My Field of Dreams

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America

has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a

blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.

This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all

that once was good, and that could be again. Oh people will come, Ray.

People will most definitely come” –Terrence Mann – “Field of Dreams”

Tonight marks the 20th year that I will ring in the New Year in the press box of the Chick-fil-A Bowl, formerly the Peach Bowl. In a way it is my baseball that Terrence Mann spoke so eloquently about.

My life has changed in ways I could never have imagined back in 1994. When I first was asked to help out the Peach Bowl staff it was a smaller event than it is now.

I came in as the vice-chair of press operations under the chair game operations. I worked closely with the associate director of the bowl, moderating press conferences, helping to distribute the credentials and setting up the press box.

A few of the plaques I have recieved as a volunteer.
A few of the plaques I have received as a volunteer.

Now that they have added more staff and have a more steady volunteer crew, I mainly set up the information table near the entrance and assist the two staff members who over see the every aspect of the press room and photography area. It is a much larger operation than it was 20 years ago.

When I began this adventure I was separated with two small boys. I was the director of marketing and development at a church retreat center and hoped to enter seminary.

20 years later I am married. The two small boys have grown into handsome young men. Our daughter is a high school freshman. I attended and graduated from seminary, changed jobs a few times, and moved 4 times.

My husband now has a contract position with Chick-fil-A as a result of me first meeting his boss in the press box.

No matter what happens during the year, come the end of December, I know where I will be.

Happy New Year!

Visiting with Gary Stokan at the FCA breakfast
Visiting with Gary Stokan at the FCA breakfast
The field prior to the Game in 2012
The field prior to the Game in 2012
Each year a crew of volunteers helps to distribute the statistics to the working press.
Each year a crew of volunteers helps to distribute the statistics to the working press.

Winter Furlough and First Year Cadets

Carolina Cadet Nutcracker and an Army Nutcracker purchased at Target.
Carolina Cadet Nutcracker and an Army Nutcracker purchased at Target.

Winter Furlough for first year Citadel cadets can  bring with it a mixed bag of emotions. While they are very happy to be home and away from the 4th Class system, they also miss their fellow knobs. The friends from high school who went on to non-military colleges can’t relate to the regimented life of a cadet. The process of moving into adulthood and the life of a Citadel cadet is in place by December of knob year.

The downside of Winter Furlough is the news that comes from friends who have decided they want a different college experience and will not return to The Citadel for second semester. While I am sure it is a tough decision not to return, in some ways hearing a good buddy won’t be there second semester can really upset the most devoted knob. I bring this up in case anyone reading this thinks they are alone so they will know they are not.

Some cadets don’t return because of grades. For others, they do not return because of financial reasons. Others decide that they want to attend a non-military college. Whatever the reason, it is hard to leave good friends.

For the knobs who face second semester without a friend, returning in January can be even more difficult. The beginning of second semester is tough for many cadets of all classes. They have spent a month with friends and family, enjoying good food lots of sleep and long hot showers. They return to the cold dark barracks, early morning PT in the damp cold temperatures of the winter. Many first year cadets who haven’t questioned their sanity of choosing this type of college experience, will have their doubts in January and February.

I mention this now as a heads up to parents of first year cadets so you’ll know that if you get a call in January complaining about the school, you’ll be aware that this is normal. As I’ve written in several posts, you know your child the best. If at anytime you have concerns about them and their experience at The Citadel, call the ombudspersons office. They will keep the call confidential and hear your concerns.

How a cadet did academically first semester can be a cause for celebration or concern. Congratulations if your cadet made the Dean’s List (3.2) or Gold Stars (3.7 or higher). The school will publish a list of the cadets on each list. There will also be the announcement of the Commandant’s List and President’s List cadets sometime in January. The President’s List cadets and Gold Star recipients are recognized during the awards parade in January and are invited to a reception at the President’s home after the parade.

If your cadet did not do well first semester it can be a wake up call to reorder priorities. I’ve heard plenty of stories of cadets who didn’t do well their first semester and went on to earn Gold Stars. The academic support office and the individual academic departments can be a great help to cadets, but they must seek the assistance. The sooner they ask for help in a semester the better.

No matter how they did academically, they have made it through the toughest challenge a college freshman can go through and that is cause for celebration!

For now, enjoy your cadet and their stories.

Best wishes to everyone for a wonderful Holiday.

Overcoming Melancholy at Thanksgiving

I haven’t posted in a while. Now that we are past Thanksgiving, 2013, I can begin to move forward.

Thanksgiving 2013 marked 25 years without my mother and 20 years without my dad. Both died the week before Thanksgiving five years apart from each other. The first few years after they died were the toughest. As the years progress the holiday would go by and I would remember the dreary anniversary after the fact.

This year it hit me though. Not enough to put me into a tailspin of grieve, but enough to throw me off my normal activity level. Fortunately I didn’t have to add deployment anxiety on top of grief this year. My oldest son is stateside for now and not scheduled to deploy any time soon.

I learned a lot from both my parents. Something my mom told me in the weeks before she died stays with me. She told me, “People want to help. You just have to tell them how.” This conversation took place in the context of her needs for transportation to medical appointments. My sister carried the lion’s share of the load since she lived near them. My mom wanted us to know we should give people a task if they offered to help.

Jachai reads the letter form Mark Wood as JaVair looks on. photo by Stanley Leary
Jachai reads the letter form Mark Wood as JaVair looks on.
photo by Stanley Leary

I learned through the illness and death of both my parents to appreciate people while you are with them. Let the people around you know you appreciate them. It is said the biggest regret people have is not telling a loved one you care.

My mother’s words came back to me this Fall. As the result of letting someone know about a need, I had the privilege of bringing good news to a young man and his single mother. It was the perfect way to move out of the fog of grief and move into gratitude.

Jachai is a friend of our daughter’s. He is a gifted musician. Through is orchestra program in middle school he met Mark Wood a violinist and founder of the Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp and the Mark Wood Music Foundation. Mark met Jachai and gave him a scholarship to his camp. This past November Jachai was invited to appear with. Mark and nine other students in a concert in Salt Lake City.

A few weeks before his trip someone broke into his sister’s car and stole his viola. When I heard the news of the stolen viola, my mother’s words came to me. I emailed the staff at the Mark Wood Music Foundation and told them about the stolen viola. Within a couple of weeks I received word that the foundation would give Jachai a new viola. They asked me to present it to him on their behalf.

He was thrilled beyond words with his new viola. photo by Stanley Leary
He was thrilled beyond words with his new viola.
photo by Stanley Leary

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving I called Jachai’s mom, JaVair, and asked her to bring Jachai and meet me half way between their home and ours. I assured her it was good news.

My husband and daughter joined me so we devised a plan to surprise them. Stanley and Chelle went in to the restaurant before me to set up their camera and video camera. Chelle text me when they were set.

I walked in carrying two viola’s Chelle’s and the new one. The look of surprise and appreciation was priceless. The rest was caught on video and still images. You can see Jachai and JaVair in this video.

All it took was an email and the kindness of others took over from there.

Wouldn’t it be a great world if each day we looked around us and asked, “What can I do to help my neighbor?”

A wonderful way to start Thanksgiving. Photo by Stanley Leary
A wonderful way to start Thanksgiving.
Photo by Stanley Leary