Cheer Camp Chatter…

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I haven’t had much to say in the past little bit… but tonight I am sitting in a dorm room at UK with so many thoughts shooting through my head that I know the only way to get some sleep is to type them out… so allow me to ramble…

You know that “thing?” That one thing in your life that really gets you going? That fires you up, energizes you, makes you feel alive?  Maybe its a person.  Your spouse or your child.  Maybe it is a hobby, a career, a social issue.  Whatever it may be I think we all have that “thing.”  And those of us who happen to figure out what that “thing” is are truly blessed.  For me, my “thing” is this crazy thing called cheerleading.  Now before you roll your eyes and laugh at me hear me out…  

For the past day and a half I have been at the University of Kentucky with my Warrior Cheerleaders at UCA Camp.  Its basically 4 days where we come together with teams from all over and some of the best cheer staff in the country to do nothing but cheer from sun-up to sun-down.  I realize that for many of you this may sound like cruel and unusual punishment.  And I certainly don’t expect a non-cheer person to get it but for those of us who are cheer people this is a pretty fabulous place to be.  (Especially when it is 70 degrees instead of 95!  A team with a little experience helps too!)  Now I know that everyone can’t relate to cheerleading as a “thing” but I think lots of people can relate to having a “thing”.  Whatever that place is where you kind of step into this role and just plow through.  

I love the movie Remember the Titans and I love Coach Boone.  He is my kind of coach!!  My girls will agree with that, I’m sure!  One of my favorite parts of the movie is where Coach Boone steps onto the empty football field and says, “This is my sanctuary right here.  All this hatred and turmoil swirling around us, but this, this is always right.  Struggling, survival, victory, and defeat.  Its just a game Doc, but I love it.”

 

That’s how I feel about the cheer world.  I love stepping into it.  Sometimes I lose sight of that and forget how true that is but I always come back to it.  For me the cheer world is that place that I can step into and everything else that is crazy falls away.  I know my role.  I know what is expected.  I know the rules. I know the goal.  I know how to move toward that goal.  I know what to do if progress isn’t being made.  Of course obstacles pop up and there are challenges to be overcome, but I enjoy the struggle of overcoming them.  I’m not on my own in the cheer world.  I have coaches that help me, friends in the industry that provide support and guidance, and an army of girls around at all times.  I thrive in this world.  I love the challenge of a new skill and the process of working towards achieving that challenge.  I love seeing a kid do something that they never dreamed they could do.  I love the athleticism, the competition.  I love starting with a group of individuals and ending with a team that has one heartbeat.  Maybe that sounds crazy to you or maybe you can relate to that feeling about whatever your “thing” is.
 
Tonight before putting my girlies to bed, we sat down to talk about our upcoming season – our goals and what it would take to get there.  We talked about not settling.  About continuing to push through and re-do and try again until we get to a place where we are totally comfortable with where we are at and what we can do.  I talked to them about not giving up.  Not everyone gets to compete every time and not every team gets to win every competition but in neither case does that mean you should stop trying.  If it is something you really want, then stopping isn’t an option.  You push and push and push and dig down deep and just keep going until you get where you want to be.  We talked about how if you aren’t getting the results you want but continue to do the same things most likely you will keep getting the same results.  Sometimes we have to approach things from a different angle, go at it a different way.  Those kinds of thought processes are the kind of mentality it takes to be successful not just in cheerleading but in a lot of things.  As I spoke I looked at my high school girls faces staring back at me, nodding their heads, totally getting what was being said.
 
Looking into those faces, I was reminded that this is about so much more than cheer and that the mentality it takes to be successful in this sport is very much the same mentality it takes to be successful in life.  And then a really crazy thought hit me… everything that I had just said to them… the don’t give ups, the keep after it, the fall down 100 times stand up 101… weren’t just things that they needed to hear but things that I needed to hear.  Not only that but things that I needed to hear in terms of the real world, not the cheer world.  See, in the cheer world those thoughts come natural to me.  Of course you don’t stop doing the stunt until you hit it!!  (2 or 3 times in a row).  There is no way I would let one challenge or a few obstacles knock me out of the game in the cheer world.  That national title wasn’t won in a single day, or a single cheer season.  It was built, painfully, from the ground up.  It seemed an impossible task.  It was something that did not seem remotely possible when we started this thing.  It took 8 years, blood, sweat, tears, you name it.  I couldn’t even begin to name off the mountain of obstacles that had to be overcome throughout the years.  
 
