Beatitudes of my life

Being grateful for everything in my life…. no matter what…

It’s all relative…really… September 18, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Family,Football,Life Balance,Parenting,Sports — beatitudesofmylife @ 10:32 am
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This past weekend, we went to State College, PA for the Navy/Penn State game.  While the game was disappointing (to say the least), we both had a fabulous time when we took my niece out for an early dinner on Friday.  We had a fun meal together, got to hear all about her classes, find out how much she loves being at PSU, and talk with her about her friends, job, and family.  It was exactly what I’d wanted to do when we made our original plans to go to this particular game…. visiting with our niece, M.

The interesting about this normal family outing is that our niece, M, is not technically related to us… she’s our niece by love, not by blood.  It may sound weird, but it works for us.

I’m sure there are many others who have familial connections like ours.  I always felt that my first cousins were more like “second sisters”… or “sisters once removed”, if you will.  I spent every significant holiday and family event of my childhood with my cousins and, since they were all just a few years older than me, my sense of identity was formed by these amazing women, much as older sisters do for their younger ones.  These are the women I have called on for support my entire life… the women who taught me life lessons… the women who allowed me to tag along with their friends when I visited.   They helped me weather the storms caused by my parents’ divorce and allowed me to learn how to be graceful, loving, and generous by watching their reactions to everyday life.  These women have been my role models for real life… and they helped me learn how to form my own family structure, apart from the strict “family tree structure” guidelines you can find in Wikipedia.

If you go strictly by the original family tree, the lovely young woman we took to dinner wouldn’t be included.  She’s actually the best friend of my first cousin’s daughter… who is officially my first cousin once removed.  Huh?   Anyone else have people who don’t fit into this stagnant structure?

When I speak of my cousin J and her husband B, I usually refer to them as my sister and BIL.  Their kids, M and J, therefore are my nephew and niece… right?  I do have an amazing sister, BIL, and nephew (J, E, and T) who I love to distraction as well as my brother, SIL and their two kids (T, J, E, and Z) so this is in no way a statement on my relationship with them.  My other cousins’ kids are similarly referred to, in our house, as our nieces and nephews as are the kids of my step-brothers and their families.  We are blessed with many relatives, but I believe that in this day and age the word “relative” can be a confining term.

I love having the freedom to define relationships with people in my life.  One of the definitions of “relative”, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a person connected with another by blood or affinity”.  If you look up “affinity” on Dictionary.com, you’ll get the following definitions: “1. a natural liking for or attraction to a person, thing, idea, etc. 2. a person, thing, idea, etc., for which such a natural liking or attraction is felt. 3. relationship by marriage or by ties other than those of blood ( distinguished from consanguinity). 4. inherent likeness or agreement; close resemblance or connection”.

I believe this is where my favorite part of having relatives falls.  I have a number of people who have, over the years, called me “mom” and will call or text when they need to reach out to someone they can trust…  I have a select few young men who allow me to call them “son”… I have male friends who I refer to as my brothers… I have long-time friends who are more like sisters… doesn’t everyone have people like this in their lives?

I truly believe these terms of endearment are incredibly important.  While I’m not a fan of the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”, I thoroughly believe that we are all able to create relatives with whom we have a connection… and affinity… and bring them into our lives.  Maybe it’s someone whose parents are far away and they need a parental “touchstone” of sorts… maybe it’s someone who seems so familiar to you and your own family that they just “fit”… maybe it’s someone who needs you at that moment in their lives.  Whatever the reason, I feel that when that situation presents itself, the universe is telling us that this person needs some support… and I believe it’s our duty to answer that call.

Besides… how could you say no to such a beautiful face… Love my niece Mel!

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Contemplating September 11th September 11, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Football,Life Balance,Navy Life — beatitudesofmylife @ 3:40 pm
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It’s been eleven years since that terrible and horror-filled day when terror struck our nation. It’s been eleven years of remembering…. eleven years of sadness… and eleven years of trying to make sense of a series of senseless acts. There have been movies made, documentaries filmed, and stories told… yet we’ll never be able to fully explain the importance of this day. The depth of connection varies so much from person to person that we each have our own memories of that fateful day…

For me, it was a typical Tuesday morning. I had sent both boys off to their respective schools (D was in Middle School-6th grade and E was in Elementary-4th) and was settling in for the morning. I knew we had football practice that evening and M had been away in Dallas for a few days of travel for work. He was due to fly home that evening, so I was slowly starting my day.

