Family Day in Death Valley…Why Not!?!?!

First off, I’m talking about Death Valley, SC, otherwise known as Frank Howard Memorial Stadium, home of the Clemson Tigers.   Of course, taking both boys to the real Death Valley may have been just as painful and definitely not painless.

At the last minute, very last minute to be exact, my husband’s boss called him up to see if we would like tickets for this past Saturday’s Clemson vs. Georgia Tech game.  If we were single, no kids in tow, we would have immediately jumped on the tickets.  Our situation being as it is, we hemmed and hawed before finally deciding we would go IF his boss had tickets for the boys as well.   Turns out he did, much to our overwhelming dismay, I mean, er, excitement!  Yes, EXCITEMENT!

So I’m being a bit dramatic.  Truthfully, I was excited.   I was going to do something I’ve always dreamt about since my days of matriculating at that beautiful University.   I can recall the days when I was student, tailgating in the free spots (these don’t exist anymore) and seeing all the little kids dressed up in their Tiger uniforms, be it football jerseys or cheerleading outfits.  I used to think to myself, “I’m going to do this with my kids one day.”

On his way to his first Tiger's game.
On his way to his first Tiger’s game.

After having my boys, and experiencing first hand, the overly exhausting work of not just raising them but also keeping them AND me alive, I decided that the ole dream of spending a day at a Clemson game with my family would have to be shelved for later years.   I don’t know what it says about mine and my husband’s parenting skills or perhaps the demeanor of our two boys that we CAN’T go to a game and tailgate like all the other families.   Surely, something somewhere must be amiss, right?

Davey's face should have forewarned us of the storms ahead.  He didn't want Henry to go along.
Davey’s face should have forewarned us of the storms ahead. He didn’t want Henry to go along.

At the start of the season, we were given four tickets to a Clemson game.   After much debate, my husband and I decided we would take Davey and leave Henry with my parents.   Surprisingly, the day went spectacular and I suppose it provided us with a false sense of security where sporting events are concerned.   So, when the opportunity presented itself this past Saturday, and us without a babysitter since my parents were out of town, we decided, what the heck!  Let’s take both boys.    Apparently, my husband and I are a glutton for misery.

Why on earth would someone want to bring their kids, especially two boys aged 4 and 22 months, to a Clemson football game on a rainy Saturday for possibly one of the biggest games of the season?   Why?  I wish I had that answer.   I wish I had the answer as to why we didn’t hesitate to say “yes”.  I wish I had the answer to “where were our heads?”   But really, I want to know the answer to is why does it seem that everyone else can bring their kids to tailgate and a game and still enjoy themselves?   Why can’t we?

50 yard line seats.   Would have been even better if we could have enjoyed them.
50 yard line seats. Would have been even better if we could have enjoyed them.

One minute and five seconds into the game, Clemson drew blood, and I was already to the point of wanting to slit my own wrists.   I can’t even recall how Clemson managed to score because I was much too busy trying to keep Henry from picking up random pieces of food on the ground and eating them.   By Clemson’s next scoring drive, I really just wanted to get drunk, just to numb the pain of Davey punching Henry, Henry slapping Davey, and both boys wanting to run around like a pack of wild banshees.  My husband and I spent the better portions of the game holding the boys and trying to serve as referees between the two of them.  It was quite literally the worst experience I’ve ever had in my beloved Death Valley, worse than any of the losing games I’ve sat through.

Moving forward, when my husband and I are offered tickets to a Clemson game, and we don’t have a sitter for the boys, we won’t be asking the question, “why not?” but instead “WHY?”  To all of you parents who are able to go these games with your children I secretly despise you and loathe the ground you walk on, but I’m also envious of your magical abilities to get your children to cooperate.   Please, tell me your secret.

And while we left knowing Clemson had won the game, we put the boys to bed early last night and watched an entire replay of the game just so we could really see how well Clemson played because that’s how my husband and I roll with college football.

Our first family game at Clemson!
Our first family game at Clemson!

Go Tigers!

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There’s Something in These Hills

And so goes the words of Joe Sherman, Clemson class of ’34.   If you’re a Clemson grad, then you know those words.  They echo with a soft, but firm voice through your head when you cross paths with tiger paw prints on your way into campus.  When Mr. Sherman wrote those words, he embodied the true feeling of Clemson, the city, the University and the mountainous valleys of the Blue Ridge Mountains that seem to protect Clemson in its own little shell.