But in the real world… I’m that tough demanding coach on the outside, but sometimes on the inside the obstacles are harder to face.  It’s a little bit harder to keep on, keep pushing, keep trying.  I don’t want to try things a different way.  I want to do them my way!  And I’m going to get mad as fire when I don’t get a result different from what I got the last time.  Sometimes, in the real world, I get knocked out of whack and rather than hopping up and giving it another go, I stay there way too long.  I whine about it and wallow in it for a bit.  (Whining is definitely not allowed in my cheer world…ask my girls!)
 
So looking into those faces tonight and saying, “You can’t not do something just because it is hard” just clicked.  I can’t let one bad experience take me out of the sport forever.  I can’t avoid doing something just because it is hard.  I might get knocked down 100 times and it will hurt.  But that’s ok, as long as I get back up and give it another try.  
 
Healing, really healing, is hard.  It’s messy and it’s complicated and frankly, it’s something I would rather avoid than actually do.  But avoiding doesn’t move you forward or get you a different result, that just keeps you where you are at.  I by no means, have this whole real world thing figured out.  Not even close!  I make mistakes.  Sometimes I make dumb choices.  And sometimes those mistakes and choices hurt.  (Most of the time they do.)  I don’t expect to figure all of it out in a single day.  It might take years.  It might take a lifetime!  It might take standing up that 101st time.  But regardless, I have to keep at it…again and again and again.
 
I bet you didn’t know that a person could get all of that from a bedtime chat at cheer camp… but like I said I’m a cheer-person.  (We are weird like that!)  I think I am going to sign cheer coach  Britani up to deliver a few good speeches to real world Britani!  I’m certain that would be a fairly intense situation! 🙂
 
 

 

February Redeemed…

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Yesterday, February 20th, 2014 at 5:35pm we welcomed little miss Nola into the world and I officially became “Aunt Britani.”  I can’t say I didn’t know that I would fall completely and totally in love this little lady the moment I saw her because I have known that would be the case all along.  From the moment I learned that my sister was expecting, I knew that I would love this baby like she was my own.  Maybe that is because I don’t have any children of my own and for the moment it seems that being a mom may not pan out for me the way I thought it might or maybe that is just how all aunts feel, I don’t know but it is definitely a special kind of love that I hadn’t felt before.

Nola was due to arrive February 13th.  We were so anxious to have her here and so worried that she would come while we were in Orlando, that I hadn’t put much thought into the timing of her birth.  It was after she had passed her due date and then passed Valentine’s Day that I realized that she would come right smack in the middle of what three years ago was “the week that the craziness began.”  There are some dates that you never forget because they are happy days that you don’t ever want to forget!  Birthdays of those you love, anniversaries, specials occasions.  Days you just “remember” without any effort.  There are other dates that stick in your brain that you wish you would just forget.  Dates that when they are coming up on the calendar you hope that maybe this year you’ve forgotten.  For me one of those dates is February 19th.  It was on February 19th that I stood in my living room in complete shock as my then husband and his family loaded up all of his belongings onto a trailer as he was “moving out.”  There are details about that day that I remember so clearly.  I am quite certain that I spent the night of February 19th curled up on the floor with my heart literally broken, thinking that the pain of that moment would surely kill me.  February 20th wasn’t much better and from there my life entered a tailspin that I would have never imagined.

On the other side of that date, for the past two years, I have so dreaded February.  As if Valentine’s Day post divorce is not hard enough add in the move out date and you could potentially have a very depressing couple of weeks!!!  This year though was different.  And I think that it is no coincidence that Nola was conceived at such a time that 9 months later she would enter the world and change February forever for an aunt who would be crazy about her.  This year I was able to approach February not with dread but with excitement!  And I think the preparations for February 20th will trump the memories of February 19th for years to come.  I plan to make sure my little lady has the BEST birthday every year and we may even celebrate a day early just because we can!

I’m not sure if this verse is the perfect fit but it is has been running through my mind alongside my February 19th/February 20th thoughts.  Sometime during my crazy time, someone printed out part of Joel 2:25 for me.  It says, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…” and I think that is exactly what God has done for me with the month of February.  He’s given it back to me in a whole new light.  When I asked my sister if she had realized that Nola would be coming  right in the middle of “when the craziness began” she said that maybe God was redeeming that time for me.  I think she was right and I am so grateful and in awe of a God who cares enough about me to fix my February blues.  What special special way to show just how much He loves me.