I had the Today show on in the background when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. They cut into the news feed on TV and were dissecting the situation when the second plane hit… and that’s when all hell broke loose. Information, however spotty and inaccurate, was being shared as quickly as it came into the stations. Flipping from station to station was useless. No one had the proprietary rights over the story at that point, so everyone was just talking…incessantly and mindlessly talking… as if their words would in some way explain what had just happened.

The plane hitting the Pentagon came next. M and I heard later that some former USNA soccer players we knew had felt the plane overhead as it approached and then crashed into the Pentagon…. they were stationed at the Annex and closest to that carnage. Shortly after, the plane crashed in PA… and then, for me, the doorbell rang.

My next-door neighbor’s wife had family in the Northern Virginia area. Like me, she had been watching the news while feeding her young son, but her reaction to this tragedy was much more visceral. She couldn’t reach her family on the phone and she was frantic. Rather than waiting to hear more news regarding the current situation, she felt that she had to see her family. While I knew my boys were safe in their schools, she had no idea if her mom and sister were involved or safe. As crazy as it seems looking back on the situation now, she HAD to get up to Arlington…. it was a deep-seeded urge that compelled her to be present with her family. She needed me to watch her son and explain her absence to her husband while she attempted to reach them in the middle of the chaos. There was no question, at that moment, what I needed to do… I simply took her son from her and wished her God Speed. I then sat down with him and began to pray. (Note: while it took my neighbor many hours to reach her family, she was blessed to find that no harm had come to them)

While my friend was putting her fear into action, there wasn’t much I could do. My husband was in Dallas and had called just after the second plane hit. He and his boss had already checked out of their hotel, so they got their rooms back and extended their stay until they could better evaluate the situation and come up with a workable situation. I was loathe to have them take a flight back from Dallas… I could rationalize that there was little chance of another plane being hijacked, but the point was moot… all flights were grounded, and would be for days. To say that I was grateful for cell service is an understatement… hearing his voice any time he called was a balm to my soul. It meant that he was safe… even if he was hours and days away from me.

Late in that first day, a man from ADT stopped by my house (our development was pretty new at that point) and, while I’d held things together pretty well up to that point, I lost it on him. My husband was OOT… I was there alone with my kids… he needed to go away and go away NOW. I was not diplomatic… I was not controlled and kind… I was pissed. How dare he come by and imply that having a security system installed in my home would somehow make all this horror and fear go away. I was definitely not a fan of his tactic… and was not shy about telling him how I felt at that moment.

Over the coming days, the stories came in… photos were posted… more and more information was shared regarding each plane’s trajectory and velocity and weight and… and… and… and… it just didn’t seem to end. Taking solace in the little things suddenly became very important. Gathering with other families during the boys’ football practice on Wednesday night was helpful… just talking with other adults made such a difference in my outlook.

In the end, there was nothing I could do. I could only pray and lean on God… I could provide a strong place for my boys to rest their own concerns… and I could wait for my husband to come home. I knew I was blessed.. my husband was, indeed, coming home. He and his boss had kept their rental car and began the long trek home. Even the inconvenience that M hadn’t brought his car charger and his phone was about to lose power wasn’t important. He was driving home to me and would be home as soon as he could physically make the drive. In the midst of horror and tragedy (and as embarrassingly selfish as this statement will come out) the only good thing I could see was that M was coming home to me.

It’s fitting, somehow, that I have the opportunity to spend today with my beloved M. September 11th will forever be a day that lives in infamy. There is no true “silver lining” or “good that comes from bad” when referring to the events of September 11, 2001, but I don’t think we can discount that our country, and her citizens, became a little more patriotic… and little more appreciative of the blessings with which we live.

As I sit here, at the Navy-Marine Corps stadium of the United States Naval Academy, I’m surrounded by reminders of our military presence and participation in and around the world. Across from the press box, the words, GO NAVY, are visible on the second deck of seats, Battles from Marianas, Philippine Sea, Peleliu, Leyte Gulf, Lingayen Gulf, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Battle of the Atlantic, North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, Normandy, and Southern France are listed along the front of the lower deck.

