My African Cleanse…

I would like to dedicate this post to what I would like to call the “African Cleanse” as I sit here home all day sick with a fever, flu, and body aches the day after traveling back from the Ivory Coast. Of course I go most the trip without getting sick, only for it to get me the day I return. But it gives me time to write this blog post so I will be thankful for that. I have so much to say but I will have to give it to you in small doses so you can actually absorb one before the other.

The entire time in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) felt like we were in our own pocket of time and space. It felt like we had this little space of protection, safety, and otherworldly feeling while the outside world and people back home were going about their lives. Our days were spent constantly running around from place to place. Whether that be to a game, coaching clinic, youth camp, practice, orphanage, our host’s family community, or church.

I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time in church on a Sunday as we did that day. We got there around 8:30 AM and church went on for another 4.5 hours. Afterwards we were invited to a dinner there to celebrate “Women’s Day.” Church was filled with constant dancing on stage by people in the audience and the sermon was done in French. I won’t lie, I was ready to fall asleep an hour and half into it. I’m happy I pushed through determined not to be the first one, only so I could watch the others slowly fall victim. As we were standing to leave, nearing the end of the sermon, the preacher called us out in front of the entire church asking us to please stay “5 more minutes” haha. I can say that was a first in my book, but overall it was a great to see how other cultures celebrate, worship God, and how there’s truly no right or wrong way to do it.

Games started off a bit rough. The other team’s girls were very straight faced, extremely physical on the court, and unfriendly the first game. Things slowly changed as we continued to play them a few more times and share our testimonies. They warmed up enough to us to start smiling, giving us high fives before the game, sometimes during the game, and coming over to our place for dinner the last night. We may not have been able to understand each other completely, but some things don’t need words to convey. Almost every girl on that team gave a brochure back saying they accepted Jesus into their heart or would like to volunteer with AIA in the local area. Many commented on our spirit during games and the way we played. They were very inspired by the character we played with and friendliness we showed them on and off the court.

One of the challenges for us as athletes will forever be toning down our competitive nature in order to put our main mission first. We didn’t go to the Ivory Coast to win every game and crush our opponent. Though, we also didn’t go to collect any L’s. It was a constant battle telling ourselves not to get frustrated when plays went wrong or calls didn’t go our way. We were there on a Godly mission and the way we presented ourselves carried heavy weight. I think it was a great experience to be allowed and to allow ourselves to play without any judgment or much for expectations. It was the perfect environment to test my knee out in a few live game situations.

I want to sit here and talk about how we influenced each and every person we encountered, and I will. However, I also know the reality of it is that we may have gotten more out this experience than many of the people we came into contact with. So at least for this post, I am going to talk about how we were influenced. Don’t worry, there will be another post on those we influenced. Yes, many people invited Jesus into their hearts during our time there and wanted to hear more about the local AIA program. Many even wanted to volunteer for their own groups, be a part of learning more, and start spreading the word. Although all these things are amazing, one of the most rewarding parts was the time spent as a group during our “team time” and hearing everyone’s testimonies. Each and every one of us came from a background different from the other, with hardships and trials that the other couldn’t imagine beforehand. It gave me a different respect and perspective of how someone from a different culture, background, upbringing, and place can live.

What it comes down to is that everyone’s journey is different but what remains the same is the feelings felt across situations. We can all relate to an extent on the feelings felt during our trials and hardships. This trip was our safe space. It was our judge free zone, allowing us to be vulnerable. Our time to verbalize our brokenness and share it with people who only want to understand and help you heal. A lot of the time we go through life trying to be tough and carry the weight of our brokenness alone. It can become a heavy weight you don’t realize you’re carrying until it’s lifted. For many of the girls on the trip, I think it was a relief to share their brokenness with another. Many of us hadn’t verbalized, shared, or allowed our vulnerabilities to show to anyone else. Like a clogged artery we didn’t let the words flow. We weren’t functioning properly. We didn’t realize the pressure building up behind the dam we build around ourselves. God couldn’t have placed better people on this trip. It was the right persons to reach the right parts of ourselves and let the spirit work inside our hearts and others. Every person was loaded with wisdom from their own experiences to add to the group and allow us think differently or inspire us to be better in our walk with Christ.

I was the oldest among the girls but I never felt that way. We were all equal and one in the same. Many of them claimed that I didn’t act like I was as old as I am. Not sure whether to take that as a good thing or as a “I don’t act my age” kind of thing haha. They meant it in a good way but honestly I didn’t feel older than them. I may have more years under my belt and maybe a few more experiences under my belt but that really means nothing. It’s only MY journey that I can understand and share. Their journey is a completely different story so it would be out of line to sit there and act like my hardships can completely relate to someone else’s. Your journey is your own to understand and others are there to listen, empathize, give advice when asked for, and add to your perspective. It would be like opening a book I’ve never read and saying I already know the plot line and ending because I’ve read books before. I still stand by the fact that no one can truly understand your journey, the details involved, or the feelings you feel but yourself and God.

On this trip, we were all outsiders being allowed to look up and shake up another person’s snow globe of a journey whether that be in our own group or those people living in the streets of Abidjan. My teammates allowed us to look inside; so like a guest in someone else’s house we needed to tread carefully. We were there to absorb what they allowed to spill out as best as we could and provide as much healing as we could to those wounds they ripped open for us to see and scars they showed us. Only they know how much those wounds bled or the pain felt when they did.

Sometimes you have to re-break bones to let them heal correctly. We called it letting our “brokenness” shine through but at the end of my time there, I felt more like it was our “fixing” that we allowed others to see. Maybe what we saw as our breaking was God fixing us, allowing us to heal correctly. Maybe we were walking down the wrong path or not walking hand in hand with him and needed a push in the right direction. We as humans can be stubborn thinking our plan is better than His but that’s false. God is in the details. He’s in the details of our breaking and in the details of our making. He broke us because we weren’t healing right and this trip helped me see that my hardships are really my highlights in my life.

