Monday, March 18, 2013

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, of UK

The Good- There isn't much good to talk about with this team.  I think the best thing that can be said about UK basketball for 2012-2013 is that this season is almost over.  Here is the good though, and it is really good.  We are about to receive the greatest recruiting class ever.  We have the #4, #5, #10, #13, #18, players in the 2013 class.  That is an entire starting 5 of the best players in the country.  3 or 4 of those could go straight to the NBA if allowed.  Also, these players are much more like last years class, than this years class.  They are high character, winners.  They are program builders, especially the Harrison twins.  They are mentally and physically tough, something this team lacked almost across the board.  This class will also have the best back court for UK since probably 96, probably better than Wall/Bledsoe.  That makes a huge difference.  Also, if that wasn't enough, UK very well could get the #2 player to commit on Wednesday (Julius Randle)!    That will then make it, #2, #4, #5, #10, #13, #18!  Unbelievable. All of this is not counting Derek Willis from KY and probably the kid from Madison Central.  Also, Stein, Goodwin and Proythress could very well come back next year.  We are going to be deeper than ever before.  Next year is going to be ridiculous, but that is 8 months away.  Right now we must swallow this dose of humble pie.

Also, spring football starts today, this is very exciting for once (honestly).

The Bad- This entire team is the bad. I predicted at the start of the year that this team would lose 10-12 games, the final record was 21-11.  I said the reason this team would struggle is because of weak guard play.  At least 6 of UK's losses were totally inexcusable. They were simply outworked.  I thought we would struggle because of the weak guard play, I didn't realize the entire team would struggle because of a lack of will.  Now, in UK's defense (if there is one), they lost 94% of their scoring last year, AND UK lost their best player mid year to an ACL tear.  Most teams would not overcome that.  Despite all of that, all we had to do was beat a .500 team to get in the NCAA tournament, and we couldn't do that.  We didn't deserve an NCCA bid. We can't complain, we cant cry about it, we have no one to blame but ourselves.  This is the gamble of always recruiting the best players in the country.  1) They need to be tough.  Up until this year, this hasn't been a problem.  2) Sometimes, it just doesn't work.  This team had no MKG on the team.  This is as bad as it gets, next year will be different.

The Ugly- This is a nightmare scenario for UK fans.  It looks like UofL is the best team in the bracket, Duke, Kansas and IU are the next best.  It could not have lined up worse for #BBN.  I do wish those teams the best, and I hope UofL wins it.  This is their best chance, if it doesn't happen now, it might not ever happen with Pitino.  I see a possible scenario that matches NCAA football of recent, Bama-AU-Bama- Bama.  We shall see. Only thing for sure is that we won it last year.  Regardless, UK fans should duck and cover for the next 3 weeks, its going to be ugly.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Nearer My God To Thee

What is courage? I suppose there are a lot of places you can find courage, true courage.  A soldier on the battlefield that goes back into the fire to try and rescue a fallen brother. A parent that holds their child tight when the storm rages outside.  A child, sick in bed, who looks up into her parents eyes with a reassuring look to comfort her parents so that they know the fight will continue.  Or, the courage of a parent to know when their child's fight can't.  A grandfather who holds his wife's hand when it is her time to be called to the Lord.  A child on her first day of school, a parent as they watch their baby go off to college for the first time.  Courage can been seen in a lot of different ways, on a lot of different levels.  

I find that courage is one of those things I have had to work on the most as a parent.  Your kids look to you for comfort, encouragement, to reassure them that things are going to be okay.  When your kid falls, your reaction to her falling has a direct effect on her reaction to the fall.  If you freak out, even when it looks bad, they will freak out too.  If you fight that urge, and remain calm, they will mostly likely do the same.  I remember when we looked up at the ultrasound and were told that we might have lost the baby (Hadley).  I cry all the time, the girls do that to me.  Brooke never cries.  This was one time when roles were reversed.  She cried in that hospital room, and I remember the "fight or flight" feeling building in me.  I knew I had to remain calm, I had to remain strong.  We had the girls at home to think about, and I needed to comfort Brooke.  I didn't think it was fair, we already loved our new baby and didn't want to lose her, but I had to be brave.  I don't think of myself as an overly brave person, I have a lot of fear.  This was one major time I had to remind myself to be brave, or at least appear to be brave.  Too many people counted on me.  There will always be a later time to close the door, turn off the lights, and cry.  In the end, no matter how religious you think you are (or aren't), these trying moments bring you to your knees in prayer.  There are no atheist in a fox hole.   Id like to think my wife is one of the bravest people I know.  Nothing, short of the above example, gets to her.  She is calm, cool and collected.  I draw a lot of strength from her strength.  It is contagious, as is fear.  I think that's why our girls are so well adjusted, because their mother is so stable.  