Welcome to the world baby Nola… we’ve got lots of snuggling (and shopping) to do! 🙂

 

 

 

This Thing I Love Called Cheer…

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Two weekends ago, I traveled with one of my closest friends to Orlando, Florida to be a spectator at the 2014 UCA College Cheer and Dance National Championship event.  This quickly  becoming one of my favorite weekends of the whole year and has proved to be a great way to kick off what I like to call the craziness of “nationals season.”  We spend two days doing nothing but watching cheer and dance teams, analyzing routines, and picking the winners in each division.  We are total cheer nerds and get excited when the winner we’ve chosen is named the national champion.   I loved getting to see kids that I have coached in their respective college uniforms competing as college students.  It is such neat thing to know that you have helped produce cheerleaders who can continue to cheer at the next level!  To say that I would proud would not do the feelings I had justice!  When we aren’t watching the college competitions we are talking about what needs to happen to improve our own teams’ routines.  It is a weekend where we are totally consumed with cheer and I love every minute of it!  We wake up on Monday and rush to the airport to take off and fly into Lexington.  We drive straight from the airport to Somerset, I drop her off at her practice luggage and all and rush to practice my own kids.  We know from this point the next 2 1/2 weeks will be all about our high school cheerleading teams!  I know that I will devote every ounce of physical and emotional energy for that span of time into making sure that I give my kids greatest chance of doing their very best when they themselves head to Orlando to compete.  Although the task sometimes seems overwhelming, the weekend spend in the world of cheer re-engergizes me, fires me up, and gives me whatever it is I need to push on through the next two weeks!
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UCA Nationals 2014

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One of my former Warrior Cheerleaders, Kim, winning her first National Championship with MSU!

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After graduating last year, Sydney is now cheering at WKU!

Today I wake up and the countdown to the night that we leave is in single digits!  NINE DAYS!!  Nine more days to cram in as much practice, performances, and mental preparation before we load the bus and head to Disney.  Even a year later, it is hard to believe what we accomplished last year.  It amazes me still to this day, that somehow I stepped into this cheer world as a nobody and with the help of so many others built a program that brought home its own National Title.  I am so proud of my kids, definitely the 12 that hit that perfect routine last year but not just them.  I am so proud of all the others that came before them.  That continued to push when there was no hope of being called out as first place.  I am proud of the young women who gave everything they had in practice just to try to do better than we had before.  The girls who bought into my dream of building a nationally competitive program even when it seemed totally impossible and slowly (sometimes it seemed painfully slow) and with many tears, trials, and heartaches worked to inch our program forward every year.  I am so very grateful for these young women that I’ve been able to work with over the past 9 years.

I am also so thankful for my own coach, who although she only coached me for half of my senior year, totally changed the course of my life.  She fueled my passion for this sport and then trusted me enough to hand over the program.  In my first years of coaching I didn’t make any decisions without running them by her first and often times even 9 years later I still get her take on things before I make a final call.  The amount of hours we have spent on the phone dreaming, planning, venting, and talking cheer would be an insane totally ridiculous amount if it could ever be calculated.  She has believed in me and  been instrumental in the fact that I get to live out my dream life each and every day.  Somewhere along the way, she became one of my truest, closest friends and the friendship we have is so precious to me.  What began as an attempt to coach a high school team at a very young age, has turned into creating not only an all-star team but building a studio where I get to teach cheer and dance every day.  When people said there was no way to be in school full time at UK and coach a high school team in Somerset, she said, “you can make it work if that is what you WANT.”  When we decided to add an all-star team to our crazy schedule she’s the one that said we can fit it in we WANT to.  When we decided to make that two all-star teams she said, “if that’w what we WANT to do we will find a way to make it work.”  When I decide to open a studio and work full time as a teacher people looked at me like I was totally insane!!  But she still said, “you can make it work if that is what you WANT to do.”   And when I decided to resign from my secure and safe tenured teaching position and people really began to think that the crazy cheer coach had lost her mind, she said, “You HAVE to do it!!  You HAVE to take this opportunity and if you WANT it to work, I know you will find a way to make it happen!”

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This is the Britani-Melanie OH MY GOSH WE DID IT HUG after winning Nationals in 2013

Maybe the two most instrumental people in all of this have been my parents.  I don’t tell them enough but I am thankful every day that God gave me the two best parents in the whole wide world.  I am the person I am today because my parents taught and encouraged me to DREAM BIG.  To go after the things that other people thought were too hard or too crazy.  To give 110% to whatever task was at hand.  When I wanted to go to school full time at UK and coach SWHS at the same time, the only way that was possible was for my mom to interview as the coach.  With her only cheer experience being she had been a cheer mom, she did just that.  How scary to stand in front of a bunch of high school girls, knowing you have no clue how to instruct them on cheerleading!  I think that every cheerleader that has come through our program would say that the lessons they learn from my mom are so much more valuable than motions, tumbling skills, and stunts.  She is the HEARTBEAT of the Warrior Cheer Program.  She does whatever it takes to bring each year’s team together and to motivate and encourage them to become their best.  None of it, not one single success would have been possible without her.  And my dad has got to be the BEST dad in the world.  Most men would roll their eyes at the amount of dance and cheer events and competitions that my dad has sat through but he’s been doing it ever since I have.  From the 5 hour dance recitals he sat through when I was little bitty to the 15 cheer nationals he’s attended he is always there.  When the cheer program didn’t have the money we needed for new poms or new signs he made it happen.  When I wanted to build a studio, he made it happen.  When I wanted to quit my “real” job, he FREAKED out…. and then said DO IT!  I am quite certain that I get my workaholic tendencies from him and in the career path I’ve chosen, those workaholic tendencies are crucial!  I am truly blessed to be supported in every area of my life by my mom and dad.