Those moments where I thought I was broken and drowning in the dark were really Him healing me and cleansing me. It was essentially me throwing a tantrum because my plans didn’t go as planned. Like a child throwing a tantrum because their mom didn’t allow them to eat all the candy they want. The parent knows that it would end in the child getting sick and knows what’s best for the child even when they can’t see it. God see’s what’s good for us even when we can’t see it ourselves. He knows that the path we want for ourselves may not be good for us, so he doesn’t allow it. Yet we as children, untrusting, throw a tantrum and blame him for not getting what we want. We get side tracked and stray from the path, start rolling in the mud, and He finds us alone, dirty, helps pick ourselves up, and cleans us up.

So today I sit here fully “cleansed” thanks to the flu or whatever I’m experiencing, but I’m experiencing it with a roof over my head, a warm shower, a comfy bed, new friendships under my belt, new perspectives/lenses to see through, and many more things. All because He sent me down a path I couldn’t even imagine for myself and knowing what I do now, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d go through all those knee surgeries, moments of sadness, and hardships again so that I could experience all the good things much more vividly. I’d do it all again so I could experience the love, kindness, and lifestyle of the people of Abidjan and the lasting friendships I gained during my time there. Some things hit you like a rock and make a dent in you forever. This is without a doubt a dent I’m forever blessed to have gotten.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

 

Advertisements

Living On Faith Alone…

I’m officially in the Ivory Coast and it is definitely an eye opener. I’ve been trying to write this blog for the past few days but I couldn’t quite get the wording right so I kept putting it off. But I do feel the need to write while it’s still early in the trip and before I get to the end and regret not updating people on what we are experiencing over here. For me to say that we take things for granted in the U.S. is an extreme understatement. People here live in houses the size of our closets back home, walk around in dirty/raggedy clothes, drive on nearly un-drivable roads, and this is just what is considered “the city”. Kids play in the streets with wheels as their toys and walk the streets aimlessly for miles because their families won’t put them in school. We complain about a few small potholes in the road back home and these people drive on dirt roads in vehicles that I am constantly thinking the wheels are going to fall off from bottoming out all the time. And no I don’t think it is because I need to lay off a few meals or sit in the front of the bus.

The people here live in poverty and barely own a thing truly of their own. We visited one of our AIA host’s family’s neighborhoods the other day and the way they live and the way they care for each other is inspiring. They said that if someone has a problem the whole community surrounds them and helps them out. The way they made it sound is like it was one massive family within that community. They share what little they have and they welcomed us like we were family. Kids ran around waving at us and people were very friendly pretty much everywhere we went. If I were them I think I would almost be spiteful or bitter towards us, but that wasn’t the case. In my eyes, I’d imagine us viewed as privileged Americans coming to their country and their communities prancing through and leaving like it was nothing. I’d be somewhat spiteful or bitter if I was them but then again they may not know any better. They may not fully know the luxury lifestyles we live in comparison. I mean, we barely notice the little luxuries we have that others may not. Such as hot water, wifi, paved roads, air conditioning, or even simply being able to drink tap water out of the sink.

Today we visited an orphanage, we shared the Word of God with the kids, my teammate shared her testimony, and we played some games. The foster mother in charge of the orphanage told us her story of how she doesn’t work off of a salary and relies strictly on God and her faith to provide. She knew in her heart that what she was doing for these orphans was right and that caring for them was something God would also want. She was an orphan at the age of 2 and had to go around washing plates and taking things to the market to sell for other people. She vowed to help other children who find themselves in similar situations alone and uncared for. Imagine being that young, on your own just trying to survive. Also, for us it’s difficult to wrap our minds around someone relying solely on God to provide for them, but here in Abidjan it really is an incredible feat. She cares for over 170 orphans and pays for most of them to go to school, eat, and be clothed. She shared some stories of how God has come through in incredible ways during tough times such as when there was no heat to cook food for the children or when they were in desperate need for a bus to take the kids to school safely.

Her faith and devotion to help those in need is inspiring and I think a lot of people I know could use an ounce of that kind of faith in their everyday lives. I’m not saying people in America should rely solely on God to provide for them because we have far more means available to support ourselves than many of the people here in Abidjan, but imagine a world where people had even half the amount of faith this foster mother has towards God in their lives. Trusting that He has a plan and that He won’t throw us anything we can’t handle. That His plan is better than ours. I think there would be a lot of people living a happier life with less worry on tomorrow and more living for today. It would be a faith that drives out all doubt. I also think that it would be a beautiful thing for people to appreciate and realize what we have right now instead of constantly wishing for more. We live in a nation where work, success, power, material goods, and money are valued most. Yet, we also live in a nation where people go about their day, week, month, year unhappy and barely able to find something to smile about in their daily lives or work. These same people also have a roof over their heads, food at home, and most times a vehicle or transportation to take them places. I think that if the people of Abidjan living with less than the bare necessities can find one thing to smile about, we can find it as well. In spite of all that, the painful truth of this experience may actually be that in many ways they are more blessed than we are.

This trip within a few days has strengthened, tested, and questioned my faith in many ways already and I’m supposed to be the one sharing with the people here. I think it’s amazing how when you give back you end up getting back more than you gave and today is one of the many examples I hope to experience still this week. I believe that if we made a difference in the life of just one child or simply sparked their curiosity in having a relationship with God, today it was more than worth it.

______________________________________________________________________________________

“Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

-Matthew 17:20

 

 

 

Investing In Yourself…

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own and you know what you know.

And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.”