Being here on September 11th, somehow feels right to me. The men and women who graduate from this amazing place are those who will endeavor to defend our country when terror and evil tries to take over. We must continue, without the need for another horrific event such as happened on 9/11/01, to support their brave decision to put themselves in harm’s way for our sake. Those who stand for justice, honor, and goodness, no matter what military or service branch are answering a higher calling. September 11th should be a day to remember those who died, but it should also be a day to honor those who follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before… much like Memorial Day. Let’s not give evil any more time in the spotlight…

Oh… and remember that ADT guy that I unloaded on earlier in this story? He came back by our house on Saturday morning, after M had returned home. He started his conversation to me with “I see your husband got back home… would you like to discuss a security system now that he’s back?” My response to him was so visceral in its own way that it’s really not fit to print. Let’s just say that he’s never EVER been back to our house to ask about installing an ADT system.

 

I love comments March 29, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Blogs,Communication,Football,Lacrosse,Photography,Sports — beatitudesofmylife @ 8:03 pm

I shouldn’t open myself up on this topic, but I really do love comments… on my blog, on my photography, on activities… it just makes me smile. It probably shouldn’t matter to me whether anyone reads or sees my photos, but it honestly does.  My goal, when I shoot a sporting event, is to cover the game in photos as if I were writing the game with words.  I know I take too many pictures, but it makes me happy.

Case in point:  Tonight, I posted over 500 pictures of a lacrosse game from Tuesday (3/27) and the most vivid comment I got was from a Hood senior who posted the following on my wall:  “those pictures are AMAZING!!! Your pictures captured what happened better then my own memory!”  Wow…. those words had such a positive impact on what I do.  This young man felt compelled to get a message to me regarding how he enjoyed my photos.  What a wonderful endorsement he offered me for my business.

Knowing that people are checking my website (or even my business Facebook page) to see what I captured with my camera pushes me to do my very best every single time.  I know there are parents who live too far away to attend games.  I like to think that I’m providing pictures for these people… so they have the opportunity to “see” a game, even if they can’t be there in person.  If my child were on that field, playing a sport he loves, and I couldn’t be there in person, I would certainly be grateful for any documentation of that accomplishment.   Our kids are young and athletically active for such a short time in their lives that I feel it’s my honor and privilege to capture these endeavors in whatever way I can.  Having people react in a positive way to the photos I take, and send/post comments along the way, just makes it even better.

If you have a moment and can post a comment for me to read, I would be grateful for the feedback.  While my blog is really my own way of getting those random thoughts out of my head, I appreciate any time taken to read these missives.

Oh, and if you have some time to flip through a few photos, please feel free to visit my website:  http://www.alisportshots.com.  I post thousands of pictures of sporting events for High School, College, and Adult leagues.  It’s my passion and my joy… thanks for letting me share both my photography and my thoughts with you, dear reader.  YOU are very much appreciated!

 

How I became a Sports Photographer February 22, 2012

It’s the beginning of lacrosse season and one of my favorite times of the year.  I’m grateful to be busy as a photographer and am constantly reminded just how organically  this career path came to be.  As weird as it sounds, it all started with my kids and my husband… as does much of what is right in my life.

E started playing lacrosse in the fall of his 8th grade year.  He had decided not to play his final season of association football and had opted instead to play lacrosse.  We knew nothing about the sport at that point, so we figured this was just his way of choosing to “do his own thing”.  We supported him, but I made the decision to remain with his former football team as their team mom and equipment coach since I had already committed to them for the fall.  Truth be told, I could have quit that job if I’d wanted to do so, but really loved being on the sidelines and helping the team.  I also felt it was important to show the boys that one doesn’t just quit something if you’ve made a commitment.  I pulled back a bit from football, but still did all the typical organizational stuff that I so loved.   That fall was a bit more chaotic than usual, since we were attending all E’s lax games AND I was going to all the association football games.  D was a sophomore in HS and in the marching band, so his activities didn’t really conflict with all that was going on for E and me.

It turned out that E was a natural on the lacrosse field.  We had parents who asked us where he’d been playing before… that surely this kid hadn’t just picked up a stick and figured out how to play in just a few short weeks of rec ball.  When he asked about trying out for the Middle School travel team, we encouraged him again but were sure he’d be passed over for those who had been playing for longer… instead, he was selected and became a stronger player as this second season went along.  He still was in his very first full year of playing lacrosse, but it was obviously becoming his passion.  We jumped in with both feet and began to learn the rules, help behind the scenes, and do whatever we could to help him improve his skill sets.