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To me these two pictures say it all… the work is worth it.  Nothing is impossible if you are willing to put in the work.  I don’t know what will happen in Disney next weekend.  I don’t know how many times in a person’s life they get to witness their team hit a perfect routine in finals and be the last name called in the winner’s circle.  I know that me and my kids are doing everything possible to put our best routine out on those mats again this year.  And I believe that they will do just that!!  Win or lose, we are continuing to build this great tradition that is Warrior Cheer and influence not only each other but a whole new generation of little ones that look up to them.  And I know that after making it through four years of cheering for me… these ladies will be able to do absolutely whatever it is is they decide to pursue in life and be successful.  And that is what this whole cheer thing is all about!

Susie-Homemaker When I Want to Be…

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So anyone that knows me knows that I am totally not a susie-homemaker kind of gal.  I don’t love to cook… I rarely eat at meal at my table… and it’s really rare that I eat something that hasn’t been “cooked” in the microwave!  However, after discovering a spinach-artichoke pizza at the Laguardia Airport on Friday, I knew that the only way to have this pizza again in Somerset would be if I made it myself!  So I ventured into the grocery store to stumble around last night collecting the needed ingredients.  With an impromptu snow day I decided to spend my morning tackling the spinach-artichoke pizza in my rarely used but oh-so-cute kitchen!

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And here it is!  And I have to say that is was super YUMMY!!!  So… it’s not that I can’t cook!  I totally can when I want to and when there is time to do it!  Now I think I’ll enjoy another slice of pizza 🙂

 

Here is the recipe I used if anyone wants to try it out!

http://www.cookingclassy.com/2013/09/spinach-artichoke-pizza/

Might Try This Blogging Thing…

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  Tonight as I am flying back home from my NYC adventure, Colbie Caillat is blaring in my headphones, and there is a fantastic display of lights to enjoy out my window.  I thought this would be a great opportunity to reflect on the past year and begin looking forward to the next.  2013 has arguably been one of the best years of my life!  I accomplished BIG dreams.  But on the other side of that, in the midst of accomplishing big dreams, I struggled to grieve and let go of other dreams.  A few short years ago I would have NEVER imagined my life at this stage as it is now:  single, no children, and running a dance studio.  And although part of that feels like a fairy tale, the path it took to get there was quite the nightmare.  I didn’t just wake up one day divorced and loving life.  Even when I was facebooking “I love my life,” I wasn’t always really loving my life.  Sometimes I was curled up on the bathroom floor wondering how in the world I could make it one more day in this cruel world as a single person!  The very sweet moments of 2013 are probably what carried me through the very dark alone times I experienced.  I can look over the past year and see the journey that I have taken and the growth that has occurred.  I can see positive choices that I have made and mistakes that I have repeated over and over.  As one year ends and another one begins, I am proud of the giants I have slayed in various aspects of my life and I am determined to continue on my journey toward healing, happiness, and being whole.  

One of the biggest shocks of my 2013 was the realization that I had bought into society’s lie that life sort of begins when you are married, or at the very least in a relationship.  For a very independent girl, this was a hard reality to swallow.   Me???  I’m living a lesser life because I am living my life solo??  NO WAY I would have told you!  (With a fiery passion, a few head nods, and some snaps I might add.)  But in reality that was my mentality.  Get through divorce, heal, find someone to start a new relationship with so that “happily every after” can begin again.  After some really hard lessons I came to grips with truly being single.  No special someone to call up for dinner, no last minute movie plans, no one to text good morning and goodnight…just little ‘ole me to make it through the day with.   For the first time in a long time I had to own up to the independent personality that I portrayed to the world.  I had a choice to make.  Would I allow my singleness to define my life?   Would I live life in gray waiting for my prince charming to ride up and save the day?  No.  That is not the life I wanted.  I want to live life to the fullest every day!  Live it big!  In bright colors!  Single or not!  Now it wasn’t over night and it didn’t come easy.  It has been a struggle to say the least but I am starting to get it.  Some days I have to drag the cheer coach voice out and give myself what we cheer coaches like to call “a come to Jesus meeting.”  But I am doing it.  And I am going to keep doing it…. Just some ramblings from the journey…