-Dr. Suess

When you wake up in the morning what are you striving for? When you’re sitting alone at night in your thoughts, what do you dream of becoming? When you look at where you were 3 months ago, what have you accomplished? When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

So many of us dream of who we want to be, or who we wish we were, yet do nothing about it. We leave it in the distance, as if it’s so far out of reach that taking those necessary steps toward it seems worthless.

It’s like not wanting to get off the couch to get the remote because it’s too much work. If you sit there long enough, day in and day out, you make an indent in that spot. It becomes YOUR spot, shaped to your own making- eventually becoming one that’s hard to get out of once you’re in it.

Funny, how that’s also how life seems sometimes. You settle into the role you’ve chosen for yourself, the role that’s “comfortable” and where you fit into it as perfectly as you fit into that spot on the couch. It’s your place; your routine. The place that maybe once you’ve been in it for so long, have it broken in, it’s hard for you to get out of. It’s hard to want to try sitting anywhere else. But then one day you’re forced to and you realize from this new place you have a better vantage point and better perspective to see everything you couldn’t before. You realize the spot you were once in was nothing compared to this new place you’ve discovered. You just didn’t know what you were missing because you became comfortable. You didn’t want to go outside your box, your routine, your opinion of what you thought you liked or didn’t like. It was simply what you knew.

For me, it’s sad to think about myself ever getting “comfortable” in this role I’ve chosen for myself and who I am. I don’t think I’m ever fully comfortable because I’ve been blessed to travel the world and see things that many people don’t ever get the chance to. Every time I think my eyes are open, I turn the corner and find that my vision wasn’t as clear as I thought. My eyes are constantly being opened by experiencing new cultures, languages, foods, and activities; by meeting people who are different from me, and through every bit of new knowledge I gain. Each detail of my life has opened a new door within me and there are so many doors there, in my mind and in yours, that haven’t even been touched. Maybe you just never saw the door before or maybe you did and just didn’t care enough to jiggle the knob and peek inside.

I’ve found that through my experiences, I’ve gained much more compassion and acceptance towards others because I’ve been in so many different situations and met so many people different from myself. I’ve gained more vantage points to view from and multiple lenses to view through. So many more perspectives to see with because those “doors” have been opened. With those added skills and knowledge, I see myself as more valuable. You become more valuable when you open your mind to experience more and see things in a different light. You become a Swiss Army knife with more than just a blade. You’re a tool box that’s actually filled with something useful. You’re not just an empty box with nothing to offer others who come along, looking inside for the right tools to fix or create their lives/dreams. You are capable of helping them fix their problems or create something great of their own!

It’s not just about you, or how others can help you. That’s the narrow, one-way perspective on life. It’s about those you can impact and help along the way. Meaning, life is just as much about how YOU affect others as it is about how they affect you. Every single person makes a dent in you in some way, shape or form and vices versa. We are constantly being shaped into the person we are supposed to be by every detail, word, and action that occurs. Who you are carries weight and value. Why not try to be as valuable to others as you want them to be to you?

For this reason, I chose to go after my MBA. It’s why I am constantly trying to be better, in some way every day. It is why I strongly believe in forever INVESTING in yourself as a person and as a professional. You should think of yourself as something worth investing in. You should be trying to make yourself as valuable as possible. You should be trying to be that toolbox with something to offer others, as well as yourself.  Don’t you ever wonder where your potential reaches and where your limits lie? I question all the time who I could be, how valuable I could be to myself and others, or how I could better help anyone who I come into contact with in some way, shape, or form. I wanted to go after my MBA to get those “tools” to fill my box with so that when I do figure out what I want to build for myself or others, I have the tools to do so.

On top of that, I also really enjoy learning because knowledge is another powerful tool. The day you stop learning or wanting to learn is the day you die. You’re going to learn something in this life whether you want to or not. How much you learn is up to you. You can’t push someone up a ladder- they have to want to climb. Are you just sitting there staring up, wondering what’s at the top, but too lazy to climb? Are you too comfortable in your spot to get up and grab the remote? Are you sitting there claiming to be “starving” with a buffet before you, but too lazy to get up and eat? Maybe you’re actually starving for knowledge, for fuel to add to that dimming flame of yours, for some enlightening experience to provoke a new way of thinking within you.

I don’t know about you, but when I start sinking into my spot and routine my mind goes somewhat numb. When I break from the routine, go out, or experience new people and things my mind feels refreshed. These moments spark something in me. They ignite a fire in me. They wake me up!

The people in my MBA program do that to me. Talking with them about their reasons for being in the program, what they are striving for, why they want to be better … is INSPIRING! It’s an amazing feeling to be surrounded by others who are trying to be better daily and are motivated to increase their value. Everyone is striving for something even they don’t all know exactly what they want to do with the MBA once they have it. Heck, I don’t even know for sure what I’m going to do with it or what I want to be when I “grow up”. And that’s okay! My dad and many other “adults” I’ve spoken with still claim they don’t know what they want to be when they “grow up” and they are old and dusty.  So I’d like every one of you out there to know you’re not the only one. But the only one that can go after that dream of yours is YOU!

These people in my program fuel my flame and my motivation to be better. They inspire me to go after the dreams and ambitions that spark my fire. Go after those things that fuel yours as well. Make your flame as blindingly bright as you can and share your light with others.

A candle loses nothing by lighting another. Remember that…

Also, I will add that at the end of the day, you are the top 5 people you surround yourself with. Meaning, you become the people you CHOOSE to surround yourself with! Ask yourself, who are your top 5?

In my mind, if I’m just sitting around completely satisfied with who I am today it’s almost like I’m just biding my time until my days on this Earth are over. I feel like I’m a glass that’s supposed to be filled to the brim and I want to be overflowing. Why would you choose to settle for half full, half empty or somewhere in between?

