The Running Dream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This post originally appeared at BookendBabes.com.

Low Places

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

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

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

Beer and ball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alabama: National Champions: A family affair (Part 2)

Part 2 of the 2009 edition of Crimson Tide football and family

Dec. 2
Just when we thought things were getting back to normal, Daddy faced another setback. A lingering fever signaled an infection that landed him back in the hospital, facing more surgery, at least three procedures.

Dec. 5 Florida (SEC Championship), 32-13
Momma, Michael, Ryan and I watched this one with Daddy in the unit, along with the other patient and nurses, who were all Bama fans. For the first three quarters, we took shifts with him so we didn’t tire him out too quickly. In the fourth quarter, we all gathered around his bed and watched the Tide finish off the Gators and earn a trip to the National Championship game in Pasadena. Finally!

Dec. 12 NYC
Sophomore running back Mark Ingram of Flint, Mich., became Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy winner. I was as nervous watching this as I was watching The Drive that beat Auburn.

Dec. 16 Surgery day
Daddy underwent an axillo-bifemoral bypass, the removal of the infected aortic stent and the removal of part of his bowel. The surgeries went well, and Momma, Michael, Ryan and I were able to go see him a couple of hours afterward.

Dec. 25 Christmas
Ryan, Riley and I took presents and a little fiber optic tree to the cardio-thoracic recovery unit where Daddy was. The gifts and our visit cheered him up. Momma said the next day that our visit really helped lift his spirits.


We’ve been to see him as much as possible between school and work, and finally just before the new year, Daddy got to move to a regular room.

Jan. 7 Texas (BCS National Championship), 37-21

Daddy was released from the hospital and sent to a rehab center at a nursing home closer to their house. He made it in time to watch the title game. Again, I had to work, but at least I was at home. I texted Daddy before the game and got a “Roll Tide” back. I was unhappy with the way this one started – it was like Auburn all over again – and I hated to see Colt McCoy get hurt. But I loved the 24-6 halftime score.

However, the conservative third quarter made me nervous. And 24-21? Yikes! But I was confident that Bama’s run game could keep the clock moving and our defense could tighten up and stop the Longhorns. And they did.

Marcell Dareus, Eryk Anders and Mark Ingram came up big. Heisman jinx? No such thing. Sports Illustrated jinx? Whatever. McElroy played with two cracked ribs, Ingram was banged up and linebacker and soon-to-be NFL star Rolando McClain was given fluids before the game and at halftime after suffering a stomach virus all week.

Heart. Toughness. Dedication. All part of Coach Nick Saban’s process. Focus on the journey and you’ll arrive at your destination.

I think that philosophy could help Daddy, too. (And me as I start on a new path in a few weeks.) Ryan, Riley and I went to see him yesterday at the rehab center, where he’ll be for three weeks. He and Momma were tickled by the championship T-shirts we took them. It was good to see him in a sweat suit instead of hospital gown and without all the tubes and drains.

We all took a stroll with him down the hallways, and he said he was looking forward to starting his physical therapy today. I hope he puts in good work and is able to get home by February. I know he is ready.

Alabama: National Champions: A family affair


This season of Alabama football took me on a roller coaster ride, despite finishing the season a perfect 14-0. The Crimson Tide has always been special to my family, and this year was no different. Although, circumstances kept us from watching as many games together as usual, Bama football was still a family affair.

Sept. 5 Virginia Tech, 34-24

Sept. 12 Florida International, 40-14


Sept. 19 North Texas, 53-7
I just remember this being an early game on Fox and being glad I didn’t have to buy it on PPV, which I would have done. And early season backup QB Star Jackson led a TD drive. Then I went in to work.

Sept. 26 Arkansas, 35-7

Oct. 3 Kentucky, 38-20

Oct. 10 Ole Miss, 22-3
Bama intercepted four Jevan Snead passes, but it only scored one offensive TD … by Mark Ingram, of course. Leigh Tiffin kicked five field goals. Ryan, Riley and I watched the game at home.

