Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dogs & cars & little boys

I heart Craig's List

I've been finding the deals on Craig's List lately! I bought a little crawling tunnel a few weeks ago for $10. Bought a ball hopper toy for $5. Then I got this basketball hoop for $10. One of the second year wives, April, lived right by the woman selling it so she picked it up for me. How sweet was that? I figured that buying these cheap toys means that if we decide not to take them with us to Turkey, they've still played it enough to justify the money.

Only problem is, there is only one "basssketballll" as Isaac calls it. That means, fights. Lotsa fights. The boys have been arguing over nearly every toy lately. Cars especially. JB stopped by the house for a minute this morning, and I voiced my frustration. "They just fight all day," I moaned. He playfully reminded me that this is not a battle I am going to win; it's an 18-year-long-war I am going to fight. I have to remember that five minutes after they fight, they play and giggle together and are best friends again.

Oh and speaking of Turkey ... we are working like crazy to try to figure out all the little things that need to be done to move halfway across the world. Storage bins and doggy carriers, boats and flights, passports and tons of paperwork. I'm excited and overwhelmed all rolled into one nice little package!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hawaiian Chicken

  • 2-3 lbs of chicken
  • Butter
  • 9oz can of pineapple chunks
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar*
  • 1 tsp salt*
  • 1/3 cup of catsup*
  • 2 TBLS cornstarch*
  • 1/4 cup vinegar*
  • 1 tsp soy sauce*
Directions: Cook 2-3 lbs of chicken in boiling water. Cool and remove skin and bones and put pieces in a casserole dish. Pour 1/4 of melted butter over chicken. Drain the juice from a 9oz can of pineapple chunks (I usually use the large 12 or 16oz size) and mix with starred items. Cook until thick, stirring constantly. Add pineapple chunks and pour over chicken. Bake covered at 350 for 1 hour stirring occasionally. Serve over rice.

Overall rating:
  • Simplicity: 3.5
  • Taste: 3.5
  • Nutrition: 2.5
Total rating: 3

Wendi's report: This was a recipe I grew up with. Thus I imagining that it was my mother who left this? I love Hawaiian chicken. I actually just cut the chicken up and cooked it in the dish with the rest of the meal which was easier and seemed fine. I also used shredded pineapple to make it easier for the boys. I love this recipe. John isn't as crazy about it. He doesn't like the "gummy" taste of corn starch. Elijah loved it. Isaac gave some pretty crazy faces. Overall, I would recommend everyone trying this one. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Q & A on Turkey

How long will you be living in Turkey?

We will be in turkey for at least two years. At the end of two years, we can decide to stay in Turkey for another two years or we can go to another base for two years. JB owes a total of four years so we will either spend all four of them in Turkey or just half of them in Turkey. As of right now, that decision will be our's to make. Because Turkey is considered a "hardship" location; we have been told that we will be in good graces when requesting our next base.

Why was it your first choice?

Back in the fall of last year, John and I started talking about our "dream sheet." This is a list of the 20 bases you would like to be stationed at post-residency. All the military residents across the country fill one out. Our friends, Tristan and Shannon, had been in Turkey for two years. In addition, another resident, Nick and his wife Kristy, had gone there after Tristan and would be there another year. We had heard good things about the Base including the fact that you could do a lot of travelling and that the hours were good. Because there is no hospital, you are doing only outpatient work which has better hours. Ultimately, however, there was one major reason why we ranked Turkey #1. They do not deploy their physicians. This could always change, but as it stands right now, JB will be one of three family medicine physicians on the Base. He will not deploy during the 2-4 years we are there. When we finally came down to it we decided: "Let's choose our little family over our big family." In other words, no, we won't see family or friends as much, but he'll be with us. We were basically told that any other Base would deploy him within the first 12 months for 7 months. John volunteered for the spot way-back in the fall and we were told that he was the first person to express interest and that our chances were very high to get Turkey. Ranking Turkey allowed us to put our future into our own hands, as much as you can in the military.

What are you looking forward to seeing or doing while there?