Why wouldn’t you want to make yourself better and more knowledgeable? Why accept who you are right now when there’s so much out there that you know nothing about or haven’t seen? You should wonder where the limits of your potential reach. You should wonder who you could be. There’s never an excuse to stop dreaming of what you could become or what skills you could obtain. So no, maybe none of us know what/who we want to be when we grow up. We are constantly growing- forever growing up. Our priorities and our values change with age. We reach one goal of who we see ourselves as and we find something else to strive for. Do it for yourself, even if others around you are still “sitting on that couch”.

But at the end of the day, how many steps you’ve taken toward that dream is up to you and the only person standing in the way of reaching your full potential is YOURSELF. Get up off that couch. Surround yourself with people who push you to be better. Do some things that make you uncomfortable. You prune the dead leaves off of trees to make them grow. Start pruning and continue growing!


“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

-Luke 6:38


 

Fall Down 7, Get up 8…

I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t eat my own words in my last post the very next day. I was struggling at the time i wrote the stuff about being positive but i still meant every word. Just because I struggled again after doesn’t mean those words don’t still ring true.

Before i get too far into this I want to say i’m not writing this to spark pity or for people to feel bad for me. Nobody should feel bad for me because there are much worse things. Don’t take the dark parts too seriously but just absorb it. They are MY words, for MY blog and how i felt these past few months. I could write another happy go lucky post but it wouldn’t be real. THIS is real. These feelings were real. I am still blessed in so many ways. Like they say, this is just one of my many minor setbacks toward my major comeback. 🙂 You want to know what it’s like being a professional athlete… the dark moments come side by side with the happy ones. It’s a package deal and I signed up for it. Right on the dotted line. 

I call the next 2 months, after my last post, my “dark days”. I say that because I was crippled with bitterness, sadness, frustration, self pity, and anger due to another everest of an obstacle in my path to recovery and getting to where I wanted to be. I thought that since i had overcome the rehab and the emotions of tearing my ACL that i would be on the downward slope finally. That Poland would be that new, rejuvenating, stepping stone towards my goal. Like being on a rocky boat for months and finally stepping on solid land. Finally getting my footing on something real; then finding out i was just kinda stuck in mud and i slid right back down. After months of maintaining that positive, cant stop me attitude, I finally had the breakdown I had expected to come a lot earlier. I don’t cry easily. A dumb tv show like vampire diaries or a movie like Seven Pounds might move one or two tears from my eyes occasionally ,but I found my breaking point in Poland finally. I call THAT my “chocolate week.” 

That week it felt like i was being tested with every single detail from every angle of my life. It was bad news after bad news and it just kept coming. I closed down because how does one talk to another person about that kind of sadness and frustration. How do you pour out, describe, paint a picture vivid enough, colorful enough to make that person feel or see everything your feeling. How do you release a little bit of that, give up just a little bit of it to someone else to lighten your load? I had been carrying this heavy load of emotions and finally it was too much. 

It felt like it was pointless to talk to anyone because it’s like translating a language, some things just get lost in the translation no matter how hard you try to make them understand. Nobody knew what I was feeling. It felt safer to sit in my quiet apartment and not talk to anyone and just let the tears roll. I was the only one that could, that would, be able to understand the detail of every emotion. The precision of the metaphorical knife cutting away at me. It felt pointless to talk to others about MY problems when they have problems of their own actually effecting their life… on their own continent. I was by myself in a foreign country trying to deal in the best way I knew how. A lot of times people don’t know the right words to say anyway. All i pretty much wanted from anyone I did try to talk to was for them to sit there and be like “Yeah Chelsea, that really sucks.” 

I didn’t want to hear all that positive crap that I had so recently been spouting to others because I could easily come up with some positives. That wasn’t the problem, i had just wrote a whole post on the positives. I could see the positives but the negatives outweighed them and couldn’t just be ignored. I knew it was just another part of God’s plan in my life but I needed to bask in the crappy-ness of it all. I needed to just feel sorry for myself for a time and just really feel it. Sometimes there’s so much ugliness that no amount of positivity can pretty it up. No amount of perfume can cover the stench. No amount of cleaning can clear it from the cracks of your foundation. It needs to be absorbed, processed, understood, and let go. 

Let me tell you something. Real friends are the people that will let you feel sorry for yourself for the right amount of time and then will give you a swift kick in the rear if you don’t get your sh*t together. The ones that will give you a boot and tell you when to stop feeling sorry for yourself because nobody else does. The world doesn’t stop for you. Luckily I didn’t need that kick. I scraped my big booty back up eventually but i had a few people who i knew would keep me in check if i didn’t. 

I was at my darkest having to wait almost a month due to insurance issues because of my dad. I pretty much gave him the silent treatment for 2 weeks after I got back from Poland and he gave it right back knowing he was in the wrong…What can I say, us Poppens are a stubborn lot. It was a very quiet house those two weeks. haha. Also, it probably didn’t help that he had told me in our first convo after the knee news that maybe it was just that time to grow up and move on to the next thing in my life. He didn’t say it in a mean way but still. For future reference to anyone who has the chance to be one of those people that someone in a dream crushing moment reaches out to… do NOT lead with that! -__- lol Wait until mayyybeee the 2nd conversation.

I wouldn’t know if i would get the opportunity to try out and make the WNBA again until i knew what was up with my knee; I wouldn’t know what was up with my knee truly until they operated and looked inside. And I wouldn’t be able to find that out for about another month. One month of being in a dark, bitter limbo. One month of what could’ve been rehab, just wasted. Not being able to go up stairs well or do much of anything active because the pain in my knee. Not knowing if my rehab will be another 3 or 6 months on top of all the rehab already done in the past year. Not knowing if it will be time to put away the basketball shoes in search of what my grandma might refer to as “ a real job.” Talks with her go back to either that or her asking if there’s any boys i’m interested in or want to “take out.” haha  But anyway, I would call these long 5 months the teeter-totter point where my life situation goes one way or another.