I have had a few conversations lately about this idea of courage,  I speak of it to SAE a lot.  Do you have the courage to do the right thing?  Do you have the courage to hold others accountable when it is not easy, or popular, to do so?  These are attributes I hope that SAE teaches our young men.  Generally (hopefully), what they face in college does not compare to the trials they will face in life.  I hope our values help them have the courage needed when they do face those difficult times.  Recently,  I was addressing this issue when I asked the audience if they could guess a moment that I thought reflected an extraordinary amount of courage?  Many guessed times of battle (where courage is often showed), some guessed a sports example (where I guess in its own way has its courageous moments).  I then suggested the violinist on the deck of the Titanic.  With hell, literally flooding in all around him, he made the choice to continue to play.  As a result, others joined him.  It was a perfect example of The Serenity Prayer.  

God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can;and wisdom to know the difference.

The gentleman on the deck didn't panic, he didn't make an effort to do anything other than what he was best at.  He knew he couldn't change what was happening, he accepted his fate, and he made a beautiful moment out of it.  That was courage.

It has been a "pleasure" to share some of my stories with you, thanks for those who continue to come back and read them.  This is a way for me to reach those I love who are far away.  Your love and support gives us strength...courage.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam!

Today was an exciting day for us Catholics around the world.  We elected a new pope, the first from the Western Hemisphere.  He is a Jesuit (also a first), who focuses on poverty and humility.  We are all optimistic about our "new" 76 year old leader.  We pray that he leads us properly.  Of course the hate is already out there because of his stances on some issues.  Haters are gonna hate.  I was glued to my computer screen watching the smoke stack all day.  The seagull that became a celebrity by hanging out on the smoke stack was awesome.  We rushed back from lunch to see the white smoke, and I watched with anticipation for the curtains to be drawn back.  I was amazed at the rain soaked St. Peter's Square, a place where Brooke and I visited 9 years ago.  I was proud to have been there, and I am a proud Catholic.   As I don't agree with everything America does, nor am I proud of some of America's mistakes, I am always proud to be an American.  The same can be said for my Church.  A sense of pride swelled in me to see so many people, not just Catholics, pile into that St. Peter's.  I know that somewhere in Heaven my grandmother would be proud.  No doubt that Granny was excited for today.  Her Irish-Catholic blood is what brought the Southern Baptist Ayers to the Church of Rome.  Today would be a great day for her.  I was also proud of my father, Deacon Tim Ayers (who predicted the correct pope long before he was selected).  He has always lived a proud Catholic lifestyle, in the truest meaning of the word.  No matter what has happened in his life, he has kept the faith.  Dad believes in the true Christian spirit, and Deacon Tim is an excellent face for the Church.  If more Priests and Deacons were like him, we would have very little problems with our faith.  While he is a small piece of a huge puzzle, looking at that crowd today made me even more proud of Dad.  Lastly, I was proud/thankful for Caroline.

See, I had started my own Internet campaign for me to become Pope.  #BoomerforPope #JPIII.
It started with my brother first, Patrick was the first one on board.  Then Evy, from work, created this picture above.  She was quickly behind my push for the Papacy.  James Irwin, Patrick Stiff, Mark McDonough, and a few others really got behind my twitter campaign.  The support I got from the SAE world was great. I love being their ESR, but being a pope is a higher calling.  Everyone seemed to understand my situation.  When I got home for dinner, I was forced to have the conversation with my girls about moving to Italy. At first Reagan was disappointed about moving until I reassured her that I would bring both sets of grandparents with us.  Caroline, however, was all about it from the word go.  She believed in me from the start.  Keep in mind they have no real concept on how the pope is elected, or what it actually means.  To Caroline, it didn't matter.  She was confident I would make a great pope, and told me so at dinner.

I was proud of Brooke today, too.  She and Caroline watched the announcement on TV.  I think it is important for the girls to watch it.  Caroline, bless her heart, was sincerely disappointed when it wasn't her father who came out on the balcony. Deep in her beautiful heart, she was expecting me to be named Pope John Paul III.   She never lost faith.

