Change Sucks!

My son Christopher cried himself to sleep tonight.  No one was mean to him.  His pet did not die. He was not hurt or in trouble, he was just sad.  Sad because a part of his life that he loves is changing.  He asked me before he went to bed, “Do you think he will forget about me?  What if we never see him again?”  I cried myself thinking about how sad this change is making my son.  His heart has been touched by this person and he will never be the same again.  In fact, he will be better for the experience, but it is difficult.  There is fear, uncertainty, and sorrow for him. But for his friend, there is hope,  challenge and growth.  Christopher sees the good and bad parts of the situation, but for him, the change is not wanted so it is sad.  CHANGE SUCKS!

I know.  Change is inevitable.  Sometimes we even seek change.  A change of scenery, a new job, a new home, a new friend or the release of an old one.  But for the most part, change requires adjustment.  It is uncomfortable, scary, exciting, invigorating, nauseating….lots of things.  Plus, sometimes seeing the good in change requires clarity, focus and empathy.  All tools that are non-existent in most 10-year-old boys (and their 47-year-old mother!)

The Coppinger clan is going through a big ole’ bunch of change lately.  In addition to losing a beloved coach to the next step in his baseball career, my husband Jim has a newish job that now requires him to travel.  The kids hate it.  They are very attached to their routine.  Heck, every night of the week one or two of them are still snuggled in Jim’s lap after dinner watching TV.  His leather recliner is overflowing with arms and legs while he smiles from ear-to-ear under it all.  It can’t possibly be comfortable, but each and every night, there they sit like a pile of puppies.  On the nights that Jim is gone, things just do not feel right and we all struggle to find comfort in each other.

Add to that the fact that Jim’s 90+ parents are in a rehab facility after making themselves sick.  They can’t see – or really even bend over enough – to clean their home properly so they got sick,  It took me and a crew of professional cleaners 6 hours to get the townhouse ALMOST clean.  It seems unreasonable to go back so we would like for them to move into an assisted living apartment.  But they are very independent (in this case that is just another word for stubborn) and really want to go back to their very own filth where they are in control.

I understand!  It can not be great to contemplate where you want to spend your final period of time on the planet and have it be filled with doctors, nurses, aids and about 50 other old people. They won’t listen to us, after all we are their children, what could we possibly know?  And yet, they do not see themselves clearly enough to make a reasonable decision about their life and their health.  I feel like they are very much like Christopher.  Sad about a change that is not wanted, but necessary.  It is easy to see the circle of life here in the midst of change.  Old or young or middle aged, it still feels sad or scary sometimes.  But to not change or grow.  What would that be like?

Ahhh change…if only I were talking about a penny or a dime!  Oh well, I will strap in and ride along, because in the end it is all worth it!


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I love you! No really, I DO!

Look, don’t take this the wrong way, but I totally love you.

Yes, I know those are some heavy words, but you have done something special and therefore are now someone I actually LOVE.  Nope I’m sure it is not just like.  Not even like a lot.  It’s love plain and simple.  You may use that word sparingly, but I do not.  It is truly how I feel.  I smile when I think of, what you did.  I actually get a little rush of tingling emotion when I think about it.  It could be something you did for me or one of my friends.  It could be how you treat my kids or the joy spending time with you brings them.  Maybe it was a generous or selfless act I saw or experienced.  It could just be the amount of fun I have/had with you.  Maybe you marked a special time in my life.  A time with hardships or growth or change.  Whatever it is and however you earned it, you now own a bit of real-estate on my heart.  This space, however large or small, will always belong to you.

Don’t freak out because I say I love you, but do take it seriously.  You have not promised me anything by accepting my gift of love.  But I do ask you to take it.  It might be all I can give to you, but it is worth more than you might think.  Accept it as it is intended, even give yours in return if you are capable, and you will have a champion for life.  Someone to lean on, share with, fight with, laugh with or even someone to cheer you on as you move on in life.  But, whether you reject it or you accept it, I give it to you freely because life without love is no life at all.  I hope to continue to live my life with intensity, heart and abandon.  And I hope that for you as well!