It’s hard not wanting to talk about your unknown life situation in a small town where everyone you see asks you the same questions. It’s hard to be friendly talking about something that’s eating you up from the inside out. The same questions that slightly make you feel shameful, unsuccessful, or a failure on the inside. I compare it to not being able to quite get up after a fall… like your just there on the dirty ground trying to gather yourself and people are looking curiously at the mess you are as they walk by. 

Don’t get me wrong I absolutely love the people in my town and the close knit community I come from. That people care enough to ask how you are doing, what you are doing back in town, how long your back in town, or what the next step is for you. You don’t get that everywhere. But when you, yourself don’t have the answers it’s a constant reminder of your unfortunate situation every time you have to tell people you don’t have all the answers to their questions or even yours yet. But either way, my small town and the people in it helped shape me and made me strong enough to take on obstacles like this. I’m grateful to have so many people that care and want to see me succeed. They too, see me at my worst and my best.

Out of the Dark Days…back into the light

Needless to say, i had to have a scope and micro-fracture done on my knee by the awesome Doctor Greenwald. The damage was due to the way I tore my ACL via contact. The knee clunked in and out of position causing bone bruising and cartilage damage along with it. Greenwald had to put little holes in my bone in order to try to stimulate cartilage growth. Only time will tell if it worked. 

I am beyond grateful and blessed that San Antonio decided to keep my rights and invite me back to training camp. They’re taking a chance on me even though i am on the mend. That meant the world and gave me back that glimmer of hope. 

Since then I’ve been at home rehabbing and trying to fight the boredom. It’s hard to find a job for just a few months. I see the light at the end of the tunnel finally. For the month of April i am living in Ames with an awesome couple who offered up their spare room for me to stay. I know them because they are originally from my hometown area. That is one of the perks of being from a small town and knowing so many lovely people who want to help you reach your dream. 

I moved to Ames in April because I can start up doing more basketball and agility stuff in this part of my rehab. The Iowa State coaching staff has always been amazing and supportive of me in my rehab. They let me use the Sukup facility as much as I want which means I am pretty much there all day. I think they’re probably tired of seeing me so much by now. 😉 

When your a student athlete at the time, you kind of take the 24/7 access and everything there for granted. I now fully understand the amazing, wonderful, coldness of an ice bath after having to freeze my own individual cups in a tiny freezer and de-thaw each one to put into a tiny tub in order for my body to make it through another day in Poland. 

Or the luxury of not having to limp slowly after a rebound alone in the gym because you have a SHOOTING GUN! Oh the greatness! God bless machines that rebound for you. 

I feel like i am crunched for time considering training camp is in May but I know that as soon as I pick up speed I’ll be back to doing what I know i am capable of in no time! 🙂 I can only control the controllable.

For those who don’t quite understand…

Why go after this frivolous dream of playing pro-basketball? 

Why deal with the physical and emotional pain and risk damaging your body even more? Why do athletes put themselves through it? 

Why don’t they just learn when enough is enough and when it’s time to leave the childish dreams behind? Everyone has to do it eventually…right? 

For me, it’s one of the few places where my mind is quiet and i don’t have to worry about all the other white noise surrounding my life. It’s what I know and it’s like a book i’ve read cover to cover a million times and I know it almost word for word but not quite. So familiar and comforting it’s like coming home after being away for a long time. A painting i almost know stroke for stroke because I helped paint it along with so many others. 

Or maybe i just want to feel that thrill of being unstoppable again, of giving every bit of myself to the game that i love. Not unstoppable because I’m the best player out there but because nobody can stop how hard I am going to work. The one thing I have complete and utter control over. I may not have control over everything that happens to me in this life but I can control how much effort/work I put out there or leave out there for the last time in my career. I just want to have that one chance to be 100 percent healthy and leave everything in me out on that court. I want what every athlete wants.. to end that childish, fantasy of a dream with no regrets knowing I gave it everything i had. That I used my God given talents and blessings in every way possible. 

It’s not just about basketball either. It’s about the platform you find yourself on to see all the more people you are able to reach, to help, to get to know, to be friends with, to become a role model for. I enjoy that aspect. I’m one of those people who lead by actions, not really words. So what better way to have my actions seen than by stumbling, crawling, and clawing my way up to that platform. You have to earn it right? The people up there shouldn’t just get to take the escalator. They should have to take the stairs… or better yet rock climb that baby. That way you know the people in view of everyone and their kids actually deserve to be there. That they had to work for it.

Either way i’m not quite ready to give it and grow up. I prefer to delay the inevitable curse of growing up. I know that day will come sometime. If that day comes soon so be it, I gave all i had. But I don’t want to live an average life. I want to live a vibrant life full of color, energy, blessings, adventures; endless amounts of knowledge, friends, and languages. I want to live a life outside the box, a shape of it’s own making. Cheers to each one of us being the writers, artists, architects of our own lives!

   

“ Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to it’s not for them. “

“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the detail of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.” 

– Ernest Hemingway

“Life is unpredictable. 

It changes with the seasons,

Even your coldest winter,

Happens for the best of reasons,

And though it feels eternal,

Like all you’ll ever do is freeze,

I promise spring is coming,

And with it, brand new leaves.”

-e.h.

Searching for the Beauty in the Madness

Today there are about 20 days till I get to see my family and friends again. It has been 10 months since my ACL reconstruction. I’ve been here in Poland approximately 3 months. Time passes ever so quickly so I know these 20 days will go swiftly by. I can’t wait to see my little nephew who will be walking by the time I get home. I will hopefully get to check in with everyone back at Iowa State and maybe catch a game of my lady clones. I also am looking forward to watching some of the girl’s I gave lessons to this summer play back at my old high school. I’m hoping to see that they are using the skills I taught them and haven’t forgotten everything so quickly. All in all I’m just excited to be Home sweet home where everything is familiar and comfortable. I’m just ready to be back and surrounded by loved ones. 

