Beatitudes of my life

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

This is the busiest summer ever! June 27, 2012

Filed under: Cooking,Lacrosse,Life Balance,Parenting,Sports,VA Wine — beatitudesofmylife @ 3:31 pm

I have been incredibly busy this summer… more so than any in recent memory… and I really do love it.  I don’t always have the time to cook or bake or create as I have in the past, but it’s ok.  I’m trying to make time for everything that truly matters, and isn’t that what life is all about?

I started working at a winery this past fall.  I help run the Tasting room at James River Cellars Winery in Glen Allen, VA and I truly love my job.  I’ve been given the tasks of our Constant Contact messages, decorating the chalkboards for our in-house special events, updating our business Facebook page (James River Cellars Winery) and our twitter account (JamesRiverWine), and helping my co-workers in their tasks as needed.  I don’t have any specific title or job description… while it’d be fun to have an actual title other than “ABC Manager”, I really don’t need one.  I am learning to look around and find things that I can do to make things run better or be more organized.   I adore taking time with our customers to find wine that makes them happy… I have learned to cook with each of our wines and enjoy sharing this information whenever I have the opportunity.  This job has become a part of me and I am having a fabulous time!  Note:  the photo here was taken by Sarah Haussen of the VTC.

Both my sons are home this summer, which adds another element to our day-to-day activities.  D graduated from Hood in May and, two days later, he began taking classes that will help him in his ultimate goal of becoming a Certified Athletic Trainer.  My heart swells when I think of how far he’s come in the past four years… I even got teary with one of his professors when they proceeded to not only tell me how great he’d be as a trainer but they went into detail on his many attributes.  Proud mama could barely keep from sobbing.  E applied for, and got, an internship in an Anti-Money Laundering program.  He’s earning money, learning how hard it can be to work a full 8 hour day, and more appreciative of his “off time” than ever.  Additionally, both boys are playing in a men’s summer league lacrosse program AND coaching youth lacrosse travel teams – getting to see them each excel in their own ways in similar activities has been a blast.

Lest you think that we don’t have enough going on, M is playing softball again!  Not only was he asked to join a locally sponsored team but he was also talked into playing for a work-sponsored team… it’s been interesting trying to add in all the games of both teams AND try to attend as many of everyone’s games as possible.  Yikes… My camera is getting a great workout!

Busy is great… wish I had more hours in the day so I could get caught up on sleep, but I’ll have enough years later when we’re not following the boys all over hither and yon, so I’ll suck it up for now.  Gotta cut this short cuz we’ve got an RSLL lacrosse game again tonight… and M has a doubleheader softball game… good thing I have tomorrow off, right?

Cheers, all!  Come visit me at the winery sometime… I’ve got some great wines to offer you!

 

 

A story with an unhappy ending… April 28, 2012

Filed under: Lacrosse,Parenting,Sports — beatitudesofmylife @ 7:08 pm
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Be forewarned… this is a story without a happy ending.  As much as I wish for a better ending, this is not possible… and all this disappointment is because of one man.  Let me begin where all stories should begin… at the beginning.

My older son, D, started playing lacrosse in his junior year of HS.  His brother had been playing the sport for a few years and had truly found his sport.  E had always been a natural athlete, but this sport just fit him to a “T”.  As a result, D decided to try his hand at the same sport.  He loved it, but he always had to work harder to pick up and master the skills that seemed to come naturally to his younger brother.  Where this could have created a great deal of jealousy, my boys seemed to use it as a bonding point.  They would discuss different ways of stringing a stick, debate offensive and defensive strategies, and were able to enjoy each another’s achievements without allowing it to create an antagonistic relationship between them.  They have always been each other’s biggest cheerleaders and for that, I will always be incredibly grateful.

When D  was a senior and making his college selection, he had narrowed his choices to two very different schools.  He was making the choice between a large in-state public university where he could be part of the marching band OR he could choose a small private out-of-state college where he had the opportunity to be a Varsity athlete.   He thought long and hard about this choice, but ultimately chose to go to a school where he had the chance to be a varsity athlete.  Having him choose my alma mater (the small, private, out-of-state school) made my heart sing, but the deciding factor for him was the possibility of playing college lacrosse… something he had never thought would be possible.  He was in heaven.

