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.

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!
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Daddy’s Hands

I watched a slideshow of my 4-week-old nephew today (he’s gorgeous and sweet and beautiful) and after seeing a photo of my bro and his wife holding the baby in their hands, I noticed something: We have our dad’s hands, wrinkly knuckles and all. Thankfully my fingers are a bit slimmer, so they don’t look like man hands. 😉

We may never be hand models (well, we could be the “before” pictures), but our hands have been there to hold on to through some tough times. Like my dad’s prostate cancer, my mom’s recent heart scare, finding out Riley was deaf and her cochlear implant surgery, my brother’s hospitalization for dehydration when he was playing college football. They’ve also been great at high-fiving one another: after my brother’s many touchdown runs and 3-pointers, or my triples and strikeouts (I was a pitcher). After my dad’s retirement. After my mom finally became a grandmother…and for the second time. After our kids were born.

It’s funny how you can know a person forever and still discover new things. I’ve never noticed that our hands are the same until tonight. My brother and I are very different in a lot of ways: he’s way cooler than I am. 🙂 But we’re both great parents, good athletes, smart, and we love our family. We may disagree on politics (actually we’ve never discussed it in depth, so maybe we do agree!), we may not like the same kind of music, we may disagree about money and schools and cars, but there’s one thing we will always agree on:

WE ARE FAMILY, and we’ll always be there for each other, wrinkly hands and all.

Later,
Tiff