And I really DO love you!


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Life Lessons and Baseball

10363766_10204105428541804_8384826281282480115_nMy boys were guest players on a friend’s 10U AA baseball team in a tournament this past weekend.  They had a great time playing two games a day and hanging out with a bunch of like-minded boys getting sweaty, dirty and dreaming about being major league players in the dusty Texas heat.  Although exhausting, I love these opportunities for the boys to totally immerse themselves in baseball for a weekend.  They come to life in a way that is truly beautiful when they are putting all of their effort and energy into the game.  It is not something you see as much in weekly league play.  Tournaments give the kids the opportunity to compete against teams they have never seen or heard of and the possibility to bring home a trophy or ring for their efforts in two days rather than three months of play.  They expect the competition to be tougher so they do not hold back.  What 10 year-old sporty kid doesn’t want to play their sport with all they’ve got all weekend long?

Unfortunately, there is also a ton of crap surrounding these events.  If you accidentally allow yourself to look beyond the kids, you might see the seedy underbelly of the sport that includes the overweight father/coach humiliating a player by grabbing two fistfuls of jersey and yelling in his face for getting tagged out at third base on a steal.  (Keep in mind this particular person would likely drop dead on the spot if he exerted enough effort to jog between second and third base.)  The parents all wearing matching team shirts with their little all-star’s number on the back who scream OUT or SAFE to try to influence the call to help their team.  These same parents are ready to physically fight over a bad call or perceived injustice.  And, if you are unlucky enough to get an Umpire with a personal relationship with the opposing coach…watch out!  We have seen all of these people at each tournament we have attended.  My husband and I have joked about creating a coffee-table book titled, “The Pregnant-bellied Coaches of Youth Baseball”  I bet we could fill it up in under a month if we played in tournaments every weekend.

Let’s talk more about the “coach.”  He is the typical AA coach, one we have seen at EVERY AA league game and tournament.  He is a big man who looks to be about 8 months pregnant under his 3XL collared shirt with his team’s logo embroidered on the right chest.  He is carrying so much extra weight at the belly you can see the back strain as he lumbers across the diamond to his typical spot as the third-base coach.  He is so loud at third that he could be thrown out for disrupting the game and that is actually his plan.  If he screams RUN or BIGGER (referring to the secondary lead he wants his player to take off of first base) as loudly as possible, he will throw-off the pitcher and draw a walk for his team.  When it is his team’s turn to play defense, he sits on the ball barrel just outside the dugout spitting seeds on the field and looking with contempt at the child from the opposing team on the base nearest his “throne.”  He always carries 11 players on his team so he can avoid forfeit if several players are sick.  However, his core of 5 or 6 are the only ones he cares about.  In tournaments he only puts the 9 strongest players on the field.  These 9 may include guest players even when everyone he has on his official roster is available to play.  He will let the whole team come, but will sit even rostered players as subs.  This serves two purposes in his mind.

1) He thinks it gives the team a greater chance to win a plastic statue otherwise known as trophy.

2) He can continue to chip away at the confidence of the boys he feels are “not AA players” and then maybe they will just leave the team rather than requiring him to have a conversation with little Johnny’s parents about how he just isn’t cut out for this team.

What a coward!  Come on, coach and teach are basically the same thing.  Teach the boys who want to play how to play!

During one of the games this weekend against a team with not one, but two of these magnificent examples of youth coaching prowess, one of my sons was the starting pitcher.  He was struggling a bit to find his groove.  He would strike one out, and walk the next.  This pattern continued until his team finally made the third out of the inning.  At this point, he motioned to his father, who was sitting in the opposing team’s bleachers, to come talk to him.  This motion was seen by the parent fans of the other team as an act of war.  My son was obviously signalling to them to “bring it!”  They cried out to the Umps “Foul Play!  That kid is taunting us!” This resulted in a brief discussion wiith the umps and coaches.  Then one of our coaches said to my son that he should not antagonize the other team or their parents.  WHAT?  Are you kidding me right now?  One look at my son’s face and you could tell he was upset about his outing, not prideful or boastful.  He was unhappy looking deflated and raw, not pumping his fists and celebrating.  How could this have been misunderstood?