Tillman Hall, welcoming everyone back.
Tillman Hall, welcoming everyone back.

I grew up a Clemson fan.  No one in my family ever graduated from there, but my grandfather did attend.   Unfortunately, he had to leave when the Great Depression hit and he never returned to finished his education.  My blood has runneth orange for as long as I can remember.   There is no better place in my eyes than Clemson University.

Henry enjoying the last days of summer on Bowman Field.
Henry enjoying the last days of summer on Bowman Field.

When I drive into the City, I find myself reminiscing over days at Pixie and Bill’s and Calhoun Corners, the parties at Golden Woods and my apartments off campus.   I think with great fondness to the nights of eating gravy fries at The Huddle House or devouring some of the greatest sandwiches I’ve ever had at The Pot Belly Deli.   As I drive through Main Street, I look back with affection on the year I lived downtown, how convenient it was to hit up any of the local spots.   The Thursday night dance parties at TD’s, and the Monday night $1 Coronas at the Esso.   I made wonderful friends and created lasting memories.

Davey playing soccer on Bowman Field.
Davey playing soccer on Bowman Field.

As I continue to stroll through, I come across Bowman Field, with the beautifully bricked structure of Tillman Hall behind it.  The bells chime a wonderful tune and I’m immediately transported back to Fall afternoons walking through campus, the leaves blowing around my feet, playing peek a boo with the list of names of graduates from years past that are imprinted in the sidewalks.   I can smell the hot humidity of the summers, the juicy crispness of the falls, the heaviness of the winters, and the awakening vibrance of Spring.

Henry's new kicks.  Fitting for our adventure.
Henry’s new kicks. Fitting for our adventure.

I can remember all of my classes, my professors, walking to class with roommates, eating at the Student Union, waiting in lines forever with heavy books to purchase, and my all time favorite place…the library.   When I remember all of this, I have a sense of longing, of sadness, and happiness all bundled together.   Those years, at this wonderful University, were some of the best years of my life.

Getting his first ever tiger paw painted on his face.
Getting his first ever tiger paw painted on his face.

When my husband moved South from NY, I didn’t give him a choice of college teams to pull for.  If he wanted to date me, then he was a Clemson fan.   No questions, no debates.   That was the stipulation.   He didn’t argue.   Naturally, I’ve made sure my boys are Clemson fans as well.   I bought them Clemson gowns, hats, and booties to wear home from the hospital.   Their first stuffed animals were Clemson tigers.   They’ve had overalls, t-shirts, socks, jerseys, and hats.   I’ve even stood in line to get an autograph from C.J. Spiller for Davey.   My boys are Clemson all the way around.

Davey and Daddy enjoying the day.
Davey and Daddy enjoying the day.

This past Friday, my husband and I took them on an adventure.   We decided to go to the First Friday Parade.   We arrived two hours early, but traffic was still horrendous.   We parked down town, which allowed me the opportunity to visit some of my haunts, even if only through the windows.   From the moment we left the car, I listened to the bells of Tillman Hall chime a tune.   Louder and louder they rang as we walked closer until finally the beautiful tower was within my view, peering around overgrown oak trees.  I felt as if it were smiling down at me and saying, “Welcome home.”   Resting comfortable at its feet was Bowman Field, the original field for the football team, but a place now for sunbathers, Frisbee throwers, and picnickers.

Our future defensive line man.   Coach Swinney needs to check him out.
Our future defensive line man. Coach Swinney needs to check him out.

We set up our picnic in the shade of the trees right in front of Holtzendorff Hall.   I sat back on the blanket, camera in hand, and smiled as I watched my husband and sons, all decked out in orange, run and play on the field.  I clicked away, documenting the memories on my camera.   I took a brief respite from the picture taking to just really take things in, to tilt my head back and breath in that beautiful mountain air.   I was home again, well my second home, and it felt good.

Three of the most beautiful flags I've ever seen.
Three of the most beautiful flags I’ve ever seen.

I watched the new students walking around, briefly thinking that technically I’m old enough now to be their mother.   Yikes!   But really, I just smiled with happiness over being able to share this wonderfully magical place with not only my husband, but also our sons.   When I was a college student at Clemson, I NEVER wanted to have kids, so I never could imagine being back with two potential future Clemson students who shared my blood.

First Friday 2015.
First Friday 2015.

