Friday, February 21, 2014

in defense.

There are many times in life I wonder why. I wonder why bad things happen to good people and vice versa. I wonder why someone ever invented panty hose? I wonder why God decided to make this Earth the way it is. I wonder why people are so mean? 

When I was younger, my mom used to tell me that I was filled with "righteous indignation." At the time, it sounded like a spell a witch puts on you; however, now I consider it a great compliment. I watch others hurting and get filled with passion to speak out or do something to make it change. One of my favorite shows is "What Would You Do" put on by John Quiñones. I watch these episodes designed to have people step in and speak up for someone else in a difficult position. I've often struggled with knowing when to speak up for others, especially when my passion is strong, and still maintain my own integrity and character in the process. 

At this point in time, I feel it necessary to speak up for a man I truly respect and admire: 

Coach Jim Rowland 

Recently, an article was published in the local paper that called into question Coach Rowland's character and accused him of running a "good ole boy system" in the Fort Smith Public School's athletic department. While everyone is entitled to his own opinion, I also feel it is necessary to publish facts when the article is published in anything other than the opinion section. There were no concrete details, only accusations based on "whispers and stories" from people in this area. And let's face it, if you're getting information from dads of junior high and high school kids, you know your information will be embarrassingly wrong. 

So let's talk about Coach Rowland. He started working in the Fort Smith Public School system  in 1963. He was a track and football coach at Darby Junior High and then moved to be an assistant football coach at Northside High School for 4 years. In 1970, he transitioned to become the head football coach at Southside High School for 12 years. In 1982, he was Southside's assistant principal until 1991 where he became the Fort Smith Athletic Director, which is the title he still holds 23 years later. 

One of the points made in this article is how awkward it must be for players from Northside to come to play at Southside when the stadium is named after the Athletic Director. First of all, I highly doubt that players will ever care about the name of a stadium. That has to be the last thing on their mind on Friday night.  Secondly, what is wrong with honoring a man who has been devoted to ALL Fort Smith schools since 1963? Most cities (until recently) in this district haven't had to encounter NEAR the amount of balancing and work that Fort Smith has had just by having 2 high schools in the same town. Some may say there is favoritism over the other, but neither school has received any upgrade (turf, indoor facility, etc) that the other hasn't also received as well. This put Fort Smith as a whole behind other schools, but it was what was fair. Lastly, the Fort Smith School Board was responsible for voting that the stadium be named after Coach Rowland.... and rightfully so. The man deserved it and still continues to deserve it. What other stadium/arena/venue would have been renamed for him? This was a perfect opportunity, and I was honored to watch its dedication. 

I've never known a harder working man than Coach Rowland. Growing up in the Fort Smith Public School system basically my entire life, I've seen this man at almost every sporting event I attended.... and not even just the games. He's at practices and meetings and painting football fields at 5 in the morning and mowing grass and meeting with horrible, awful parents who just want to complain about anything... all in between riding his bike daily, loving a breathtakingly beautiful wife, raising a loving family, and having fun with his grandchildren. I honestly don't know how he does it, especially when there are people as bold and as rude enough to criticize the job he has done. 

I'm sure after working in that position since 1991, there have been a few mistakes made. The writer pointed out how the "whispers and stories and allegations" he heard were about people sneaking their kids across town to play sports in a different district. I wonder how a man as busy as Coach Rowland is doesn't have time to investigate and study these things? I wonder how a man with a schedule as full doesn't think to follow and go door-to door after every address is turned in at every school at the beginning of every season and verify that each athlete currently resides at each address? If you want to hold someone responsible for kids going to school in the wrong district, how about their parents? When did we fall so far away that we have to blame administration for something that wouldn't be a problem if parents did the right thing? If there's a finger to point, it's with the kids' parents forging documents and lying for their children, not with the athletic director. 
All of this to say, I wonder why this man decided to publish this article? What was the purpose? He stated many times that Coach Rowland should retire. I'm assuming that will probably happen. Why state the obvious? Of course Coach Rowland will retire. I don't think he even wants to work this hard forever. So why even say it? Why drag someone's name through mud just to make a point that someone without Fort Smith ties needs to be hired? The article could have easily been written without all of the nonsense published for the entire city to read.  The writer mentioned "powerful leaders" in the school system including Dr. Gooden, Mr. Haver, and Dr. McDonald, and went out of his way to EXCLUDE Coach Rowland from this group. My sir, how wrong you are. If you knew this man at all, you'd have a different story.

And after I read the article, I was hurt.

 I was hurt because this man has been my mom's boss for nearly 15 years. I know this man. He's watched me grow up. I've seen him come to practices in the summer Arkansas heat to check out the teams and encourage the coaches. I've seen players and coaches get hushed and quiet and show respect that you can feel down in your bones for this man. I've watched him come in and out of that athletic office, walking with that rushed, forward leaning walk only he has. I've heard him handle stressful situations and parents who are unbelievably rude/clueless with class and respect. I've watched him care for my mom and be a wonderful boss to her. I've seen him get up from his busiest days behind his desk just to come out and ask me about life and how I'm doing. I've witnessed him lose his lifelong friend as well as his long-time secretary to cancer and grieve for friends and colleagues in difficult situations.