When my husband decided to go over and explain to the opposing team that there was no such activity.  That my son was simply motioning for him to come over, they responded with an angry, “WHATEVER!”  This same team tried the hidden ball trick at least three separate times and each of these times the pitcher balked waiting for our player to leave the base.  It was just plain silly.  The kids obviously were not prepared for the “trick” and just wanted to play ball.  When one of my sons hit a double early in the game, (unfortunately the same son who was accused of taunting) the opposing short-stop tagged him so hard he almost came off the base.  But my boys are used to this.  He was prepared for the hard pushing tag.  Heck it happens anytime he makes it one base with these teams.  We teach our kids that the play is not finished until you tag the runner on a steal.  Basically this just means touching him with the ball and it is usually in the glove, but other coaches must teach their players to try to push the runner off the base to get the tag.  It has literally happened at least once every game.  It does not matter if we are winning or losing.

So…when I say life lessons, what do I mean?  Do I mean live life like a game of baseball where you will do anything necessary to win a game?  No.  I mean understand that there are people in this world that require you to have “sharp elbows.”  Learn to deal with them and life can be a joyful game!  Play on peeps!

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All Good Things…

It had been seven months since that hot August night we said good-bye to our new friend, coach and pitcher with the Texas Rangers organization – Jimmy Reyes.  A few weeks after that last home game, we set up our ways to keep in touch across the miles.  We “friended” each other on Facebook, followed each other on twitter and exchanged addresses for holiday cards and gifts, but the months dragged on.  Every time he liked a picture or post, I shared it with the family.  We kept the contact to social media except for the big occasions like graduating from college, holidays, birthdays – which of course warranted a text message.  Ahh technology!  Taking the personal connection out of almost every relationship.  But as impersonal as it all was, somehow the “likes”and facebook comments kept things feeling close.

During spring training, Jimmy was pretty absent from social media.  I scanned twitter incessantly looking for news, updates, pictures, but most of the talk was about big league camp, not the minor leaguers.  Still, I began following a few of the writers/reporters who focus on the minor leagues and prospects to get some updates.  They probably all thought I was some sort of crazed baseball stalker, but one writer who knows Jimmy pretty well was kind enough to send me a tweet a few days before the end of camp telling me that all was going well.

Then, at 10:29pm on March 25 I hear the familiar beep of my phone receiving a text.  When I looked at the phone, I was surprised to see that the text was from Jimmy.  He wants us to know he is headed to Round Rock, Texas (The Rangers AAA affiliate) to start the season.  This is fantastic news!  I immediately send him a congratulatory text.  He has worked hard and moved up a level every year in the minors.  This is his last step before the big-leagues and it is not an easy one!  This year is pretty crazy.  A number of the regular starters for the Rangers are injured sending a ripple effect throughout the organization and creating some crazy roster moves as a result.  One reporter noted that a number of pitchers in the organization are in a sort of roster purgatory and remain unassigned the week before opening day.  Yet another announced that there were currently 112 men on the AAA roster.  A bit of an exaggeration, but for now we celebrate the accomplishment of his goal! I feel so proud of him and so excited to share the news with the family.

10153795_10203639690338640_589973812_nThe very next day, we get another text from Jimmy.  As it turns out, he is traveling with the major-league team for three exhibition games and the first one is in Arlington at the Ranger’s home stadium.  He thinks he can get us tickets if we want to go.  (Is this really a question?  OF COURSE WE WANT TO GO!) He does not want me to get the kids’ hopes up, since he is not sure if all will work out, but promises to let me know as soon as he can the next day.  Needless to say, it was a LONG day!  We don’t hear from him until around 1:30pm when he sends a text to tell us that our tickets are waiting for us at the will call window.  HOW EXCITING!  Jimmy could be pitching in a major league park with the Texas Rangers tonight!  When I tell the kids after school, they begin jumping up and down in the school yard like we just won the lottery.  I am sure the other kids and parents were wondering what we were so excited about.