Playing lacrosse at this Division III college was a unique experience.  Since the college had only recently become a co-ed institution, their lacrosse program was very new.  When D attended his accepted students day, Coach D was the head coach; a great guy who was energetic and positive.  By the time D began his freshman year, Coach D had stepped down (he had accepted a new position at his job and it didn’t allow him time to devote to being the head coach) and Coach F had taken over.  Coach F was another positive guy; hard on the guys but fair in terms of discipline and expectations.  Coach F remained for two years and then Coach M took over just before D’s junior year.

From a parent’s perspective, Coach M was a nightmare in many ways.   His behavior embarrassed me, as an alum, but the seniors begged parents not to complain.  They were concerned that if coach found out whose parents complained that there would be repercussions for them on the field or in the amount of game time they might see.  We tried to give him the benefit of the doubt… the college must have seen something positive in him when they hired him, right?  D actually played in a few games during his junior year… making it into 6 games when the score difference was large enough to justify his participation.  He moved to long stick after spring break that year and was as positive as ever.  He asked me to please not say anything negative regarding my impressions of the coach and I tried mightily to honor his request.

D’s senior lacrosse season had a rough start when Coach M didn’t play him in any of the Fall Ball tournament games.  By Spring, we were determined to see as many of his game as possible, since this was his final season, and traveled to a majority of his games, both on campus and off.  I had been the team’s photographer since D’s freshman year, so I made his schedule my priority throughout the spring.  Each time we saw a game, no matter the final score, D was consistently positive, focused, and determined…. even though he never got to play in the game.

Injury plagued D throughout his college lacrosse career.  He had ankle, shin, and knee problems that kept him from being 100% at times, but he never failed to participate to the best of his ability.  His determination to be part of this team, no matter the amount of playing time, was a constant source of awe for us.  He put up with so much and worked so hard to be a contributing part of the team that we, stupidly, were hopeful about seeing him play at some point during his senior season.

As the season came to a close, we were truly hopeful that we’d seen the worst that Coach M could offer… surely he’d recognize the contributions and dedication that D had shown for four years…  but it was not to be.

Senior Night versus Marymount University started out in grand fashion.  The boys played their hearts out and held the lead for the entire game.  Sadly though, Coach M decided not to include THREE of our seniors.  All these three young men had been part of the team for four years, enduring 6AM practices, only two or three days off for Spring Break each year, and then were snubbed on the single day that was to have been dedicated to their contributions.  It was maddeningly offensive to me, but my son’s focus was, as always, on the team.  He was ok with the idea of not having played, because they won the game.  I could only stand on the sideline and fume privately as both hubby and son pleaded with me not to make a scene.  I honored their request… as much as I resented the need to do so… but prayed that honor would prevail for my son and the other seniors on their final game, played this past Friday.

D’s final college game was played on Friday, April 27th… but D did not play.  They lost that game 9-3.   When one of the other seniors, who had made it into the game, asked Coach M to put all the seniors in for the final 2 minutes of the game, he was told to shut up.  D and one other senior never saw the field.    Sadly, the ONLY time D made it onto the field during his entire senior MLAX season had already come and gone; during the Salisbury game on April 7th, when they lost 29-1…. and we weren’t there.

I wish I could say that I was enlightened enough to look at this situation from a more positive vantage point…. however, I truly believe that there was no earthly reason why my son was not included in either his senior night OR his final game in a Hood College uniform.  My son has endured all the elements that God can offer just to play the game he loves… but his coach, who should have had the foresight to realize the lasting impression he was providing my son and his fellow seniors, couldn’t be bothered.

I wish I could say that this story has a happy ending, but it doesn’t.  D’s college lacrosse career ended with nothing more than a tongue lashing at the team by their coach.  What should have been his happiest game, was not to be.

I am filled with pride for my son and his fellow seniors for the class they showed in persevering through four years of hard work to earn college degrees AND participate in four years of varsity lacrosse.