He tried out for our local travel lacrosse team when he was in 9th grade and, not surprisingly now, made the team.  Schedules were adjusted to accommodate this expensive hobby and both M and I learned where our own skills would be most helpful to the program.  I found that I loved watching the action of a lacrosse game but I missed being on the sidelines.  Having spent four years on the sidelines for football (M called me a “bench Nazi”) it was increasingly difficult to pay attention to the game itself when parents kept shouting their “helpful words of encouragement” to/at their children.  I wanted to get away from them and do something productive… and then I found a camera…

One of the dads had a Nikon D40X.  It was simple… clean… workable… and I wanted one.  My darling husband found one for me for my birthday in 2008 and the rest, as they say, is history.  I fell in love with the idea of capturing the feeling of a game through photographs.  I asked questions… talked with professionals… experimented with different settings… read countless articles and books… and slowly got better.  I never stop learning about photography but I’m significantly better than when I started.

Around this time, a website that M helps to moderate (gomids.com) made mention that they were looking for someone who’d be willing to be their photographer during the fall Navy football season.  My darling hubby sent me a text asking if I was “interested”…. and I almost fell over trying to quickly text my emphatic YES! back to him before he could rescind the offer. Thankfully, they let me start in the fall of 2008…. and what an incredible journey that has been, but I’ll have to touch on that later.  Still trying to focus on explaining how organically my sports photographer career came to be…

E was still playing club travel lacrosse at this point.  He attended a lacrosse Showcase in the fall of 2008 that really drove home the point to him that his skills really were competitive with many higher level players… he stripped the ball from some kid in one of his first shifts on defense that had parents around us gasping and applauding his talent.  I was taking photos of him as often as I could and it got to be a joke that he was “levitating” down the field when he played, since I seemed to catch him in the air more often than not. I kept asking questions and learned how to take better pictures as we continued to follow E’s lacrosse career.

By this time, I had been given many photo opportunities since getting that Nikon for my birthday and, after fighting and questioning my own abilities, had finally started to call myself a “Sports Photographer”.  I’d earned that title… by now I had been on the sidelines of Navy football for two seasons, I had photographed lacrosse for three seasons, including summer travel games, I had shot volleyball photos for two years and covered the event when E’s HS team went and WON the State Championship, and I’d “taken one for the team” and gotten run over by a referee during a lax game, giving me a black eye for a few weeks. Note: you can see the faint purple mark under my eye in this photo, two weeks after I got the black eye.  I was also cautiously photographing D’s college lacrosse games and learning how to share them with the team via Facebook.  It was time to say I was a Sports Photographer.

Eventually, it came time for E to graduate HS.  E was selected for the Richmond area’s US Lacrosse All-Star game and I was bound and determined to photograph this accomplishment.  When we got to the event, being held at a nearby college, I introduced myself to the US Lacrosse president and asked if I could shoot the game.  I gave her a brief overview of my abilities and promised to stay out of the ref’s way… no need to get plowed over by another one, right?  I walked away to rejoin my family, happy they were going to allow me this small concession.

Here is the cool part of the whole thing for me.  A little while later, this same woman came up to me and asked if I would consider being their “official photographer” for the game… photograph the remainder of the girls game, all the awards presentations, and then photograph the boys game and awards… that their Official Photographer hadn’t shown up to cover the event.  O M G…. how often does something like this literally fall into someone’s lap?  She then asked me about my event charge and my website address…. I quickly collected myself and asked if I could email that information to her after the game…. I had NOTHING at this point!  Wow… talk about organic?  I looked at M and said “I need to figure out how much to charge for an event and I need a website ASAP.”  FYI:  My website address is www.alisportshots.com.

That was in May of 2010… I’ve since been the photographer for Swim Championships, College lacrosse games, Milestone Family events, Senior Nights for volleyball teams, and of course, Navy Football (and lacrosse) for GoMids.com.  It’s been a whirlwind journey for me.  Each time on the sidelines is truly a gift and I am constantly reminded how much I truly adore this job.  I’m blessed to have an eye for sports action and consider each event I photograph to be the most singularly important thing I do at that very moment.  I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in such a short time and am grateful that God has seen me worthy of these blessings.  It truly is magical to do what I get to do…

 

Thoughts on the passing of a legend… January 23, 2012

Filed under: Football,Parenting — beatitudesofmylife @ 9:09 am
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This weekend has been tragic.  Losing an icon such as Coach Joe Paterno was followed with much sadness,  love, and frustration.  News of his early, and unsubstantiated, demise was shocking… reporting his death in the early evening, while he was still alive, was inexcusable.  I can only imagine the frustration and anger his family felt when seeing these statements being toted as fact… commentators all trying to “get a jump on the story” but, instead, creating a need for rebuttals that the Paterno family should never had faced in the first place.  It should have been a time of peace for his family… instead, it’s been something entirely different.