We head out to the ballpark early, but traffic keeps us from getting there until about thirty minutes before the game starts.  Finding the right ticket window proved to be a bit of a challenge.  The kids are pretty disappointed.  Generally players are off-limits for at least forty-five minutes before game-time, but I still have hope.  Once we get inside the ballpark, I send a text to let him know we are there.  He answers quickly and asks about the seats and their proximity to the dugout.  Fortunately, we are pretty close.  A few minutes later he sends a text saying that he is walking out.  We are on the first level, but pretty far back from the field.  We keep our eyes glued on the dugout.  Nothing…nothing…nothing…  Then, there he is!  He is on the first base side of the dugout and does not look like he is looking for anyone, but just checking out the scene.  We, on the other hand, are waving our arms in the air and yelling like idiots!  He sees us (honestly, how could he not) and is quick to smile and wave.  His easy smile takes me back to the time he spent with our family last season working with the boys to develop their pitching and chatting with us through the bullpen net.  It was a magical time.

1975119_10203640090028632_1576702737_nWe start to head down to say hello, but there is no direct route through the seats.  Our seats are at field level, but to get down to the lower rows, we first have to go up some stairs, down other stairs and through a tunnel to yet another set of stairs to the field and dugout.  I think about going through that labyrinth for almost a second – then I urge the family to crawl over a couple of rows of seats to get there faster.  I am the first one to get down to the dugout.  When I get there, Jimmy has just finished signing a ball for a young fan and is tossing it back to him over the roof of the dugout.  I am almost giggling when I say, “It is SO good to see your face!”  Not really my best greeting, but he doesn’t seem to mind.  We talk briefly over the top of the dugout until a security guard takes pity on us and leads us over to a place in the wall where we can give Jimmy a proper greeting.  We exchange hugs, handshakes and fist bumps all around. We ask how he is, about spring training, if he is excited to be back and more.  He asks how pitching is going for the boys.  Ten year-old boys are funny.  They can’t wait to see him, then have nothing to say when they do.  It is only a minute or two before he says he needs to get back and we thank him again for the tickets and part ways.

1969179_10203640102668948_1288265925_nWe watch the game, eat some over-priced, un-healthy ballpark grub and then head over to the bullpen to watch the pitchers warm-up.  We really enjoy watching the action in the bullpen.  Honestly I don’t know why you would ever sit anywhere else.  Each pitcher has a slightly different routine.  Some stretch a lot.  Some very little.  The basic pitching mechanics are the same, BUT each pitcher has a unique delivery.  We figure out the signals for fast-ball and off-speed pitch and have fun guessing what types of pitches they are throwing.  Pitcher after pitcher is called on to the field until only Jimmy, one other pitcher and a couple of catchers are left in the pen.  It is the ninth inning and they call for the closer to come in.  We are disappointed for Jimmy but he has two more chances on the road with the Rangers as they play the Astros in San Antonio for the next two days.  Maybe he will get a chance to pitch in one of those games.  It is almost 10pm on a school night so we get Jimmy’s attention and wave good-bye.  He smiles, says good-bye and waves at us all the way up the stairs and across the concourse until we can no longer see each other.

And just like that, it is over.  I have mixed emotions as we leave the ballpark.  The kids are energized and also sad about the whole experience.  Jimmy is off to San Antonio with the Rangers for two days and will then join his Round Rock Express team in Frisco for an exhibition game Sunday.  We make plans to see him again then, but it is hard to think about having to say goodbye again.  The end of a very special time is here…or is it?


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There Really Are No Stupid Questions


Celebrating the beginning of baseball season with a re-post from our amazing baseball experience last summer!