Honestly? Everything! We really wanted to go overseas but the "cool" Bases (like those in Europe) are next to impossible to get. We'd love to go to Israel, Greece, and see as many places as we possibly can. I especially want to see those places (like Ephesus) that were places our Lord and Savior spent time.

You have so many visitors during the year. (I am so jealous) Family, friends. Etc. How will your entire family including "B" and Joan feel about you guys being so far away. Especially since you have the best and most loving relationship with them. Will everyone visit? Can they visit?

It is my hope that we will still have visitors. While there may not be as many, we do figure they will stay longer when they do come. We hope that all of our parents and Isaac's birth family will make the trip as often as they are physically and financially able to. We recognized that when we asked to go to Turkey, there was a chance we wouldn't see our loved ones as much as we do now. However, that was a sacrifice we were willing to make to have JB with us.

Do you plan to learn the Turkish language?

Yes! We are ordering Rosetta Stone as we speak. We have heard that the language is quite difficult, but we hope to get as fluent in it as possible. They also have some classes you can take in the language on Base. We are also hoping that our Turkish housekeeper will help create two bilingual children!

I don't have to ask if John plans to learn to cook their food :)

You are right! We cannot wait to explore the food in Turkey. Our friend Kristy, who is there now, says that her housekeeper cooks a Turkish meal for them once a week. We are so into that! We look forward to visiting markets and restaurants and exploring the food and culture wholeheartedly.

What's the ethnic/religious makeup of the Turkish people near where you'll be stationed? I know it's pretty cosmopolitan and secular in parts of Istanbul - is it the same near the base? Would it be safe for you to travel off base since you wouldn't be wearing a head covering?

In our welcome packet, it says: "Turkey is not the United States. While this statement seems a bit obvious, it serves as a reminder of certain cultural sensitivities. Almost every book about Turkey describes it as either the cradle of civilization or the bridge between the east and west. Unlike many clichés, these two are not overused ... In November 1923, the republic of Turkey declared its independence and named Ataturk its first president. During the 15 years of his presidency, Ataturk carried out great cultural and political reform. He changed the written language from Arabic to the Latin alphabet used by countries in the western world. He also initiated changes in the legal and education systems. He is responsible for raising the social position of women and encouraging the acceptance of western dress. In essence, Ataturk made Turkey what it is today -- a unique mix of old and new, where east meets west."

Believe it or not, it is prohibited to wear religious dress in public in Turkey. "Most Turks are Muslims, but Turkish society is modern and predominantly secular, so European dress styles prevail. For your holiday in Turkey, dress the same as you would to visit France, Germany, Italy or the UK. Many observant Turkish Muslim women (perhaps 30% of the female population) dress in tesettür, a headscarf and light cover-all topcoat, when going out in public. This satisfies the Islamic admonition to modest dress without infringing Turkish law which prohibits religious dress in public places. You may see women in burka (full-body covering, with veil), but they will most likely be visitors from other countries with a stricter interpretation of Islamic dress traditions. Actually, the veil is outlawed in Turkey (but the law is little enforced), and even the wearing of head scarves in secular contexts (universities, government offices, etc.) is controversial."

How long is the travel to get there?

I am not positive on the exact numbers, but as of right now we are planning on flying out of Baltimore, Maryland to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. I think this is in the neighborhood of 7 hours or so. Then it would be another 7 hours or so from there to Incirlik Air Force Base.

Do they provide for you to come back to the states at all regularly?

The military will pay for us to get to Incirlik. And they will pay for us to come home when our tour is up. However, JB will have vacation time each year, and we plan to come home at least one time a year. This, however, would be at our own expense.

What is the schooling like for the kids when they start school?

There is a childcare center on Base which I believe is for children 0-4. There are then schools on Base for kids 5 and older. I have heard that the school is dependent upon the teachers that are there at the time. It is difficult to find quality teachers since, well, it's Turkey! Even if we are there for four full years, our boys would be just kindergarten age at that point, and we would most likely home school for that one year.

What will you do when you are done in Turkey?