Oct. 17 South Carolina, 20-6

This was Riley’s 8th birthday, and we were at Walt Disney World. We hit the Magic Kingdom first, had lunch with all the princesses, rode the dizzying tea cup, race cars, the Astro Orbiter, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We headed back to our room to let Riley open her DSi and Three Musketeer Barbie dolls. Then we plopped down on the beds and watched the Tide whip the Gamecocks at the most magical place on Earth. Ingram’s 246 yards rushing landed him on some Heisman watch lists.

Oct. 24 Tennessee, 12-10
I wasn’t able to watch this game closely because I had to work, but it was probably a good thing. Otherwise, I may have thrown something at the TV at home. I had my emotions a bit contained at work. However, I did see the key blocks, thanks to a co-worker and fellow Tide fan who was nice enough to arrange his TV so I could see, too. I downloaded this one from SECSports.com, so I could watch at my leisure.

Oct. 31 Open

This is where things got crazy for my family. On Halloween, we carved our jack-o’-lanterns, Momma came over, and we went to hang out with friends. While we were eating dinner and making trick-or-treat plans, Daddy had an abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture, or AAA.

He’s very lucky that he called Momma and listened to her when she told him to call 911. The blood was leaking into his abdominal cavity and was life-threatening. He went through four hours of surgery to put a stent in his aorta and was in the critical care unit for six days. He spent another 13 days in a regular room, including the LSU and Mississippi State games. We spent lots of time in the hospital waiting room.

Nov. 7 LSU, 24-15

Riley and I drove to the hospital in Florence to hang out with Daddy and Momma and to watch the game. Daddy was in good spirits, and we watched most of the first half together. However, the rooms are so small and an 8-year-old can only take so much, so we headed to my cousin’s so she could play. I watched the rest of the game with her husband, a big Auburn fan, who kept trying to discount Ingram’s Heisman candidacy by saying “he isn’t even the leading rusher in the conference,” that AU’s Ben Tate was. If that was true, it didn’t take long to rectify because Ingram ran for 144 yards. QB Greg McElroy also had a nice game with 2 TD passes. After the game, Ryan & I went back to the hospital to discuss the win with Daddy. He was pleased.

Nov. 14
Mississippi State, 31-3
This game is always played the week of Daddy’s birthday, Nov. 11. This year he celebrated in the hospital and with a butt-kicking of the Bulldogs. It was also my first time live-blogging with the fine folks at Roll Bama Roll.

Nov. 21 UT-Chattanooga, 45-0
Senior Day whoopin. And another Saturday at work. Daddy actually got to watch this one at home since he was released from the hospital Nov. 18.

Nov. 22 Griffin born

Another big day for our family: My brother and his wife welcomed Griffin, on his due date. Big brother Lincoln proclaimed him to be “perfect!” And he is.

Nov. 26 Thanksgiving

We celebrated Thanksgiving at Momma and Daddy’s with the traditional turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, mac & cheese, pasta salad and rolls. It was good to see Daddy eat some good food and watch a little football with him.

Nov. 27 Auburn, 26-21

Who thought playing the Iron Bowl on the day after Thanksgiving was a good idea? It was dumb. And I had to work in the office. Let’s just say that my co-workers who are Auburn fans were not too happy with me. 🙂 Few people were working during the game, so I didn’t feel bad about my outbursts. However, on one of those big AU plays, I did hurt my hand by banging my fist on the desk too hard. I got a text from Ryan late in the game: “What do ya think?” My reply? “Bama’s going to win.”

To be continued ….

Who says women hate football? Not this woman!

I’m so happy that football is back! Fall would be boring without it. What would I do? Sew, cook, shop? Scrapbook? Garden? Get my nails done? Yeah, right.

Give me a Mountain Dew, my Bama shirt on Saturdays, my new purple #4 shirt on Sundays, some Golden Flake barbecue chips and my remote controls and I’m a happy girl. Throw in a Hershey Special Dark bar and I’m in heaven. 😉 (By the way, I got my exercise in early today, walking a mile around the neighborhood while Riley rode her bike.)

I love watching the Alabama Crimson Tide, and thanks to Brett Favre unretiring and my joining a fantasy league for the first time, the NFL will even be interesting this year.