            As for thanksgiving, Hanna and I didn’t really get to have much of a thanksgiving because it was a fairly busy day with practice. They obviously don’t celebrate it here because they never had our historical indian/pilgrim situation. Even though there was no meal, we did get to have some pumpkin pie thanks to mi madre. She sent me the supplies to make some. Either way, we don’t need a huge meal to remember what we’re thankful for and how blessed we are in all aspects of our lives. From the people we are surrounded with to the roof over our heads. God is good! 

     My post today is random. You don’t have to agree with what I have to say. Since this is my blog, they are my thoughts and they sort of bounce around in this. Each person differs as well as their views of things due to individual personal experiences. Enjoy!

Basketball:

            Playing here in Poland has been interesting. Our team is young and new to the league. We have only won about 3 games and it’s been rough. We haven’t had a shortage of injuries. Seems that once one person gets healthy another person falls victim to some kind of injury.  I’ve been struggling this whole time getting my knee swelling to go down and for it to feel normal. I will be getting an MRI here in a few days to see if I might possibly need a scope at some point down the road. It’s hard to get back to playing how I once did when my knee keeps flaring up. It is so frustrating. The rehab and the quality of care here isn’t as good as it was in college or back in the states. I do my own rehab on injuries and try to help teammates if they want it. My living room here is basically my personal gym with bands, yoga ball, foam roll, and yoga mat. I freeze little cups of ice for ice baths because ice baths are unheard of here. This experience of understanding how to rehab myself will help me when I do decide to go to grad school for PT. So at least for that I am grateful. It is a learning experience and I call my old trainer at Iowa State all the time and at all hours. haha I forget the time change sometimes. I trust her opinion more than anyone here when it comes to taking care of my body and what I should do for recovery/rehab exercises.

      A few weeks ago I partially dislocated my shoulder and was out for a bit. I didn’t practice at all and then at the game this weekend I just got thrown into it for 20 minutes. I was slightly winded and didn’t play the greatest but we won and that’s all that matters. You can only control the controllable. It was good to see coach and everyone on the team happy for a change. The frustration and tension was getting pretty high up until that point. Basketball just isn’t the same over here. It’s just been a struggle to get in the groove of things.  

      

     The way I see basketball, is as this beautiful work of art or this beautiful dance flowing ever so smoothly. Like clockwork and every moving part working like it should; moving like it should. Every person dancing the same rhythm, making the right steps, reacting to others, moving at the right time and the right way. And it feels great to be apart of something like that. A well-oiled machine.

I come here and it’s no longer this beautiful work of art. It’s a messed up puzzle of this beautiful thing that once was. So many pieces that need to be put back together in order to get the full effect. But it’s so hard.

       Going from the U.S. playing disciplined college basketball or WNBA to somewhere overseas, so far just feels like going from the opera to a middle school band recital. It’s this blank slate where only the basic outline of what basketball should look like is sketched. It’s missing something. Missing the details within that make it unique. But you can’t just draw them in. There’s so much more to it. Rules and social/cultural norms stopping you. So all you can do is settle for the generic version of your favorite snack or a photocopy of the Mona Lisa because the real thing is just too far out of reach for the time being. I guess it also depends on the way you look at it. Because sometimes the madness of it all makes it that much more valuable & beautiful.  Maybe all I need is a change in perspective. Everything happens for a reason and maybe the pieces will come together soon enough.

            Don’t get me wrong. I am enjoying myself here. It’s a good experience. I could sit and complain about being bored because there isn’t much to do. I could sit here and talk about how you can’t drink water out of the tap or how my shower is baby sized. I could whine about a lot of things but I’ve chosen to embrace it and see it for what it is. Living here makes me appreciate things all the more. Everyone on my team is nice and super friendly. Everyone I’ve met here in Lublin has been so very welcoming and supportive. The people here don’t need much to be happy. They are simple and they live simply. As long as they have their health everything is right in the world. They are happy with less. Which I think I know a few people who could use some tips from them. Most of us Americans must seem so materialistic and high maintenance in their eyes. We always want more or better than we already have and I don’t think that most people ever reach that point where they are JUST simply and completely happy with what they have, where they are, or who they are. I know I struggle with that sometimes too. For now though, I am content with living in the present and being happy in it.

       

This is my last random thought of the day because sometimes the rough days get the best of you:

      Isn’t it a relief to know that every detail of your life is planned, every obstacle, every bad day, every hardship or frustration or thing gone wrong that’s not as YOU planned? I’ve learned to laugh, to hope and to keep faith. Because eventually in your darkest hours a sliver of light has to creep in. I’ve learned from experience. After Every dark time in my life a even brighter day has come of it. It does get better, eventually. No matter how long or how hard/ heavy those days or emotions seem to weigh on you. 

      You can’t climb a mountain by starting from the top. You can’t appreciate the strength inside you, the journey, the people you met along the way, or the knowledge you gained by starting from the top. You can’t fully understand a book by reading from the end. It’s the little details within and the order they’re precisely presented that make it desirable, that make it great, that spark a bit of curiosity, or bring people a smidge hope & happiness. God designed each and every one of those details. The greatest author of all designed YOUR life. If you chose to walk with him do you really think he would leave your book without some sort of happy ending?  