This coach hurt my son… and I will NEVER forget…

 

 

The worst thing about sports can sometimes be the parents… April 1, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Lacrosse,Parenting,Photography,Sports — beatitudesofmylife @ 6:58 pm

I just came back from a weekend of varying degrees of lacrosse.  It was all “college level” but I’m convinced, more than ever, that the worst thing about sports, and enjoying sporting events, can sometimes be the parents.  I’m all for following your child’s athletic endeavors… cheering their team on to victory… commiserating when referees and officials make calls you deem questionable… but that’s about the ONLY place where I agree.  Our job, as parents, is NOT to coach our children, if we are not the coach.  We are to be supportive… nothing more and nothing less.

Friday night, we were on hand for two club lacrosse games.  The first game was pretty tame… parents complained about calls that were either made or missed, depending on their point of view.  I was spared much of what was said… I’ve learned to plug in a single ear bud and listen to some “head banging tunes” while attempting to shoot the game from a photographer’s point of view.

That being said, the second game was a huge challenge for me.  I had my music going…  Drowning Pool “Bodies”, DMX “Where the Hood at” and “Ruff Ryders Anthem”, along with Fort Minor “Remember the Name”, Kings of Crunk “Get Low”, and Steve Aoki/Laidback Luke “Turbulence” were all shuffling through my playlist.  We were playing a traditionally rough team, but I was unprepared for a MOM to yell “make him sorry” when our goalie left his net to bring the ball into play.  A mom?  Really?  The rest of the game was equally frustrating.  Our parents were primarily cheering generic and positively focused themes of Poke check!… Get the Ball!… Go Hoos!, while the opponent’s fans had reached down and came up with “Hit Him!… Crush Him!… Get Him!  Thankfully, this was a blissfully short game.  Two running halves with the entire game completed in an hour.  I don’t think I could have taken much more that evening.

Sadly, I was in store for much worse the following day. The game I was shooting Saturday was a conference lacrosse game that was not expected to be a win for us.  We were hopeful for a “good game” against a historically tough opponent but I was truly unprepared for how bad things got over the course of the game.  The boys were putting forth, in my opinion, a valiant effort against a team that had blown them out in the past.  To be within a handful of goals by halftime was amazing and I was proud of the work done these young men.

What was most upsetting was when one of our parents decided to personally heckle and single out a player on the other team.  Seeing him sink to this level, in a college game, made me embarrassed to be on the same team.  Clearly, no one had ever stood up to him while his son was in HS to explain that this sort of behavior was neither productive nor helpful.

Youth and college sports are terrific places for our children to learn life lessons… what to do… what NOT to do… how to portray yourself in public… how to make your point without turning into a bully or using inference to try and turn others to your twisted version of reality.   Our children are watching us… they are watching to see how we handle situations and they will mimic what they see, especially if it’s shown to be an acceptable behavior.  If we yell at the ref, scream at players on the other team, or whine when we don’t get our way, doesn’t it stand to reason that our children will repeat this behavior and become our own worst nightmares?

Two weeks ago, I was unhappily invited into one such situation within our High School/youth program.  A disgruntled parent decided to voice their opinion to the coach…something perfectly acceptable within the confines of a private conversation.  The problem came when this parent decided to voice their displeasure to the entire team, coaches, and myself (the athletic director) while insinuating that they were not the only disappointed family within the program.   ” I know I am not the only parent concerned just the parent willing to express my concerns”.  After saying that they “respected what we are trying to do”,  the parent went on to complain that their team was being “set up for failure” and that they “do not have any chemistry as our opposition has pointed out”.   If a parent wants to voice this concern to a coach, I support that right.  When that same parent decides to call an entire program into question by complaining in a blanket email, I take great exception.  I was LIVID…

Over the next few days, there were some terrific messages that were sent out to the entire team… defending the coach, our program, our schedule, and our kids.  No one called this parent out for their message but everyone who took the time to respond did so by sharing the way they try to raise their kids.  Praise in public… reprove in private.  Wasn’t this part of what we were supposed to learn as kids…. so we could teach the same thing to our own kids when we became the adults?

