Last Friday night, I was honored by the Nacogdoches High School Alumni Association as a Distinguished Alumna (I think that’s the second time in my life I’ve ever written the word “alumna”).
I’m not telling you this to brag, or to sound super-intelligent by using the word alumna correctly in a sentence. It’s not about the award. It’s about the journey.
And by that, I’m not talking about why or how I was selected. I’m talking about the actual obstacles that had to be overcome to arrive on the track at Dragon Stadium, under the Friday Night Lights, to receive this special recognition: two ice storms, a Pandemic, and 50% chance of rain.
The original plan was for me to be given this award during a Dragon Basketball game in 2020. I was actually on my way to Nacogdoches when I discovered that the game had been cancelled due to an ice storm. The weather was wet and rainy, and the temperature low enough to cause freezing by the time the game was over, making it dangerous for the opposing team to travel home. It was the right call.
It was then decided that I would come to a meeting of the Alumni Association and receive the award. And guess what happened? A world-wide Pandemic!
In early 2021, it was once again planned for me to be presented at the basketball game between Lufkin and Nacogdoches. I was glued to KLTV weather alerts all day, because guess what? It was a Severe Weather Alert Day, with a prediction of icing and possible snow.
The day of the presentation, I received from a sweet friend a copy of the article that was in the local paper about the presentation. I sent her a message and quipped, “I hope it happens. So far it’s been canceled due to a previous ice storm and a Pandemic!” She responded with, “I’m sure the third time will be a charm!”
It wasn’t. Once again the event was canceled.
Being the over-thinking, over-analyzing person I am, I began to question my worthiness as a recipient of this honor. Was nature against me? Were these “acts of God” a sign? I mean, c’mon! Two ice storms in East Texas, both occurring on the date(s) of this presentation? And a Pandemic? What in the world?
As this year’s attempt at the presentation was scheduled, I didn’t allow myself to get too excited about it. I was preparing for the worst. Since it was planned for the first football game, I thought about possible obstacles:
- A severe drought (no way that would stop a football game in Texas, but it was on the short list of possibilities)
- A rainstorm/flood which would honestly be welcomed since we were in dire need of rain
- A plague–locusts, frogs, or mosquitoes
There were several other scenarios I considered, but they were a little far-fetched. In the spirit of the past cancelations, as I began watching the 10-day forecast, the weather did not disappoint. On the Friday of the first football game, there was a 50% chance of rain.
As the wife of a football coach, I understand that rain doesn’t stop a football game. But lightning does. So, the question in my mind became, will it just be a normal rainy day or night, or will thunder/lightning be involved? According to the graphic on my weather app, lightning was a possibility.
For ten days I watched as the weather for that day changed daily. I planned outfits based on the possibility of a slick track (which shoes would be less likely to cause me to fall down?) I bounced back and forth between a dress and Capri pants (which outfit will be cooler?) I thought about my hair. In case of rainfall, do I over-spray my hair to keep the frizz level down, or do I just leave it flat and straight?)
Ridiculous things to consider, I know. As I pondered these silly things, I realized my obsession was due to my attempt to control the situation. I also realized my lack of confidence, and my perception of myself. And it was then that I felt ashamed.
You see, throughout these two years and four attempts at receiving this award, I had, in my mind, made myself feel completely unworthy.
It might be surprising to those of you who know me, but I am not nearly as confident as I might seem. A close friend has told me more than once that I know how “to work a room”—I can turn it on and off, and appear to be brimming with confidence, when deep down, I’m a little insecure.
People who know me might think that it would be a piece of cake for me to receive this award. Some might even think that I would be a little cocky about it. The honest-to-goodness truth is that I am not always comfortable in the spotlight. I think it’s over-compensation in the opposite way. In other words, I am so fearful that I might come across as arrogant or “stuck up” that I lean completely the other direction and try to dismiss things that are honestly important and meaningful.