     I sit here and think about all those who don’t believe in God or just believe in some “thing” out there or nothing at all. I think why would you want to go through all those tough times alone. With God I’ve never been alone. I’ve faced depression knowing with him that the sadness would eventually fade because there’s no way the darkness would stay forever. I knew some light had to get in to me however small that light was. The sun always comes back up. You just have to be patient. He’s been my hope when everything seemed hopeless. And I can’t imagine those hard times without that kind of “hope”. But then again how can you crave something you’ve never tasted.  How can someone crave Him if they’ve never had the chance to know him in any way. Food for thought. Spread the word 🙂

 

“I will go before you, and make the crooked places straight” 

–Isaiah 45:2

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. “ 

– Isaiah 43:2

“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably does not lead anywhere.”

–Frank A. Clark

Dancing the Fine Lines

It’s been a minute. I guess I felt like my summer was just so monotonous to write about. I was dedicated to rehabbing, working out as much as I was allowed, enjoying time with friends and family, giving lessons to kids in my hometown, and had a camp of my own in my hometown. Now I am off beginning another adventure.

             I was super positive the first 4 months of recovery and then on the 5th month I hit a wall. I had a bad attitude every time I went in to rehab with my old ISU trainer, Denise. I didn’t want to be there; I wanted to be on the court playing already. If you ever have someone in your life who isn’t family but they are always willing to help you out no matter what, be sure to show them how much you appreciate them. Denise was busy with all her other injured athletes and still found time to help me through my rehab. She is a wonderful, wonderful person. She would even text me back after my surgery in Australia at 4 am Iowa time if I had an emergency question. I felt kind of alone over there after my surgery and she helped me get by. I am very blessed to have people like her in my life.

            Rehab was like studying for an exam but it seems like the day of the test will never come. And you have to push yourself every day because nobody else is going to do that for you. You’re in charge of your own destiny. Doesn’t matter if you’re in a good mood or bad mood that day.  The thing about having knee surgery is that you go from working out every day for hours at a time to not working out at all. You have to find a way to stay somewhat in shape because your career rests on it. I had to sometimes bail out on friends in the summer in order to maintain my focus. I couldn’t go out very much and if I did I was that sober friend at the bar. And let’s be honest nobody likes that sober friend at the bar to remember all the stupid things everyone else does. Not everyone understands when people have to sacrifice for something they love. Not everyone understands why your doing what your doing. There’s a fine line between going after your dream and enjoying/ living your life in the present. I was doing a very delicate dance on that line all summer. There’s a lot of peer pressure, a lot of temptation, a lot of frustration, and sometimes even a lot of doubt playing at your heart. But when it comes down to it, your true friends will still be there in the end. And I don’t regret it one bit. 

            The day of the test is pretty much here now. I am now in Lublin, Poland. The first week was a struggle. I didn’t know what to expect exactly. I had only been to Australia and didn’t know how exactly my team here would handle things. There are two other Americans on my team. The first of the struggles started when I landed in Poland. My luggage apparently didn’t make it there with me. Even after pestering two workers on if my bags would connect. I stood by the baggage carousel watching it go around saying to myself “don’t worry they are coming.” I was in denial. I even stood there looking at the baggage carousel for a bit after it stopped. Haha It was a long trip and to not have hardly any of my belongings was a rough start. Then I went to the lost luggage place. The guy then proceeded to ask me all these questions that I didn’t have the answers to… yet. Such as “What’s the address of where you are staying?” or “What’s the phone number we can reach you at?” The person with those answers was just outside waiting for me but I couldn’t get to him. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t kind of want to cry just a wee little bit. Luckily I found a random phone number in an old email and gave it to the man. No tears were shed.

            We then took a long drive to Lublin from Warsaw. We stopped by a restaurant where we couldn’t read the menu. So the guy with us ordered for us something he said was chicken with some butter. It turned out to be something like chicken wrapped around a stick of butter and fried. It literally spurted out butter and had a hole in the center for the stick of butter. Not the best meal I’ve ever had but oh well. There are worse things.

            The other two Americans, Hannah Luburgh and Dara Taylor, live together about a few blocks away from me. They might of had it a little worse than me the first night and to top it off it’s their first year overseas so they didn’t quite know what to expect. Poor girls. They had to dry off from showers with their own clothes because there weren’t any towels. Also, they didn’t have any blankets or pillows for the first night and had to sleep in their warmest clothes. I only could complain about the baby-sized shower in my apartment and the lack of clothing/other hygiene necessities. Things gradually have been getting better though don’t get me wrong. I got my luggage 2 days after arriving. They got some blankets, pillows and towels. All is well. The struggle is still real.

            Our team has two a days over here.  One morning practice and one evening practice. Let’s just say it’s the most I’ve just jumped into doing physically in about 7 months. And to top it off we had a tournament a few days after arriving. My knee was swollen, my hip was in pain from compensating, and I got some nasty blisters on my feet due to the lack of calluses on them. It was a weekend for limping up and down the court. Even my other American teammates were struggling physically. Our coach said he just thought I was out of shape. -__- Half my days were just me rehabbing/icing to get ready for the next day. I officially know how to say, “ice please” in Polish. One of my favorites.

            After the rough tournament we drove 5 hours back to Lublin. Apparently after games here, we go to the spa when we get back. We go to the pool, hot tub, sauna, and ice room if we wish to. I am very fond of this tradition they have. Except for the fact that there are grown men sitting around the sauna area with nothing but a towel on and the accidental seeing of things you shouldn’t EVER have to see occurs. I am scarred for life.

            Things have gotten a lot better so far. There is nothing that a glass of wine every night can’t help you through. We just got a vehicle today. We are free! Woo!

We also live not to far from the shopping center. Our teammates all kind of understand English. The locals don’t all speak it. So we work with hand gestures a lot of the time.