The parade was everything I remembered.  It was oozing orange, inflated with the spirit of Clemson University.   Tiger Rag and Clemson Cadence abounded everywhere.   Davey even managed to start his own cadence which everyone followed.   I could never put into words my overwhelming happiness from Friday.   Those of you who don’t know this university, or even those of you who hate it, will never understand how something like this can create such a sense of pride, happiness, respect, and fun.

Henry loved the band.
Henry loved the band.

Yes, Mr. Sherman, you were right…There IS something in these hills.  And I’m so glad to experience it.

Beautiful.
Beautiful.

Musings From a Rivalry Football Game

My husband and I awoke this morning a little earlier than normal. For me, I couldn’t sleep. Today was the day of the Palmetto Bowl, the biggest rivalry game in the state of South Carolina. My beloved Clemson Tigers were home and squaring off against our rival, the Carolina Gamecocks. We’ve lost to the Cocks for the past five years and I told my husband that this couldn’t go on forever. So, I refrained from my normal trash talking, as I was a little nervous about rocking the boat.

As we got on the road this morning, I noticed how much things have changed for us when it comes to tailgating and going to a football game. Before our boys, we’d eagerly go to Clemson just to tailgate even if we didn’t have tickets to the game. We’d prepare food the night before, get the coolers packed with beer, and head out at 6 am for a 12 noon game. Today? We got on the road at 9 am.

On our way to see the Tigers play!
On our way to see the Tigers play!

The first real thing to change for me is the choice of breakfast and breakfast drinks. Back in the olden days, it was a mimosa or bloody mary. These days it’s Starbucks and one of their breakfast sandwiches. My oh my how times have changed. Don’t get in the way of me and my coffee, or more specifically my venti mocha latte light!

Don't get in the way of me and my Starbucks!
Don’t get in the way of me and my Starbucks!

We slowly crawled through Easley before finally being able to hit the open road of Hwy 123. About 5 miles out from campus, we hit a dead standstill in traffic. Eventually, the inside lane began to move faster than us and my husband and I watched as an SUV passed by with a grill on the back trailer. Were they nuts? Why would you wait this late in the morning to come to Clemson for a 12 noon game with a grill? My husband commented that they may just be tailgating and didn’t have tickets for the game, which is even crazier to me.

5 miles from campus.  Horrendous.
5 miles from campus. Horrendous.

Look, there was a time in my life, pre kids, when I would gladly tailgate for a game I had no intention of going into. These days, it’s going to take a lot to tear me away from my boys. I’m not wasting my energy or time to tailgate at a game of which I’m not going in.

We met our crew at their tailgating spot 45 minutes prior to kick off. It took us 2 hours from the time we left our house until the time we got to Clemson. We live 45 minutes away. I know. Ridiculous. And once we arrived at the tailgating spot, I wanted one beer, nothing more. So very strange. I was once able to chug beers like it was my job. I could actually beat the majority of the boys. Why do I seem proud about this? I’m not.

We entered the game just in time to see my Tigers run down the hill, otherwise known as the 25 most exciting seconds in college football. We stayed until halftime, when we then left and I had another beer. Again, so very odd. Before kids and when I wasn’t quite so mature, I would have snuck in my liquor or even bypassed the rest of the game just to have beer and party. Not so much these days. I anxiously paced back and forth while looking at my watch, in the hopes my husband would see how eager I was to return to the game.

25 Most Exciting Seconds in College Football
25 Most Exciting Seconds in College Football

I found that this time around I down swear while watching the game. I don’t call the refs evil names, and I can actually stomach some of the fans from the bad team. I legitimately watched the game. Again, my oh my how times have changed.

Going to the Esso Club afterwards no longer holds the same appeal as it did 5 years ago. Getting drunk and dancing isn’t exactly my forte, but stopping at Dunkin Donuts on the way out and getting another large coffee is the way to go.

I had a wonderful time today and I’m so thankful my husband and I had this opportunity. I’m just amazed at how much I’ve changed or the experience for me has changed.

Any oh, by the way…my Tigers broke their losing streak with USC. We won 35-17. Next to the birth of my two boys, this is probably the greatest thing in the past 6 years.

Election Night 2014

Every two years, on the first Tuesday of November, my day goes a little something like this…

Go vote, work, eat dinner, and then veg out in front of the television watching election results. I first started doing this in 2000 when I was a Young Republican at Clemson University and working the George W. Bush campaign for President. It was my first official “work” to get someone elected to President and it helped to cement my love/hate relationship with politics.