In all of my ice storm, pandemic, 50% chance of rain kind of thinking, I never once stopped to remind myself that God has given each of us talents and abilities, and if we use those in an unselfish, honest manner, people will know that.
I realized that I was selected to receive this award because in a small little way, I had honored my hometown through my written words. In my memoir, Mockingbird Moments, which was about how I was affected by the loss of my father, I also wrote about the town that raised me—Nacogdoches. And it was because of that book that the Charles Raymond Bright Foundation asked me to write a biography about the philanthropic man who loved his hometown and hoped to preserve the history and greatness of Nacogdoches from Creek to Creek.
As uncomfortable as it was to try to become comfortable in my own shoes, I did it. And the 50% chance of rain turned into 100% sunshine on the night of August 26, 2022. As well-wishes from my Nacogdoches Girls’ text message group poured in, I felt all the love from the life-long forever friends who I have been so fortunate to know for over five decades. Surrounded by most of my family (Brian is coaching again, and Chris had a previous yearly commitment) I happily and with great pride and humility accepted the Distinguished Alumna Award. And one of the greatest moments was when my 2-year-old grandson, Cooper, clapped for his Sassy (me).
So, what’s the lesson I learned from waiting for this wonderful event to actually come to pass?
I’ve learned that it’s what we do each day that matters. The effort, opportunities, dedication, and hard work add up to who we are and who we are becoming. Daily.
I wasted precious time worrying about things that were out of my control. As I reflect on the last two years, so many things have happened. Our world has drastically changed, and definitely not for the better.
In my quest for the wisdom to know the things I can and cannot change, I have adopted a new kind of to-do list. It doesn’t list specific things like “clean the house, do laundry, go to the grocery store.”
My goals have changed from thinking about menial tasks, to thinking about ways that I can be a better person. Ways I can do more “good” in this crazy world we live in.
Here’s my list:
- Workout: (Mind, Body, Spirit)
- Give thanks/appreciation: (write 2 thank you notes per week)
- Be Kind: (perform one random act of kindness per week)
- Be Joyful: (read Be Joyful: 50 Days to Defeat the Things That Try to Defeat You by Joyce Meyer)
- Breathe: take time to breathe daily (literally breathe—inhale/exhale for 10-15 minutes)
- Write: just do it, already!
The world is hard. It’s cruel, and divisive, and messed-up, and unkind. We need more Joy in our world.
It’s easy to confuse Joy with Happiness, but they are completely different. Happiness ebbs and flows based on situations, circumstances, moods, and emotions. It’s ever-changing.
Joy simply is…
“Joy is a gift from God, and it follows a life of grace and peace.” (Joyce Meyer)
You can be joyful in the good times and bad. In the midst of deep grief and loss, one can still feel joy. After all, the joy of the Lord is our strength.
As I begin the last few months of 2022, I hope to have true, deep-in-the-heart JOY—an award from God given to me for seeking Him and His will. It is through the Lord God Almighty that I will find strength, and courage, and hope for tomorrow. By giving thanks, being appreciative and kind, taking care of my mind, body, and spirit, and taking time to breathe, I am focusing and shaping positive habits which will lead me to be a light in a dark world.
I can honestly say, I have Joy in my heart. I am blessed beyond measure and filled with humility from the many gifts I have been given. As I move through the seasons of my life, I hope to use my words and my writing to spread joy, happiness, hope, and peace. I hope to bring my best to each moment…
I’m thankful for the ice storms, and the Pandemic, and a 50% chance of rain, for they all brought me to where I am today.
It is with much pride, joy, and honor that I thank the NHS Alumni Association for naming me as a Distinguished Alumna. I will forever remember my moment in the sun (100% sunshine and blue skies).
And I will now admit to all who are reading, as the school song played, and I stood by the fence on the track close to the concession stand, I did the motions to the routine with the cheerleaders…
They changed some parts of it, but I did it the way we did it back in Nineteen-Eighty-Something!
We’ll give’em hell until we’re done. Senior Class of ’81!