To quote Sue Paterno, “After 61 years, he deserved better”…

When I learned of the scandal at Penn State,  I was as shocked as the next person.   As information was made more fully known, I was even more stunned.  My younger son was the same age as the young man (men, now) who stepped forward.  Remembering E as a 10 year old boy… thinking about what we, as parents, had permitted or done at that time… contemplating how I might have reacted if this were my son involved… and I just couldn’t go there.  You know how Mama Bears react when their cubs are threatened?  I will warn you, dear reader, that I am ten times worse than any stupid bear… I am someone’s worst nightmare when it comes to my boys and their welfare.  NO ONE will get in my way to protect them.

Yet, I cannot find it in my heart to condemn Coach Paterno.  I was not present when he was approached regarding Coach Sandusky.  I was not party to the discussions and questions that followed.  I can look back now and say what should have happened, but I cannot disgrace the legacy of all he built and all he did for the University and the students under his tutelage by second guessing his actions.   I don’t know a single person who was present during any of the situations regarding Sandusky.  Are they absolutely vile and abhorrent to me?  You betcha… but I still cannot condemn Coach Paterno.   The public outcry has been incredibly vocal… calling for the heads of everyone remotely involved to roll.  I totally get that feeling.  While I agree that changes needed to be made, I still believe that allowing Coach Mike McQueary to remain at Penn State (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_McQueary)  is a HUGE mistake… one even greater than firing Paterno.

That being said, I will not be party to small-minded people who believe that their opinions are the only valid ones.   I have friends who have had to walk paths that might be morally or ethically repugnant to others, but since I have not walked in their shoes, I refuse to come down on one side or the other.  My friends have good hearts and they made the best decisions they could, under the circumstances.  I will not play judge, jury, or executioner… and neither should anyone else…

May Coach Joe Paterno find his eternal rest…  and may we all remember the best of him.  Amen.

 

Football… and finding balance… January 4, 2012

Filed under: Football,Life Balance,Parenting — beatitudesofmylife @ 4:02 am

I’ve watched more college football this bowl season than any other in recent memory.  I think a lot has to do with the fact that my boys will sit in the same room with us and watch (yell, scream, criticize, etc) any game that’s on.  In the past, I’ve taken a book and headed off to bed… the games didn’t hold my interest and I just didn’t feel like watching the games any longer.  Recently, I’ve stayed in the room with them.  Listening to them talk that unmistakable “guy language”…. being grateful that they allow me to be a part, no matter how peripheral, in their enjoyment of this sport… enjoying their superstitions… just having them here with us.

I know that, all too soon, D will graduate from college and begin his life… separate from ours.  Two years later, it’ll be E’s turn to pull away and begin his own life as well.  As much as I always say that I want my boys to be “productive members of society”, grow up and have their own lives, I will truly mourn these days.  Having our boys home…. around us… with us… makes my heart happy.  I certainly don’t want them to graduate from college and never return home, but neither do I want them to graduate and then move back home without a plan.

It’s a fine line to walk as a parent.  Trying to push your chicks out of the nest at just the right time but allowing them to know that they’re always welcome home.  How do we do this the “right” way?  Is there a handbook for this stage of our lives as parents?

Having D at my alma mater has been a Godsend for me.  I knew where he was when he’d talk of places on campus… I knew enough people on or around campus that I felt comfortable when he chose a school that was, not only 3 hours away but out of state.  E’s first college experience was made easier for me because I had a wonderful HS friend who helped make the transition more tolerable.  Now that E’s only an hour away, it hardly feels difficult at all.

But if I’m being honest, having both boys away at college is a good thing for all of us.  I had a difficult time with the transition when E went 6 hours away for college.  It took some time for me to find a balance in my life after being so involved with the boys’ HS years.  My sports photography business kept me busy with HS volleyball and Navy football on the weekends with M, but it’s not just been those fall sports.  Both boys’ lacrosse programs have been supportive of me as a photographer… their friends seem to like my pictures and they allow me access that otherwise wouldn’t be available… and M’s been there to help me balance home and business as I add or delete photo events.  When I branched out and started volunteering at the winery, M again was very supportive… he even helped me when I was transitioning into a paid position there. I know I would have been lost without him as my partner… my other half…

We’re creating a life of our own, separate from our parenting world.  We still embrace the boys anytime they want to come home, but we also rejoice when they return to their lives at college.  Maybe that’s where the growth comes in… and the balance…

 

 
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