            Tonight was the first night of practice that I actually felt somewhat like my old self. To know your potential but not be able to physically get there again is one of the most mentally challenging things for an athlete. To not be able to rebound as well as I once did. To come back into the game of basketball and always somewhat be scared in the back of your mind that someone might knock knees with you again. Slightly afraid every time someone cheap shots you or falls on you. Playing timid is just the start of getting back to what I once was. Trying to prove to your new team and your new coach that you were worth the risk of them giving you a chance. Once again I’m dancing that fine line. But it’s a different line this time. It’s the line of pushing myself to prove my worth and taking care of my body the best way I know how. Good thing I’ve got plenty of experience in the physical therapy department. 

Tonight at practice I felt good. I felt almost as quick as I used to be, almost as confident, and it felt almost as good as it used to feel. It’s just a process and I have to be patient and take it day by day. I’ve done what I can and will leave the rest to God. Life is full of those fine lines and all we can do is dance them the best way we know how. 

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. “

                                – Matthew 6:34

A Ring-Ting-Ting-A-Ling

Alrighty, so It has been a minute since I’ve done a blog so I figured it’s about time. Being home has been great! I was so eager to get back and be with friends and family again. Ever since I have gotten back the mother has been turning me into her personal Cinderella aka slave. Especially once she had her shoulder surgery. One day she expected me to get on my hands and knees to clean the floor. Had to remind her that she wasn’t the only one injured haha Can’t let her get too carried away now that I’m back. 😉 I have been doing my rehab in Ames with my old trainer at Iowa State. She’s an absolute beaut! I don’t know what I would do without her.  I mean how old is too old to be using the ISU facilities? I feel like i gave my soul for 4 years sooo… hopefully not till I am done pursuing my basketball career haha I guess I will know when they change the code to the practice facility on me. 

I have only been able to do rehab in the pool up until this past week. I was super excited to be able to start up with ladders and agility work. Not being able to really shoot around or play for a bit definitely has rejuvenated me and made my love of the game all that much more. Not being able to do something for so long makes you appreciate it all that much more. Told you things happen for a reason! I’ve been going out and visiting with old friends in Ames. I officially have started gaining back my oh so awesome dance moves 😉 jk i’m very much lacking in that department but I try. 

It’s weird being back in my hometown/Ames and getting asked questions like why am i back, when am I going back to Australia, when I’m going to San Antonio, when will I be done with school. Figured I would just answer most of those questions in this blog.

Yes I am OFFICIALLY a BUM. I live at home with my parents at the moment! Woo woo i’m real cool these days. :-p, Just 2 weeks after i was back my Dad was already like soo.. when you finally going to get a job? You can go work at Caseys. ( He thinks he’s a funny man) My personal favorite question is when I get asked what my “plan” is and my only response is rehab. Then they are like “what else?” haha I feel like the biggest bum ever not really knowing what I’m going to do exactly besides rehab for the next few months. I mean I am fine with the uncertainty at the moment. I know it will all work out eventually. But in the meantime I stay in ames for about 3 days out of the week for rehab. I couch bounce among my old teammates and my hockey bros at Iowa State. Good thing I’m not “that old” yet, still got me some pretty freak’n awesome friends left at school. I don’t think they are too tired of me yet. I try to mix the places I stay up. I mean I’ve only been intentionally locked out of the apartment once…. (I’m talking about you all: Ashley, Hallie, Elly) haha! It was a joke…. I think. :-/ They were laughing? The way I see it i’m just making up for lost time this past year.

I plan to get a place in Ames for the summer since rehab is right there on the top of my priority list. Probably will do some individual lessons back in Aplington-Parkersburg for whatever kids want it one or two days out of the week. We will see. I’m thinking about running a 2-day basketball camp in the summer in A-P. Maybe trying to do a little physical therapy observation during the summer to stay on track towards my Pre-PT major for when I decide to pursue that route again. That wont be for a few years yet. I’m can’t imagine giving up this basketball dream just yet. I’m hoping that my experience with this injury will help me get into grad school someday. So yes I did graduate and get my Bachelors in Kinesiology. All I have left is grad school someday and ISU doesn’t have that for the career I want to pursue. It also requires about 3 full, constant years of dedication so I can’t just take classes here and there. 

I initially was supposed to go to training camp for San Antonio in May to try out and fight for a spot on the team again. But that plan got put on hold due to my ACL reconstruction. I am hoping that when I have been cleared and am completely healthy again that they might call me back if they have a spot open by then. But that is just what I am hoping hope. Relying in that “hope & pray” method at the moment. I mean that method worked pretty darn well when it came to starting my car in the negative degree weather when I got back to this frozen tundra. Turn the key… doesn’t start… sit for a bit… say a lil prayer.. turn key… doesn’t start…moment of silence.. turn key… STARTS… 30 second dance party. I personally think it worked GREAT! But dear Dad, if your reading this, I know i’m grown but a new car would be great 😉 If not, thats fine, I didn’t want one anyway. Let’s just say I’ll probably be the one picking your/mom’s retirement home…. just think on it. 

As for Australia, I wouldn’t mind going back to the land of Oz. I absolutely loved it! But if I did, I don’t know what team that I would be going to. I am currently under no long term commitment to the Boomer team I once was with. I wouldn’t mind going over to Europe where the money is better and it would be fun to do a bit more traveling to areas I haven’t been to yet. I also strive to get better so going over to Europe may provide me with different challenges on the court and more competition. 

So far I’m loving life. Still trying to blaze my trail and find myself. I’m not too worried. I’m surrounded by so many great people. I have no complaints. For now, I will sit back, have a beer and watch all my senior friends go through their last semester midlife identity crisis’s before they are booted out into the big ole world. I remember those days. Poor kids. In the meantime, hope you all have a blessed week! 

Psalm 16:11 You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever. The Lord will show you what to do and instruct you how to live. Your responsibility is to stay focused on His will.