Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Name change

I decided to change the name of my blog. I didn't like "Leisha's Life" when I chose it, but at the time I couldn't think of anything better.

When I was at Tallahassee Community College, I became the sports editor of the newspaper, and got to write my own column. I named it  "Out of Left Field" because that reflected my somewhat offbeat sensibilities. That title went with me throughout college and into my professional sportswriting career.

I thought about naming my blog the same thing, but as I am pretty staunchly NOT leftward-leaning in any way, shape or form.

So "Out of Right Field" it is... After all, isn't right field where they put the weakest of the outfielders?

Monday, December 27, 2010

The 50th Anniversary Party

The 50th Anniversary Celebration is in the books, and it was a smashing success. More than 100 friends and family members gathered on Dec. 18 to share this incredible occasion. I even managed to get through my speech without dissolving into sobs! I had to stop listening to my brother when he was speaking – his quoting of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 just about did me in!

Here’s an excerpt from what I said about my parents:  Their life has always been together. They were born the same year, graduated from high school the same year, both became teachers, and since meeting at Ga. Southern, have never been apart. For most of the last half of their working lives, they even worked together. Even after they retired, they continued working together in their consulting and antique businesses.

My brother and I have always felt like we grew up in Mayberry. We moved around some before settling in Chattahoochee, which was a wonderful place to grow up. We were part of the last generation who could ride our bikes all over town without worrying. And if we were doing anything we shouldn’t have, news of our escapades usually made it home before we did.

Michael and I loved football, but neither of them cared much for it, but they bought season tickets to FSU games for years. Mom became a huge fan – just ask her about her favorite players, Rohn Stark and Dennis McKinnon!  They were always doing stuff we wanted to do,  and supported whatever it was we did.

They were strict when they needed to be, merciful when we didn’t deserve it, and always made us laugh. One thing that we have always had plenty of is laughter. And when the tough times came, we managed to laugh and love our way through those too.

I’ll never forget my senior year in high school. The family business was suffering and on the verge of failure. Of course, Michael and I had no idea. Mom and Dad had always been frugal, and I didn’t miss out on anything that I remember. But I had big dreams of going off to college and making my way in the world – I even dreamed about going to New York. We had been talking about moving to Tallahassee, as Dad had gotten a new job. Mom and Dad sat me down and told me that they wouldn’t be able to afford to send me to college. I was stunned, but they told me that if I would live at home and go to TCC for the first two years, they would do everything they could to send me wherever I wanted to go my last two years.

God’s hand was all over that situation. Their business losses were so large that my first two years of school were basically paid for. At TCC I got to be the editor in chief of the student newspaper, and got to go to the College Press Association conference in New York! Plus, living at home, I kept a 3.5 GPA! And true to their word, they sent me to Auburn for my last two years of school. It was truly the best decision I could have made.

Also during that senior year, they knew I would need a car, but couldn’t afford to buy me anything new. We’ve always been a Volkswagen family, so they told me I could have a VW Bug. We started looking, and I fell in love with this orange convertible I saw. But, it was out of our price range, so I was content with this yellow one with a sunroof and cloth seats. But when Dad came driving up with my car, it was the orange convertible. Somehow, they pinched pennies, with a little help from my Grandmother, and I had my dream car.

But when I did leave home, like a lot of kids, I wandered away from God. Mom and Dad knew it, but never let that detract from their love for me. I would come home from Auburn with photos of the long-haired, heavy metal rockers I was hanging out with, and they would grit their teeth and smile. And Mom would write me letters, reminding me that I needed to put God first in my life. At the time, I was kind of irritated, but I love that she never gave up on me, or condemned me. She and Daddy loved me through it all.

And I have given them a lot of those gray hairs on their heads. But no matter what scrape I get into, what crisis befalls me, or whenever I need a loan from the First National Bank of Dad, they have always been there for me. I’m so happy to have them here in Jacksonville. I love having my whole family in one place.

