Tears flowed for me like a river this weekend. I cannot even begin to tell you in words how my heart feels right now. I never imagined there would be a turn-out of so many people for the softball tournament. I knew nearly everyone at the tournament, which is humbling. My eyes are still bloodshot from all the tears, tears of utter joy. I saw people from every walk and era of my life. From childhood best friends like Kim Culpepper Artall and Rachel Hogan Hunt to my college softball buddies, to former students, coworkers from all of my jobs, to Dr. Rowe! I had one of my friends, Heather Schumaker whom I have mentioned before tell me, "Katrinia, I have never seen you this happy!" She is right, because she had never seen me play softball before. I can't explain how playing softball makes me feel. It is where I am the most comfortable, the most confident, the most knowledgeable, and the one place I can forget all my troubles and be free. It has always been "that" place for me. I haven't talked too much about my childhood, but if I could sum it up in a phrase, I would have to say that Jesus and softball saved my life. They both gave me purpose, they both challenged me, they both loved me back. I never got into too much trouble throughout high school because I was too busy doing what I loved every weekend and all summer long, I was on the field. Softball always gave me an out. When I was too weak of a Christian to tell my friends that I didn't want to go out and drink or go places I knew I shouldn't, I would just blame it on softball. I would have to go to bed early because I had a game the next day. Both these things also saved me because they kept me from drinking alcohol, (I can count on one hand the number of times I drank alcohol). Little did I know at the time, my body was already in a battle with my liver. My doctor had told me that not drinking had probably saved my life by the time they found out what I had.
Then, I originally went off to Sam Houston State where I played for one year, but we had a coaching change and a terrible experience all together and our team literally all left after that season. I went home and had what I call my "six months of rebellion," which was very mild comparatively. I got my bellybutton pierced, which makes me laugh now because I have never had a body that was very skinny, so I had no business getting this pierced, but my mom had told me that I couldn't get one, so I did. Then, I quit waitressing at a restaurant and starting being a cocktail waitress at a bar. I moved out of my parents' house and in with my sister and best friend Kim Culpepper. I was still in school at San Jac for the Fall semester. I would really call this my selfish period of life because I just didn't care about what everyone else thought, but I soon realized that this was not the life for me and this coach from Northeast Louisiana kept calling me and she wanted me to play softball for her. Little does she know that she caught me on a day that I was really down and I said YES, I will come there and play softball for you. It is crazy that one of the best decisions of my life was literally made on a whim. And of course, this story involves my cousin Karen. She drove with me up to the school to take my stuff and check out the school. It was a great weekend. See, she has ALWAYS been right there when I needed her.
Going to what is now called ULM-University of Louisiana at Monroe made me start making my own decisions and stop depending on other people. I started making the decision to go to church as often as I could, to read my Bible everyday, to pray more, to share Jesus more, to love Jesus more. No one was dragging me to church and I wasn't going just so my parents wouldn't call me and ask where I was if I missed church. I was going to church because I loved the Lord. This coach at ULM, Coach Holloway had a big impact on my walk with Christ as well. Even if I didn't always agree with her coaching decisions, line-up decisions, or where we went for dinner as a team, I always had a connection with her because we both love and worship the same God. She was very involved with our FCA group and we volunteered every year at her church for the pumpkin patch sale. I knew that she loved her team and all her players. She still keeps up with me to this day and I am so grateful that she wanted me on her team because the relationships I made with my teammates and roommates, and the youth I served at my church are still some of the best and most important relationships in my life.
Back to this weekend, my former teammates, "the Has Beens" came in from Oklahoma and Louisiana, and Texas. It is amazing how so much time can pass and we can pick up right where we left off. It was so fun to talk about all our fun memories. Mimi has the best memory of anyone I have ever met, she still remembers all the details of our games. Lori Tande organized the team and got everyone together. I can honestly say that she is the best player I ever had the privilege to play with. The best thing about her is that she has been and always will be humble. She is not prideful or arrogant about her talent. She would make plays that seemed impossible. I loved watching her play and bat. She is a natural. Jenny Buller came in to play as well and she is an outstanding player with more heart than can fit in her petite body. She is a better hunter than most men I know, she is beautiful, and she is a ball of fun. She is one of those people that everyone always wants to be around. She and her family are good people, they loved on me all through college and I can't imagine how many people have been blessed by her family. Anna Hancock came in town too. She has two girls, which I know was hard for her to leave them for a weekend. I only got to play with her for a couple of years, but she was consistently funny, and a hard worker. She is quick and can bat both left and right-handed (this always impresses me when people can do that). Anna is a good ole souther girl and she is so pretty. I hope her husband knows that he is a lucky man. A girl I didn't even have the opportunity to play with in college named Ashley came to play too. I mean, this meant so much to me that she would give up a whole day out of her life to do something for me. It amazes me that people I don't even know care for me. Both of the Dietzs came. I have known this family since I can remember. Their brother Ryan and Cousin Kyle, and Amy's husband Bobby played with us as well. We would not have won 3rd place if we didn't have Ryan, he was our pitcher and RBI king for the day. It was great that this family was able to play together. It felt like old times. Kristy still is involved with softball as a high school coach. She was the best lead-off hitter ever. She had an on-base percentage probably somewhere in the 90%! And she can run, steal bases, and slide like nobody's business. We may both live in Pasadena, but we rarely bump into each other, so it was great catching up. Amy is the girl that taught me not to beat myself up too much if I made an error or messed-up. Now, I would say that she was wise beyond her years. She is a gifted player, but she knew that this was not the most important thing in life. I can see now that her calling was to be a wonderful mother. Both of her children were in our dugout with us and they are two of the most pleasant children I have ever been around, and I am around a lot of kids! Amy and Kristy together are a great combination. Kristy and I are very similar with our competitiveness, it is ingrained in our beings. I never do something without trying to win, I don't see the point. I am already planning on practicing more for next year's tournament. I'm also planning on kicking this Cancer's Butt. I have no intentions of going down without a fight and I can see how everything that I have experienced in my life has only prepared me for this time, for the fight of my life. I will see my son off to college, I will see him get married, I will retire from my job someday, I will have more children, I will tell everyone I meet about the amazing God I serve. My God has blessed me with some of the best friends, best family, best coworkers, and best doctors a girl could have. I am about to go to sleep and use the very special quilt Mimi's mom made me with all the sweet comments my friends sent in, all three of my boys names are on my quilt, I love this quilt, a quilt made out of love. Thank you so much Lori for my quilt, I keep looking at it and noticing something new every time I look. I have so much more to share, but even my fingers are sore today after all those games yesterday, so I'm signing off for now, but I can't wait to tell you more, more of the good things.