I can still recall that election night 14 years ago. There was a group of us hanging out at one of our apartments, drinking beer, eating pizza, and discussing the plight of not just the U.S. but also the world. Oh, it was a great time…discussing politics with some of my fellow voters. Back then, I could get pretty passionate about it and some discussions would lead to arguments especially when the occasional Democrat who happened to be the girlfriend of one of my fellow Young Republicans would show up.

That night, we sat up into the wee hours of Wednesday morning as Florida was being tossed back and forth. It was a horrible feeling and I had started regretting all that pizza I ate, as the anxiety in my stomach volleyed back and forth. Finally, it was called that Bush had won and we all celebrated briefly before going to sleep. Then the next morning happened…there was no winner. Florida had Chaddgate commencing. I watched as elderly people tried to figure out if that was a hanging chadd, or if that was just a partial prick. Oh the misery of it all.

Last night, I did much the same. I kept the television on CNN all afternoon while I worked and my boys napped. I listened to the discussions back and forth about what would happen if the Republicans gained control of the Senate or if the Democrats could stave off a trouncing. What would the President do? What message would it send? I cooked dinner as my husband voted before coming home. I turned the news off long enough to allow us to have our family dinner (rule in our house…no t.v. while eating dinner). And as my husband did the dishes and the boys played together, I opened a bottle of wine, sat down on the couch and started watching election results…MY PERFECT EVENING (really it was perfect just having my husband do dishes and my boys playing together).

Occasionally, Davey would climb into my lap and want to turn the television to something else. I did my best to explain to my 3 year old the importance of watching the results. It went down about as well as the debate between Al Gore and George W. Bush when Al Gore started discussing his “lock box”. That was entertaining!

Two more years, Henry will be Davey’s age now and Davey will be 5. Hopefully, by that point I will have instilled some of the importance of the election day within Davey. I’m not naïve enough to believe that he’ll sit alongside me watching the results happily, but I am hoping for discussion, questions, and hopefully a small amount of passion for it like his mommy.

My t-shirt from college.
My t-shirt from college.

There’s Something in These Hills…Welcome Home

Thomas Green Clemson said it best when he said, “there’s something in these hills.” “These hills” being at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Northwestern South Carolina, where lakes meet rivers and hills meet mountains. It’s an absolutely gorgeous place to be anytime of the year, but it doesn’t get much better than being in Clemson, SC for Homecoming weekend.

Tillman Hall tower
Tillman Hall tower

Friday I took the boys back to my old stomping grounds, my second home, and one of my most favorite places on this earth. My blood runneth orange. Always has and always will. I have a huge sense of pride in my alma mater, the place that not only allowed me to attain an education, but also a place dug deep with memories. I had some of the best years of my life at Clemson University and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to spend a day in Clemson with my boys.

Davey at the reflecting pond.
Davey at the reflecting pond.

A lot of the pomp and circumstance is lost in the eyes of my boys. They don’t understand how when I hear the bells of Tillman Hall ring the hour, my heart skips a beat and my mind takes me back to my days of sitting on Bowman Field in the sun, increasing my tan while increasing my knowledge. They don’t know what it means to see Daniel Hall, Brackett Hall, Hardin Hall, and Strode Tower. The only thing these boys appreciate is the abundance of floats, the beautiful gardens, the reflecting pond and the tiger statue at Death Valley.

The tiger statue at Death Valley.
The tiger statue at Death Valley.

As we walked the campus, stopping periodically to allow Henry to vacate the stroller and stretch his legs, I told stories of my life on God’s Country. I spoke of the nights of staying up late in Cooper Library, studying hard, while tucked away on the first floor, in a far back corner that gave me privacy, but also had the wonderful aroma of old books, books from decades past, brimming with stories. I explained that I had to get a few Frisbees out of the reflecting pond on nights of playing Frisbee golf. Davey looked into the pond, with it’s splashing fountains, and tossed a few acorns in while also looking for my Frisbee from nearly 15 years ago.

Henry playing in the Carillion Gardens, with the Cooper Library in the background.
Henry playing in the Carillion Gardens, with the Cooper Library in the background.

I talked about the walks to class, the rushing to class in my pajamas, and the excitement of Friday night before home games and the luster of the Saturday games. I didn’t miss a game, not one, even if I had to work, I still made it to a game. As we looked through the gates of Frank Howard field, I thought about the one and only snowfall I experienced while at Clemson and how we had come to the stadium to slide down the “hill”.