We are not sure, right now, if we will stay there for two years or for four. However, our current plan, after military payback is done, is to buy some land. We'd like to have a small hobby farm and adopt older children or those who need homes. We will have to see, however, where the Lord takes this dream. Most likely we would buy this land in the Pacific Northwest or the Tennessee/North Carolina area.

How is the family safety for little kids there?

Our friends that live there do much travelling away from Base with no problems. I've heard that the biggest problem they encounter is extreme loving obsession with their blue-eyed children. Many people actually frequent Turkey as a vacation spot. However, like any foreign country, care needs to be put forth regarding safety. The Base itself, is EXTREMELY safe. I also think it is important for Americans to understand that while there are radicals, the majority of people in the Middle East are peaceful people. It would be like people in another country judging us on the people who blow up abortion clinics. We all do not ascribe to this, and it would be a shame to judge us accordingly.

Does it make you nervous to live in another country?

I think there is some part of me that is a little unsure of the unknown. If we weren't going to an Air Force base and living amidst all kinds of people in the same situation as we were, I think it would be even more intimidating. But the truth is, we are looking forward to an adventure. We are looking forward to experiencing another culture, another people. We are looking forward to travelling, shopping, and eating in a place like nothing we have ever participated in. How many people can say they lived in Turkey? While nervous and overwhelmed with the difficulties and prospects of moving overseas, I am thrilled to get the opportunity and to have John working better hours and not deploying.

How often do you plan to come back to visit your family?

Once a year at least.

Are you going to do another call for recipes for Turkish dishes?

I don't think I'll be doing much cooking. With a housekeeper and a husband working much better hours, the idea is, I won't need to.

How much time will JB get off and will it allow you to travel in Europe/the Middle East?

JB will be on call every fourth day. This call is taken from home and still allows us to do local travelling. However, otherwise, we should have most weekends free. I believe, in total, we get four weeks of leave time which would include our visit to the States. Here are just a few photos I snagged from Shannon's Facebook page featuring some of the places they have visited.

This is Shannon (left) with Kristy. While Shannon is moving back to the States the same month we move in, Kristy and her family will be there at least another year.

How is the housing in Turkey?

There is the old, bad, small housing. And then there is the brand new, huge, fantastic housing. We found out that we qualify for the latter! Unless something changes, we will be living in a 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom home, with over 4000 square feet of living space. My friend Shannon lives in one now and she was nice enough to send me some photos. Here are just a few:

Where is Turkey located?

This map should help. Take a look. Adana, the city nearest Incirlik Air Force Base is on the very left side of Syria. It basically borders the water and Syria.

Will Scrubs go with you?

Absolutely! We will be driving to Baltimore, Maryland and all taking a military flight out together. There are not many restrictions on dogs in Turkey. It will cost us around $100 to fly him out. How great is that? Scrubs does not need to be quarantined at all. This is actually a misconception regarding taking pets overseas. While some of the countries in Asia require a quarantine, most countries now-a-days, do not require your pet to be quarantined as long as you get the correct paperwork and shots before you leave the U.S. We will cut off Scrubs' food about 24-hours before we leave and only put in a frozen hamster water container with him so that he can get liquid but not too much. We think that he can get out when we stop in Germany, but we aren't sure yet. We may give him a little something to take the edge off, but we think he'll be fine.

If you have other questions, please let me know. I'd be happy to add to this post!

*** (additional questions after posting) ***

I'm curious to know about Christian churches in Turkey, especially close to where you live. Do you think it will be possible for you to find a church where you will feel at Home?

There is a Chapel on the Base and a catholic church on Base. I have heard good things about the Chapel. But I have heard that it can depend on who the Chaplain is at the time. Yesterday, while buying a kennel from a gal off Craig's List, she mentioned that they found a good church off-Base. I doubt there are many, and quite honestly, we are excited to fellowship with "all the Christians" who live on our Base. In some ways, it is nice not to have the option to be picky.

Is having a housekeeper standard in Turkey or just on the base? Is it an option to have one - could you opt out if you wanted to?

From what I understand, having a housekeeper and a gardener, is, actually optional. However, it is strongly encouraged and is sort of a "tradition" on Base as it helps the local economy. This is a Turkish Air Force Base that gives us land, so we want to help the local economy as much as we can. I don't think anyone would tell us we had to but at the same time, they hope that you do.