I think this cycle of belief is a microcosm of any religion.  I believe that my grandmother, God rest her Irish soul, is in a better place.  I also believe that she would have been happy today.  I believe in Deacon Tim and the work that he does, even though I often cant see it due to me being far away.  Caroline believes in her daddy, despite the fact that she doesn't understand what is really going on.  Through her eyes, her daddy can do anything.  I was even proud of Patrick.  Perhaps its was the Jesuits that pushed him away, but maybe his brother being a pope could bring him back.  Back to a "home" (the Church) that always loved him and never stopped believing in him.   That is the definition of Faith, right?  No matter the distance, no matter the lack of knowledge, no matter the lack of evidence, you believe... and you are always welcome back.

Habemus Papam indeed.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ive built my life around you...

You should play this song, before you read this blog.  Landslide is a great song on its own, but it is a song that sort of sums up where I am in my life right now. Hadley Blaine is now in a big girl bed, she has even gone potty in the big girl potty.  I feel like Brooke and I spend our days trying to get her to grow up.  We are trying to make her a big girl.  She is such a joy to watch grow, and is by nature the funniest girl we have.  Caroline is accidentally hilarious, Hadley is intentional.  Here she is doing a downward facing dog while watching Duck Dynasty with her Dad.  Why not?

Her optional words she speaks are funny too.  Of course she says Mom, Dad, bye, hi, etc.  The normal words a girl her age will say.  Its pretty funny when she says iPad, cheeeeeese, please, boo (if she is trying to scare you) or FIA (for Sophia- a Disney cartoon)!  Soon she will ditch the binky, lose the diapers, and Brooke and I will be out of the baby stage.  Im sure Brooke will have a glass of wine to celebrate, I will be little sad.

Her first roller coaster, Thunder Mt. 

You probably expected me to write about my Disney trip, and maybe you're wondering why it has come? Truth is, it was very un-Griswoldian.  It almost all went according to plan.  Baylor Grace and I did everything together, and we learned she LOVES roller coasters.  She hasn't learned how to properly yell on a roller coaster yet though.  She sort of yelps like a dog.  Reagan has a horror movie like yell, perfect for a coaster or movie theatre.  It was so neat to see them ride the big girl rides, Baylor Grace has no fear.  We even rode a ride at Animal Kingdom where you go back in time and try and find this particular dinosaur, it was very Jurassic Park.  It got to the point where Reagan couldn't take it anymore.  She closed her eyes, and bowed her head as if she was praying.  Truth be told, she probably was.  Not Baylor Grace, nothing fazed her.  She screamed (yelped) with the best of them and loved the ride. AGAIN, was her word of the week.  I pity the boys who come calling for her.   Caroline spent much of her time with MaMaw, they had a great week together.  Reagan was mostly with Brooke, while Hadley got passed around like a cold plate of biscuits.  The weather wasn't great in Naples, but it didnt ruin their fun.  Disney is a place where "dreams come true" and seeing my mother there with my wife and kids was very special for me.

Hadley is not even 2, this was her third trip to Disney.  Needless to say, we love that place.  I love that place.  It costs us an arm and a leg every time we go, but Brooke and I think it is totally worth the money.  The look in the girls eyes truly is magical.  I saw a slight change in Reagan this time.  A slight change in Reagan.  Don't get me wrong, we all loved it and had a great time.  However, this time....she wasn't into it as much as the past.  You could tell that she had sort of seen it already and wasn't as impressed.  At least that is what I thought.  Our last night there got cut a little short because of a rain storm, so we had to leave prior than expected.  She cried a little bit as we were leaving, that let me know she loves it there still too.

I am constantly reminded that she is growing up , see the picture above.  She has now lost two teeth, her second one just today.  We have one girl that we are trying to get to grow up, and another one I am trying to hit the brakes on.  Its strange, you know? You build your whole life around people with the goal of doing it in such a way that they can make it without you.  I think of my parents who now have both their boys living in other parts of the country.  I hate going a day without seeing my girls, I couldn't imagine being in their shoes.  I know they are happy for us, but it is difficult.   Handling the seasons of your life is bittersweet.  Its tough to see your last baby give up her binky, and it is tough to see your oldest baby start losing her teeth.  It is tough to see your last baby move to Chicago, and your oldest to VA.  So you do what you can to hold on to what you can.  You hit the brakes as much as possible.

Children get older, and Im getting older too.