Last night, Ryan, Riley and I headed over to some friends’ house to catch the Bama game on PPV. I tried really hard to be chill and watch the game, but I just couldn’t contain myself, especially when Bama busted coverage on a 3rd and long from the FIU 2 to give the Panthers a big gain. Or when they let FIU run a kickoff back for a score. Compared to watching at home, though, I was laid back. LOL

After being shaky early in its first two games against Virginia Tech and FIU, Bama made some adjustments and picked up the pace. The Tide must get a handle on special teams, though, or that’s going to be a recipe for disaster in SEC play. There’s no excuse for giving up a a touchdown on a kickoff return two weeks in a row. That must stop.

Know what I’m really enjoying? The talent Alabama has. One running back is injured? Put in another who will rack up 100 yards and a touchdown or two. True freshman Trent Richardson got it done last night when Mark Ingram (last week’s star runner) went out with a sprained ankle.

Mike McCoy (80) stepped up and went for about 100 receiving yards and a TD when starter Julio Jones injured his knee early in the game.

QB Greg McElroy (12) completed a school-record 14 straight passes at one point and completed throws to seven different receivers. Nose guard Terrence Cody even got in on some offensive action when he led the way on a TD run.

Speaking of Cody (62), he made some good stops on defense (look left) and Marcel Dareus and Rolando McClain had great games for the Tide. I love seeing Bama’s defensive guys put a lick on the opponent. Makes me want to suit up and hit somebody. Rawr!

Oh, yeah, Notre Dame and Tennessee lost yesterday, which made Bama’s win even better.

Right now, I’m switching between the Atlanta-Miami game (ATL’s Matt Ryan is my fantasy QB, but not my “fantasy” QB, which is Favre) and the Dallas-Tampa Bay game (DAL’s Jason Witten is my TE). My team is losing, and I’m just trying to figure out how the scoring works. I’ve got more games today and tomorrow, so maybe I can catch up. Also, I’m hoping former Tide QB Brodie Croyle has a good day and doesn’t get hurt in his start with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Thanks to Lance at RollTideBama.com for letting me use the photos above. Check out his site for more Bama news and photos.

Roll Tide! Go, Favre! Go, Chiefs!

Higher and higher

Saturday we went to a local water park with some friends, and Riley impressed me (OK, and scared me a little) with her courage. She jumped off the high dive. My knees were quivering, but I didn’t want my anxiety to make her afraid, so I kept it to myself. (Her friend had already done it (and even off the first platform, and Riley decided she wanted to try.)

She climbed up the first time, got about halfway down the board, then turned around and backed down the ladder. The second time, she jumped into water – all 15 feet of it. And the third climb was also a success. She tried a fourth time but decided the board was too “wiggly” and came back down.

I was so proud of her for trying and then overcoming her fear. But, boy, my stomach was in a knot. 🙂
Last night, I had an argument with myself. It went like this:

“What were you thinking, letting her do that?!”

“She is fine! Nothing happened, and she can swim now! Isn’t that great?”

“Yeah, but what if she’d slipped? What if she’d fallen?”

“She didn’t. She had fun, and she’s not a scaredy-cat like me. Stop.”

Finally, I just said a prayer, thanking God for keeping her safe and for her courage. And I was able to sleep. 🙂

My heart

Riley is spending the week with my parents, and I call every day to talk to her. I called this morning and my dad told me something she said that nearly broke his and my heart.

Riley: “Pawpaw, why do have to wear implants? Why can’t I talk?”

After a choked-up pause, Daddy told her, “You can talk as good as anybody else. You sound just fine.”

He said it broke him up to hear her say that and wondered if someone had told her she couldn’t talk right.

It’s possible, but I certainly hope not.

When she gets in a big hurry, we tell her to slow down and use her words, but we never tell her she can’t talk correctly. We just tell her to use her words so everyone can understand her.

I hope that hasn’t prompted her questions. Looks like it’s time for more positive reinforcement.

By the way, she’s sounded awesome on the phone this week, appropriately answering all my questions about Vacation Bible School, doing math with Pawpaw and having fun.

