led me down a rabbit hole of journal entries and early 1990s music. Back then “big-hat” country played on all of our stereos, and Garth Brooks was its king. Listening to him, 20-year-old me swore the connections I made then would last forever.

Read the rest of my piece on how Garth Brooks shaped my college memories at Kelly J. Baker’s Cold Takes as part of her Albums Series.

Best weekend in a long time

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Riley and I spent Memorial Day weekend at my parents’ and it was good for my soul. Friday night, Momma, Riley and I went to visit Granma at the nursing home. I showed her some of Riley’s dance pictures and we had a nice chat. She’s doing pretty well.

When we got back to Town Creek, Daddy built a fire in the portable fireplace and Riley roasted “smarshmallows.” Or burned them. We sat around the fire and listened to Daddy talk about camping out under the stars when he was growing up, and about him and Momma fishing down at the creek when they were a new couple.

We also laughed about our camping gear when we were growing up. We had a shell on top of Daddy’s pickup and he created a makeshift bunk bed in the bed of the truck. My little brother Michael and I slept on twin mattresses on top of a plywood board anchored above the truckbed, and Momma and Daddy slept underneath on a mattress in the bed of the truck. It worked. And we always had fun.

Saturday, I got up early and went for a walk around the neighborhood before everyone else awoke. Then we spent the day at Jordan’s pool, celebrating his high school graduation. We ate BBQ, baked beans, pasta salad, buffalo dip, broccoli salad, corn on the cob, squash, and O’Charley’s rolls. And we swam. And laughed. And enjoyed being together to celebrate Jordan.

That evening, Momma, Riley and I went shopping at Target. And we stopped by Georgia’s on the way home, where they were putting a new liner in their pool. They finished up around 9:30 and we went inside and watched “A Dolphin Tale” (Riley loved it) until nearly midnight. I love days like that … no drama, no stress, just enjoying the company.

Sunday, Riley and I threw the softball and played volleyball, Daddy vacuumed out my truck, and Momma taught me and Riley how to play Rook. Momma and I beat Daddy and Riley. That was a lot of fun.

On the way home, I stopped by to see my best pal Kristi at her mom’s house. Her daughter just turned 21, so Riley and I had to swing by and wish her happy birthday.

After getting home and unloading all off our stuff, Riley’s dad came and picked her up. My friend Kim came over and we hung out on the patio until midnight, laughing, downloading music, and talking over a couple of beers.

I love my family and friends. They love me for who I am and who I’m not and what I can still be. They’re the best.

 

 

Warning: 2012 will bring honesty

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In 2012, honesty is the word here – I’ll be writing about what’s really on my mind. I’m tired of tiptoeing around because of who might be reading. I’m a grown woman, I’m single, and I’m a writer. I’m going to write about grown-up issues, and the joys and challenges of being mama to the best girl in the world. Besides, it’s easier for me to write about it than talk about it.

2012 To Do List
1. Tell the truth on my blog. Otherwise, why bother?

2. Wear these shoes. Often. Red peep-toe heels

3. Do 10 real pushups. Get off my knees and get it done.

4. Get to Dallas in September for Bamapocalypse II – Alabama vs. Michigan – and finally meet my Roll Bama Roll pals who’ve made the past year easier.

5. Run another 5K. Yes, run. A little walking is fine,
but I aim to run most of the 3.1 miles.

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Running my first 5K with my brother Michael

6. Return to a writing routine.
I have a book in me. Somewhere. I want to get it out.

7. Learn to embrace that I’m a woman with wants and needs. It’s natural and normal.

8. Read more books. I have stacks by my bed, on my dressers,
on the bookcase, on my desk that I want to finally read this year.DSC09426

9. Go to church more often. I want Riley to grow up
with faith in God like I did.Peace

10. Take control of my money. Learn what’s worth
spending it on and what’s not. Save accordingly.

11. Expect nothing from anyone except myself. And then expect good.Me

Touchdowns and touchups

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Roll Tide A final swipe of Crimson Joy lipstick and I’m ready. I’ve been looking forward to this all week. The anticipation is killing me. I hope things turn out like I want them to. Just 10 minutes more and … Roll Tide, baby!

Watching Alabama play football is an event at my house, even if I’m watching alone. While most women get fixed up for a Saturday of shopping, I get done up for a Saturday of Alabama football. After showering, shampooing, shaving and doing my hair and makeup, I slip into my jeans and an old Bama T-shirt. Bring on the Hogs or the Vols or the Tigers. I’m ready.

(Editor’s note, this column is from 2006. A LOT has changed …)

Last Saturday I took it up a notch because my daughter’s fifth birthday party was going on during the Bama-Ole Miss game. I added eyeliner and a push-up bra to my routine. I looked good serving cake and ice cream and yelling at the TV in my crimson-and-black-striped tunic top, crop pants and flip-flops.

Most Saturdays at my house are planned around the Crimson Tide. A typical Saturday goes like this: Get up, get ready for my daughter’s soccer game, watch the 5-year-olds try to keep the ball in-bounds, grab some lunch, head home, watch a little Noggin with my girl, jump in the shower, then get my game face on for the 2:30 kickoff.

If it’s a late game, we might hit Walmart or the bookstore. If it’s an 11:30 kickoff, we skip lunch and head straight home after soccer. No matter what, we’re home in time for the game.

When my team is on TV, I’m on the couch. Distractions are few; not even a special on Jon Bon Jovi or a sale at Target can get my attention. At least, not until the game is over.

Feel free to call me during the game, but only if you’re going to keep it short–very short. Otherwise, you’ll just think I’m rude because my attention will be on the game not on our conversation. If you call to rub it in after a loss, expect the same in return when your team goes down. Turnabout is fair play, right?