Davey amidst one of the floats.
Davey amidst one of the floats.

I watched as the new crop of coeds shuffled back and forth to class, many of them smiling at me and my boys, some even taking the time to talk to Davey as he introduced himself to the “old people”, a phrase for anyone over the age of 10. My boys spent a good portion of their day running along the same Bowman Field that I walked across to get to class. They studied the floats, touched all the tigers, and Davey even broke into the Clemson Cadence, shouting at the top of his lungs, “1,2,3,4. 1,2,3,4. C-L-E-M-S-O-N T-I-G-E-R-S. Fight tigers, fight tigers, fight fight fight.” And before we left he even told me that one day he’s going to run down that hill in Death Valley as a football player. I had a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.

Standing in front of the many floats with my boys.
Standing in front of the many floats with my boys.

Yes, indeed, there is something in these hills.

Success

14 years ago, I sat in a Modern Political Theory class at Clemson University. I had just two more semesters left to go before graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech and Communication Studies and Political Science. I was already studying hard for the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) and had eager aspirations of attending the University of Maryland in order to get a Master’s Degree in Political Communications. From them on, I was going to attain a job at the State Department and possibly get myself a job somewhere overseas. Then and only then would I consider my life to have been a success. Needless to say, my life didn’t go down that path, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a success.

14 years ago, the thought of a husband and children was not a part of my life’s dream. It didn’t seem to fit into the equation of the goals I’d set for myself. Plus, at that point in my life, being a wife and mother was just ho hum. It was average and there really wasn’t anything spectacular about it. I needed more than just average. There would be no success story found anywhere there, or so I’d told myself.

The past few years of my life have helped me to change my view of what success really is and I’d like to share it with you all, especially for you other mothers out there who are perhaps not doing what you thought you would be doing with your life years ago. I do have my Bachelors Degree from Clemson University and I did manage to go to grad school, albeit not at Maryland, but through Webster University and it wasn’t in Communications, but instead Business Administration. I’m not exactly using any of my degrees at this point, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a success.

I’ve met quite a few mothers who feel that they need to find a way to balance it all in order to be successful. Many of my friends still feel that having that illustrious career is what makes them successful. They feel that the world judges them because they are women who have children and a career. But, here’s an idea…maybe your children could be your career and you could be just as successful at it or more so than at some corporate America job.

The past couple of weeks I’ve found myself reflecting upon my life and the choices I’ve made…where they’ve led me and how I feel about the end result. And here’s what I’ve found, my life is more successful now than I could have ever imagined stationed at some Embassy or political post overseas. How have I come to that you ask? Well, here are a few examples of how I measure success, especially as a stay at home mom to a 2 & 1/2 year old and a 2 & 1/2 month old.

Last week, Davey met one of my former colleagues from my days in Corporate America. He reached out his hand, shook her hand and said, “Nice to meet you.” Success! I have a very well mannered son.

Davey saw another child crying over the weekend at a rugby game. He walks over to the child and says, “It will be alright, would you like to play with Davey?” Success! He’s empathetic and concerned.

Davey walked over to his friend at church on Sunday and began singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star with her and even held her hand. Success! He’s learned the words to the song and is such a happy little boy to sing along with his friend.

Every Tuesday morning that I take Davey to school, he immediately walks over to his teachers and hugs them both. Success! I have a loving child.

Every Tuesday that I pick him up from school, he tells all of his friends goodbye, taking the time to hug each one of them. Success! He’s a friend to all.

At every meal, he doesn’t eat until he’s said the blessing and thanked the Lord for what we have. Success! He’s learning the importance of thanking God.

And at least once a day, I’m asked to read Jesus to him, which means Davey would like a Bible story. Success! He’s learning about God!

These are only just a few small examples of what makes me feel successful not only as a mom, but as a woman and as a person in general. I don’t make tens of thousands of dollars and there are days when I feel like my job as a mother is just a complete failure, but when I see my son, outgoing, loving, smart, and well-mannered, I know I’ve been a success. When I see his smile every morning (and Henry’s too), I know that I’ve been the most successful person I could ever be. I’ve birthed two beautiful boys, both inside and out, and I’ve managed to mold them into children who will become successful adults as well. And again, their success won’t necessarily be measured by awards and dollar figures, but more about the character and integrity they have as young men.

I am a success.