And the best thing, I hear every day? “I love you!”

Game On: Running Matters

If you’re at Dick’s Sporting Goods anytime soon, grab a copy of Game On and read my article “Running Matters.” It’s about how running is good for your mind and body. And it’s my first national article.

It’s not online, but I will scan it soon and upload it to my here. In the meantime, I’ve landed two more national assignments … turned one in Friday and another is due this Friday. I’m also working on two features for Birmingham Parent.

My latest story in Birmingham Parent is about siblings of children with special needs. It’s about how to make sure siblings get adequate time with their parents, too.

My story on Baby Myths is featured in Cincinnati Family, MetroFamily, Montana Parent and Nashville Parent this month.

Also, my piece on plastic surgery and teens is online at Charlotte Parent.

If you haven’t checked in with Sound Check Mama lately, please do. Lots of interesting stuff going on there.

And if you like baseball, visit Braving the Diamond, my blog at MLBlogs.com. I started it as a way to get back into Major League Baseball and keep up with the Atlanta Braves.

Dream Come True

One of the dreams I’ve had for Riley since she was born came true Saturday. She played her first softball game. I’ve been waiting 6 years for this day, and it was worth it. Seeing her swinging that bat, running the bases and stopping and throwing the ball made my heart so full. And except for a little trouble with the batting helmet, we had no problems with her cochlear implants, and she was able to hear the coaches telling her when to run and when to stop.

I started softball when I was 6 and played for 20 straight years, until I started working nights as a sportswriter. My mom and dad both played; heck, my little brother and I practically grew up on a ballfield. While they played on the field, we played behind the bleachers, using a wadded up paper cup as ball and our hands as the bat. My husband played baseball for years, too, and we both ended up with college scholarships.

Yeah, it’s a little selfish that I want her to play because I get such enjoyment from it, but I have other reasons. It’s healthy, it will keep her out of trouble and it will help her make friends and give her confidence.

The only trouble we had with her Freedoms was when she tried to put on her batting helmet the first couple of times. She got nervous and rushed and kept knocking the magnet coil off. Thankfully, on her third at-bat, she had figured out the way to do it and was ready to go.

This is her first at-bat; she went 3-for-3 in an 18-17 loss. In T-ball, each team bats until it scores six runs or makes three outs.

Here’s Riley taking third on a basehit by a teammate. She didn’t score this inning, she did after her final at-bat.

Here’s Papa making an emergency glove repair in the second or third inning. The lace along the thumb came out and had to be restrung and tightened. It worked because Riley stopped a ball later in the game when she was playing centerfield.

After the game she said, “The Pink Panthers didn’t win, but maybe next time.” Except for the nervousness over the helmet with her first two at-bats, everything went smoothly. She knew where to run, how to stop the ball and where to throw it. It was an awesome experience. Even if she decides she doesn’t want to play again, I will treasure this season with my little softballer. Go, #17! Go, Pink Panthers!
http://www.blogger.com/img/videoplayer.swf?videoUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fv1.nonxt3.googlevideo.com%2Fvideoplayback%3Fid%3Dc55e452e8e949fdf%26itag%3D5%26begin%3D0%26len%3D86400000%26app%3Dblogger%26et%3Dplay%26el%3DEMBEDDED%26ip%3D0.0.0.0%26ipbits%3D0%26expire%3D1266314959%26sparams%3Did%252Citag%252Cip%252Cipbits%252Cexpire%26signature%3D32F0A3CD3DF209963ADBC684DE50B36A4200416B.409D134BAA305BF79F897F4183608F05D53E3CA8%26key%3Dck1&nogvlm=1&thumbnailUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fvideo.google.com%2FThumbnailServer2%3Fapp%3Dblogger%26contentid%3Dc55e452e8e949fdf%26offsetms%3D5000%26itag%3Dw320%26sigh%3DbMtmsq9S5ElJZMBQ-YxC1AC6dX0&messagesUrl=video.google.com%2FFlashUiStrings.xlb%3Fframe%3Dflashstrings%26hl%3Den