Originally posted on texassportsmom:

photoMy husband, Jim, routinely pushes me to ask questions I feel are strange, stupid or a waste of time. After all, I already know the answer is no.  But, he continues to defy the odds by asking these questions and getting what he wants.  He once used a paint sprayer to paint our dining room.  He completed the job, but was not too impressed with how the sprayer worked.  He took it back in a bag, covered in paint and may or may not of even had the box or receipt…I told him it was a waste of time.  He came home with a full refund in his pocket – WHAT?  He proves the phrase, “it never hurts to ask,” almost every day.  But never so much as he did this summer…

The evening of June 21st, my family and I were at a Frisco RoughRiders game.  The RoughRiders are the…

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Mistakes Worth Making

Perfectionist disease.  I have it.  My husband has it.  Our parents and their parents have it.  The excuse for keeping this horrible disease and for spreading it to your children is the pursuit of excellence.  Reaching for the stars, pushing the limits, striving for greatness.  We all want more for our kids right?  BUT – there is one really big blind spot in this relentless pursuit.  If you fear failure, you will NEVER achieve excellence.

Seems backwards at first, but if you look closer you will see that those who achieve excellence, achieve it by trying and failing over and over again.  Babe Ruth said , “Never let the fear of striking out hold you back.”  And Michael Jordan on failure, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”  So…if we want to teach our children to strive for something better, we must also teach them how to deal with failure.

Growing up I was afraid of making mistakes.  I was so fearful that when I was asked to try out for the junior high track team, I did not for fear of not being fast enough.  When I was playing my instrument and was unsure of the music, I pretended to play and let the other’s in my section make the mistakes – and have the success.  I only tried something if I was relatively certain I was going to achieve the goal.  Never stretching enough to risk failure and never being very happy with the results.

So, how am I making it ok for my kids to make mistakes.  Well, it is a struggle.  I hope that we have given them a large enough space to test their limits, push their boundaries and try different things to see how they work.  Go out there and make a mess of things every once in a while.  If fo no other reason than to prove that there is life after mistakes and often times a whole new perspective as a result.

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Bragging – Good, Bad or Indifferent?

So I’m posting this today because it is report card day and if all goes well, I will soon be that obnoxious Mom on Facebook bragging about my children’s academic prowess.  Of course, receiving all As in fourth grade may not actually constitute as PROWESS, but it still seems worth some sort of public acknowledgement – right!?!?!?!?! says, bragging is boastful talk or behavior or in other words a person talking about how great he or she is!  Now if I went around talking about my daily accomplishments it might be seen as bragging.  I can hear it now, “Guess what?  I actually vacuumed the ENTIRE house today!  Awesome right!?!?!”  or “I shaved 15 minutes off of my grocery shopping time in just three weeks!  It was tough, but I persevered and did it!”  Not only is it obnoxious, but not really even brag worthy material.

But, is bragging about your kid’s accomplishments ok or a total no-no?  Especially if I understand fully that I really have very little or nothing to do with it!  My Mom tells me I got good grades in Elementary school, but I don’t really remember it that way.  I did not play sports, I was not in band until sixth grade, I entered some art fairs and wrote some poetry that a community college teacher once used in his classroom, but I don’t remember many truly braggable moments.  But my kids are AMAZING – to me!  Why shouldn’t I celebrate all of their wonderful moments on the web for all to see FOREVER.  (ok, that’s a little creepy!)

For me, the jury is still out.  Obviously, I think my kids are the most interesting people on the planet, but they are mine.  I expect that no one else, other than my husband and parents, agree with my assessment of them.  If you follow me on Facebook or twitter, you know I brag about my kids.  Hopefully, since you are still my “friend” or still follow me, you are cool with it.  Most of all, I hope you know that I am not comparing my kids with your kids.  I celebrate the accomplishments of all of my friends, their kids, and their kids’ kids alike!  So I guess…I’m a fan!  Brag on people, I wanna hear all about it!

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