Lately my daughter has joined me for the first half, shaking her crimson pom-poms and yelling “Roll Tide!” It doesn’t take long, though, before she gets bored and heads to her room to play with her dollhouse or to the bedroom to watch Animal Planet or cartoons. Maybe next year she’ll be ready to watch the whole game and ask questions like, “Mommy, why don’t we ever throw the ball on first down?”

My parents have joined me for a couple of games, but mostly it’s just me and my TV, which is fine. That way I don’t embarrass myself when I get too caught up in the game. Yes, I yell at the refs, the players and the announcers. When Bama scores I dance a little jig, and when the team makes a bad play I stomp around, muttering under my breath. What fun is it to just sit and stare at the TV? Getting all worked up is part of the game for me.

And when the game is over, a quick touch-up of Loreal’s Crimson Joy and I’m ready to hit the town, or maybe Target.

AV therapy, softball, dance, Bama basketball

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Since Riley’s therapy was cut back to every other week, we’ve been focusing on getting her to think about graduating from auditory-verbal. She has two goals right now:

1. Look at the person who’s talking
and the person you’re talking to.
2. Talk in complete sentences.

She’s doing pretty well with those two objectives, but I still have to prompt her occasionally.

Our therapist completed vocabulary testing last week and to everyone’s surprise Riley scored at or above her chronological age! We think it’s the first time she has hit or surpassed her “real” age and not her hearing age. She is on the right path.

We are working on synonyms and antonyms, idioms, context clues and inferences – important things heading into fourth grade next year. Riley is also supposed to be making notes of words she doesn’t know when comes across them in her reading.

Report cards come home Thursday, so that will tell the tale. Her weekly grades are mostly A’s and B’s, with a smattering of C’s and a D here and there. No more F’s, though. The lower grades seem to come whenever new material is introduced, which is why preteaching is so important. And, obviously, I haven’t been doing enough of that lately.

Also, her class is reviewing for state testing in math right now. Third-graders take the SAT (I think that’s the name), and I’m anxious to see how she does. Geometry, fractions and decimals have all been part of the curriculum this year.

Dance class is getting busier … she’s taking only acrobatics this year, but costumes are coming soon and picture day is in two weeks. Riley is good at acro; she’s almost got the back walkover and a one-hand cartwheel is a piece of cake. Next year, I’ll probably let her go back to taking two or three classes because dance is something she excels at.

Softball is starting next week; several practices have been rained out, so her team this year (all new to her except for two) will be rough around the edges. I will brag a bit about Riley, though. She is one of the fastest and has one of the strongest arms on the team. Her throwing is much improved.

The divorce was final last month, and I’m selling the house. I’m glad it is over, and we can move forward.

Oh, and, Roll Tide! Basketball season was fun, but I think the Tide got hosed by being left out of the NCAA Tournament. Winning the NIT would be nice, though. Go, Bama!

Beer and ball

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For me, music and sports go together like milk and fresh-from-the-oven brownies. Whether it’s hearing Alabama’s Rammer Jammer cheer or “Crazy Train” when Atlanta’s Chipper Jones steps up to the plate or “I’m Bad” while working out, music gets me fired up.

So as the Boys of Summer get ready to make a run for October and the Boys of Fall kick off their season, I’ve got singer/musician Chris Blake here to talk about how music makes the sports we love even better.

Chris, whose latest EP Girl is just out, explains why sports and music are so intertwined. “Music does so much to bring the game to a new level–particularly baseball,” he says. “Music accompanies celebration, loss, traditions like the 7th-inning stretch. It adds to the tension, like when the organist plays Charge! during a two-out, bases-loaded situation.

“Music also keeps us entertained in a big way during the breaks between innings–like when the little kid starts playing air guitar to Don’t Stop Believin’ at Dodger Stadium!”

While Chris enjoys a few college football match-ups each year, baseball is his real love. The Southern Cal Trojan says, “The only reason I ever really watched football games back in college was to drink beer.”

However, he figured out that baseball was much more conducive to beer-drinking. “You could lose an entire inning waiting in line for a Coors Light and still come back to your seat and not have missed anything.”

A Chicago White Sox fan, 2005 was a big year for Chris and his family as the team won the World Series. “Along the way (catcher) A.J. Pierzynski brought (Journey’s) Steve Perry along for the ride, and now, even though I had such strong childhood memories attached to ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ ’, all I can think of when I hear it now is how amazing it was at that moment when the Sox somehow managed to go all the way.

Want to know more about the 7th sexiest man on Twitter? RSVP for The Music Mamas Twitter Party happening Friday night from 8-9:30 Central, and join us for a chat with Chris and a chance to win an iPod touch and his CD Girl.

Below is a playlist of Chris’ favorite get-pumped songs. What tunes do you crank up when you want to get your adrenaline pumping?

We are the champions

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Riley’s team beat its nemesis of the last two years to win the tournament championship 8-4. Riley had two RBIs and scored once. Below, is the game in pictures, starting with me and my friend Melissa (our third baseman Kam’s mom) just before Ryan threw the first pitch.

Yeah, we know. We’re hot.

Riley is ready for some action.

Riley gets a hit …

That ended up as a “triple …”

And she scores!

“Would someone please hit it to me? I’m getting bored.”

Senators win! Yay!

Momma showing off her team spirit!

Gerald (Kam’s dad) and my daddy taking in the celebration

Riley and one of her best friends, Kam

Ryan and Riley & Gerald and Kam

Riley & Ryan, who pitched an awesome game