Good ole boy system you say? 

Who I know is a good man. 
im thankful.
carrie anne

Coach Rowland and I after State Bowling Championship in 2005. Rebs won!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

why "they" has to change.

It seems as though the instant you get married, people start asking you when kids are on the way. My first thought is, "Really?" Is marriage not enough at this point? Perhaps it's the culture in which we live that can't savor moments and enjoy them fully before we're already searching for the "next" thing. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against those who choose to start a family immediately or whenever the time comes. I'm more speaking to the "they" who always seems to come around and speak words with undertones that where you are in life isn't quite good enough... or hard enough.

During difficult times, They say, "Just wait until you have kids."

Probably the most common statement young married couples hear. Isn't this ridiculous? And we've all heard it... maybe said it. Can we stop and think about how painful that statement might be? I mean, really... think about how hard it might be to take that in. I can speak to it from a married, non-parent point of view. In the middle of difficult, stressful times, instead of normalizing my pain and comforting me, someone chooses to point out how that pain doesn't compare to what they've experienced in  parenthood. Ouch. And I won't even touch the topic of women's bodies and comparing each other before and after giving birth.

During happy times, They say, "Too bad you don't have children here to enjoy this with."

Maybe I do want children in my life, just not right now. I'm intentional with most parts of my life, especially the parts that include my marriage and my family. As I look out and see how many parents tend to make their children their idols, perhaps I lean toward the side that says children can wait. My life doesn't begin when I have children. I can have happy, meaningful moments before children come into my life. I've LOVED life with my husband the past 3 years together, and not having kids has allowed us to enjoy each other and make amazing memories together. 

Also on this point, can we think of how this would sting and bitterly hurt someone who is struggling with infertility, pregnancy issues, or adoption conflicts? Perhaps some people at this point in life would LOVE to be parents... and these statements about "how much they're missing" is another reminder of their pain and loss.

During ANY time, They say, "You don't know what tired is until you have kids." 

Okay... this one is just old. I get it: babies cry and keep you up all night. Awesome. I don't need that reminder every time I say that I'm tired or was up all night or couldn't sleep or whatever the case may be. Again, hard times are not solely allotted to raising children, right? What about people who never have children? Do they not understand sleepless nights and difficult situations?

And couldn't we raise the bar on any of these? I'm sure my mom could throw the royal flush on the table by saying, "You don't know what stressed/tired/overwhelmed is until you have a 7 year old with a terminal illness, a toddler, and a newborn to take care of." There's always someone who has it harder. What has happened that we hear about someone in distress and feel the need to downplay their situation and compare it to something more difficult we've encountered? Can't we just support and encourage each other?

And when you finally do have a kid, They say, "You're not a parent until you have more than 1 kid."

So here's the big daddy of them all. This is the one guaranteed to light a fire under my hind end. Where to begin... Let's set the record straight: Having one child makes you a parent. Not 2 kids, not 5 kids, not 21 kids... 1 kid. Whoever started saying this had some major insecurities about being a parent and felt the need to justify how "great" of a parent they were based on the number of children in their home. 

This. Is. Ridiculous. 
Stop saying it. Again with the pain it brings: almost every mother I speak with about parenthood and raising children will 100% express doubt in what they're doing. They have no idea most of the time and frequently think about how lost and inadequate they feel... especially new parents. Take that feeling and then tell them that they aren't parents until they have another one. Are you kidding me? How defeating. 

And what about the parents who had a child/adopted a child and now can't... for whatever reason: physically, financially, emotionally. Or heaven forbid, what if they only want one child?! There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I think back to how many wonderful, inspiring people I've known who've raised amazing and talented kids with no siblings. People I respect and care about (Kirk and Kellie Hobbs, Randy and Claudia Davis, The Stitsworths). I can't imagine telling them or even hearing someone tell them that they truly don't understand parenthood because they raised one child.

So maybe the another reason I wait to have children is because of this mess... the mess of competing for who has it worse. I know it doesn't get better with motherhood: judging, comparing, downgrading, competing, etc. I think that I know it gets worse. But I don't think that it has to. I think we have to realize that WE are the "They." We get to choose what words to say to young married couples without children, couples with a newborn baby, and mommas and daddies of all kinds. Our words are powerful. I'd like to see the culture change into an encouraging, uplifting one instead of the degrading, competing one we have now. Parenthood is a beautifully difficult thing. Let's choose to lift each other up because most of us will be fighting that fight together. We don't need another wound in the middle of it when we could be spurring each other on instead.

So I'll start: Here's to you single people are still looking for that person, to the newlyweds still trying to figure out what in the world you just got into, the young married couples without kids dealing with each other and life in general (which is a lot), the new parents not sleeping and not going to the bathroom alone feeling unprepared, the parents of one who hear the criticism or passive aggressive comments about "only" having one baby, the parents of multiple children who deal with putting on multiple shoes, socks, jackets every time you leave the house, the parents of grown children who feel lost in that transition, and the adults who didn't have children for whatever reason life had.... 

You are enough. You are important. You are loved.

im thankful.
carrie anne