You mentioned adopting older children in a few years. Do you plan to do any more fertility treatments?

Yes. We have 7 embryos that we will most definitely, totally, and completely go back for at Mayo Clinic. We are still praying about when to do that. If we had more biological children, our adoption plans might get adjusted somewhat, but either way, we are hoping to add to our family through adoption again if the Lord allows. We both have a heart for older children, especially sibling groups, and we think a small farm would be a fantastic place to raise children.

What is the weather like?

According to my friend Shannon: "The weather is almost identical to Florida weather. The summers feel hotter, but I think it's just because we're pretty much in the Middle East, and just saying Middle East makes you feel hot. In the winter, if you drive North just an hour, you're in the mountains, so there's snow and lots of cold up there, but here in Adana, the winters are fairly mild."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Boys' toys

Two cribs

I'm not sure why I was so dead-set against the idea of having two cribs. I just thought they would take up so much room and that we could get Isaac in a "big boy bed" by the time Elijah was ready to move into a crib. John often says to me, "Why do you make things harder on yourself?" He's right. Putting Isaac in a toddler bed, right now, would just be something else to deal with. And I don't have the energy to deal with something else.

So for $65, I purchased a crib, dresser, and mattress from Craig's List. Elijah looked so happy in his "newwww bed" as Isaac calls it last night. And even though we had to take the rocker out, there is still enough room for them to do some heavy-duty playing in the room. The crib, unbeknownst to me, is actually the exact same style crib that Clay and Brittney gave us when Isaac joined our family -- just a shade lighter.

Jaime is on her way back to Kentucky, I completed a tad-bit-easier 350 meters in the pool, and JB is home at 5:30, done with his three weeks of inpatient team.

I also snuck into Brittny's yard while she is out of town (with her permission of course) and sat on the trampoline while my two little boys ran circles and wrestled around me. I had that moment, while we were playing, of complete awe that my life is where it is today. Me. On a trampoline. With my two sons giggling and laughing and jumping and running.

Life is good.

Jaime saves my weekend!

I try not to be one of those people who believes in jinxes and bad luck. But I tell you what. Every single time I decide to come up and visit JB at the hospital, his pager goes off.

Without TV, we had to find somewhere to watch the UK men's team play on Saturday evening. So we picked up some dinner and met JB in the residency room. He had barely had any action all day and thought he'd get to spend some time with us.

On our way through the gate with dinner in tow, he calls me. His pager has gone off! I kid you not! A patient is coming into the ICU. It is almost comical. "You are never coming up on a call day again," he says. And I laugh because this is his last residency call day ever! Can you believe it?! Hallelujah!

After watching the Kentucky men lose with a gazillion missed three pointers, we returned home, put the boys to bed and went to bed ourselves. On Sunday morning, we saw JB for about ten minutes post-call before Jaime and I packed the kiddos up and headed up to Gulf Breeze. Debbie H. was our grad assistant when Jaime and I played at WKU. She has lived in Gulf Breeze, just an hour from me, for three years and this is the first time I have seen her!

Debbie, me, Jaime

What was especially neat about connecting with Debbie was that she has two little kids herself -- one of which was adopted! It was way fun to share old stories, new stories, and just reconnect. I am hoping to get to see Debbie one more time before we move.

After returning from Debbie's, we returned home to find JB up and working in the yard with Scrubs playing along side him. He put the boys down for their naps while I went and did a 3 mile run and a 3 mile bike. I am starting to wonder if I am capable of doing this triathlon. I only did a quarter of the bike portion and didn't even attempt a swim in conjunction with that. Can I really do all three put together? We will see.

Jaime flies out this afternoon. Jodi is going to come over and watch the boys so we can have some lunch, I can take her to the airport, and then I can go for a swim.