Not having a family of my own, I cling to my Mama and Daddy a lot. I’ve always said the reason I’ve never married is that I want what they have, and that doesn’t happen anymore. But I thank God every day for giving me to the best parents in the world.

Here are a few photos from the day. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Legacy of Love

My parents will celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary this month. That’s right – 50 years. Fifty. Five-O. To put it bluntly, that just don’t happen much these days, so pardon me if I’m a little proud of them.

When I try to describe my parents’ relationship, I usually tell people that they would be perfectly content if they were the only two people on earth. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it is true that they would rather hang out with each other than with anyone else. My brother and I always knew growing up that we were not the center of the universe.  We knew that we were fortunate to be along on their ride. We were the products of their life together – not the purpose of it.

I always loved the story of their meeting. In 1959, Dad was a sophomore at Georgia Southern College, and Mom had transferred there after spending a year at “the Baptist Convent,” otherwise known as Tift College, an all-girls’ school. (What was she thinking?) When she got to Statesboro, her dorm room was not finished being remodeled, so she had to stay for the first month in the school’s infirmary.

The Baptist Student Union was hosting a Fall Welcome Social, and my dad had volunteered to drive all the girls home in the bus. (He was no dummy!) He had noticed this dark-haired, big-eyed girl with the big smile who looked a lot like his favorite actress, Natalie Wood. But how to separate her from the group of girls she was with? He quickly devised a plan. The infirmary was in the middle of the bus route home, but he drove past it. When the girl saw that he missed her stop, she let him know.

“Oops, sorry,” he said. “And the bus doesn’t have a reverse gear, so I’ll just have to take everybody else and come back.” Like I said – no dummy. So he dropped off everyone else, leaving her as the last one on the bus. Opportunity created – opportunity taken.

He also worked in the cafeteria, and every day at lunch, he would save the biggest, prettiest fried chicken breast for her. Funny thing was, she didn’t like white meat. She was a drumstick girl. But she couldn’t fault him for trying. They began spending time together, mostly going to church and BSU functions, as there wasn’t much money for extravagant dates.

The path to true love did have a bump or two. Dad sort of still had a girlfriend from high school, and when Mom found out about that, she put her foot down. He was going home for a weekend, and Mom told him to either end things with her, or she would end things with him. He came back to school on Sunday evening and old girlfriend was no more.

It didn’t take long for them to find they had much in common. Dad was attracted to Mom’s sense of fun, and he liked that “she was a Christian and serious about it.” Mom liked Dad’s sense of humor and the way he made her laugh. Things progressed, and by the start of the next school year, they were both pretty sure they had found the person they wanted to grow old with.

As children of parents who had come through the Great Depression, they both had a wide practical streak. It wasn’t that they didn’t have dreams – they just had a way of assessing the reality of the situation without a lot of fluff. The story of Dad’s proposal lacks a little bit in the romance department, but knowing the two of them, it fits.

Sitting in the coffee shop one night in the fall of 1960, they were discussing the possibility of getting married. Money was tight, so they were trying to figure out how they could make it financially.

“She told me that we couldn’t get married if we didn’t have enough money to tithe,” Dad recalled. “So I got a napkin and started working out all the numbers and figured out how we could make it happen.”

Evidently they found enough money to cover expenses -- and a tithe --and set the wedding date for December 17 of that year. They decided to get married in the break between quarters, making for less than three months of engagement. Why so fast?

Why not?” Mom replied when I asked. “When you know, you know.” She said at least one person in her hometown speculated that there might be a shotgun involved, since it was happening so fast. (If so, that was the longest pregnancy on record – one week shy of four years later, I was born!)

So in a borrowed dress, using the Christmas decorations already in the church, Mom and Dad exchanged vows on December 17, 1960. I’ve always loved looking at their wedding pictures, especially the one where Mom is looking at Dad instead of at the camera. You can see the love on their faces. Fifty years later, they still look at each other that way.