I was blessed to have been placed in a humbling situation just after I got married.  We were watching a HS football game in Michigan and the kicker was having a hard time getting the ball off before being tackled by the other team.  I was feeling “above it all”, since we didn’t know anyone on the team, and thought it was a good idea to yell that they should replace the kicker… get some kid who could get the ball off… when a parent on the team told me to “shut up… he’s doing the best he can”.  Wow.. such a small comment but it had a huge impact on me.  I sat back, embarrassed for having been yelled at in public like a little kid, but I got it.  The kicker was doing the best he could… and if I couldn’t cheer positively, I wasn’t welcome to cheer at all.   After 24 years, the sting of realizing that I was being a verbal bully, even if that kicker couldn’t hear me, still remains in my head and colors how I see things today.

As parents, we have the ability to make their kids into sportsmen (and women) or into bullies.  As parents, we have influence over their kids that can help build or break a program.   As parents, we should all THINK BEFORE WE SPEAK/WRITE and ask ourselves…. is this message helpful or hurtful… am I acting in the best interest of my child… would my child be embarrassed if they knew what I had said/written?

Let’s all do our part to raise the game, whatever the game may be, to a higher standard than is currently in vogue.  Let’s teach our children how to be positive… responsible… respectable.  Free speech isn’t always free…. sometimes there’s a tremendous cost in how it affects our community.  Think, people, before you cheer.   Let’s teach our kids to build one anotherup instead of tearing each other down…

 

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!

 

A quick commentary on parental travel March 3, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Communication,Lacrosse,Parenting,Photography,Sports,Uncategorized,Volunteering — beatitudesofmylife @ 8:15 am

It’s a Saturday in March and we are getting ready to drive 3 hours to MD to watch my son’s lacrosse team play.  Mind you, our son D isn’t playing… he’s got an Avulsion Fracture on his ankle and is on “complete rest” for 5 days before he can even start rehab.  It’s just “what we do” when our kids’ teams are playing and we have any possible opportunity to watch and attend the game.  Is this craziness or just parenting?

We’ve always been this way.  If our boys were on a sports team, we were in the stands (or tramping out onto the opposite sideline) to support their efforts.  It’s never really been an issue of whether or not our son gets his moment on the field… it’d be nice to see him play, but that’s really not my focus.  The primary reason for being there is to show our support in the most tangible way… we’re THERE.

No matter the level of sport played, there’s always a component of dedication that must be present in the player.  Youth leagues, High School, Travel programs, College… they all require participation on the part of each student-athlete.  In my humble opinion (IMHO), I believe the part we play as parents is simply to be present at any venue in which our kids participate.  It’s not an issue of how many minutes they play…. it’s not whether they’re even physically able to be on the field.  It’s the idea that our kids have made this choice… this commitment… to get up each day, get out on that field, and be a part of a team so we need to support them.

My younger son has had many more years of parental participation with regards to his sporting choices, simply because D came to lacrosse much later in his HS career.  M and I were on athletic boards, M has done websites for most, I have volunteered to be the team mom or “Athletic Director”, depending on the needs of each program in which our boys belonged.  I am still the Athletic Director (scheduler) for Richmond Shock Lacrosse, simply because I’ve been doing the job for the past 5 years and just can’t seem to (want to) hand it off.  Sports can be a business, but they can also be a saving grace that allow parents to do the “behind the scenes” work and still remain supportive of their childrens’ efforts.

We may gripe and whine about all the travel we have done, and have yet to do, but I would never trade it for an extra hour of sleep.  I know this hectic chaos has a lifespan and will all-too-soon become a memory.  Being on the sidelines of our boys games is a privilege.  It’s a gift to be able to see our boys do something they love, even if they don’t ever make it to the field on any given day.  Seeing D on the sidelines, bolstering his friends and helping to coach them in their efforts, is worth the lack of sleep.  He’s going to graduate in a few short weeks and this too will be  part of his past.  I just can’t imagine being anywhere else but AT THE GAME.

I’ll sleep in next week… for now, it’s off to the lacrosse game of the moment!  Go Hood Blazers… we believe in you and WE SUPPORT YOU!

 

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…

 

 
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