It has been wonderful to spend a few days with an old friend. Jaime is the type of friend you should call when you are going to move or down or depressed or lacking motivation. Last night when we were trying to fit the new crib and dresser I bought off Craig's List into the nursery, Jaime took over. She told me where to put stuff and what to leave until the morning. She is efficient and determined. That's probably why, in 1996, when she graduated from high school, she was voted the best girls' basketball player in the entire United States! She was awesome.

And she still is.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Awesome opportunity for my blog readers!

My dear friend from MOPs, Nancy, has a father who was recently diagnosed with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's Disease). Nancy is going to be holding a bake sale in our home town of Andalusia, Alabama on May 1st. All money she raises will go directly to the ALS Foundation.

I'd like to help Nancy reach her goal of raising $200 for research to help Nancy's Dad and as many as 30,000 other Americans survive this life-threatening condition. In fact, I'd like to help Nancy blow this goal out of the water!

She spoke at MOPs the other day, and had 43 women sign up to bring something to the bake sale. I am going to be one of those gals. I wanted to ask anyone who lives in the local area that would be interested, to consider volunteering to make something as well. Please leave a comment on my blog to say that you are going to participate. All you have to do is bake the goods. I will then personally pick-up your baked goods and deliver them to Nancy. All you have to do is cook and let me know you are doing so. That's it. I'll take care of the rest. How easy is that?

Often times, volunteering for a good cause requires a lot of time, energy, and work that many of us don't have. But here is an opportunity to do something very minimal. You can involve your kids and teach them about helping others.

Again, please leave a comment so Nancy can follow who is volunteering via my blog as well. I will then contact you via email (leave that for me too if you don't think I have it.)

It is my personal goal to find at least ten local individuals who would like to participate. In addition, if you live out of the area but feel lead to participate, you could donate money to the ALS Foundation through me or you could donate money to me to make additional baked goods for Nancy.

Thanks everyone!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

College Basketball

So. It has been awhile since I have done one of my "sports history" posts. I did a few posts on my high school sports career. You can read those by clicking here. Again, I am not writing these posts in the hope to brag. But in order to present an accurate picture, I do have to quote some facts which might be interpreted as bragging. I promise you, that is not my intent. If you don't know me personally, this may paint an inaccurate picture of me. I strive to be humble. I always have. But please allow me a little bit of space so that I can share things as they happened. My high school career concluded with a few major highlights. As far as basketball was concerned, I scored my 2,000 point on the same night my father (and coach) cinched his 200th win. By the time I graduated had scored 3,058 points (3rd in the state at the time), blocked 618 shots (1st in the state), and grabbed1,954 rebounds (1st in the state all-time, and 4th highest in the nation all-time.) Here I am at the Broward County award banquet receiving my fourth consecutive player-of-the-year award from Michael Irvin who had grown up in Fort Lauderdale as well.
And here I am with my Father, who received coach-of-the-year that year. My number was then retired by my high school. Ironically, JB was hired to do the sign in the gymnasium for my retirement. It has since been replaced with a banner.
I was a better basketball player than volleyball player but could have played either in college. At the time, volleyball was still a fledgling sport. It did not garner national attention like it does today. In addition, I did not play back row and felt that I would be limited in that regard in college. While I was recruited by a few schools to play both sports (Georgia Tech specifically), I ultimately realized that playing any sport in conjunction with basketball was next to impossible. 

Volleyball was also very expensive. While AAU basketball was relatively free (coaches were nearly all volunteer), club volleyball was still an "elite" activity and coaches were paid salaries. It cost my parents more than they really had to allow me to play. So before my senior season of club volleyball, I made the decision to play college basketball instead of volleyball and subsequently did not play my senior year of club volleyball. 

Did I make the right decision? It is hard to say. As I look back, and look at my college basketball success, I can tell you that my body was a volleyball player's body. I looked like a volleyball player. I moved like a volleyball player. And I wish I could go back and see what would have happened had I made a different decision. But I can't do that and so, in order to not have regrets, I just accept that that was how it was. 

Once I made the decision to play college basketball, the recruiting process began. This was a grueling, tiring, and overwhelming process for any seventeen year old to go through. You begin by getting letters from schools and then phone calls. My father and I would, on two separate phones, hold an approximately hour long phone call with some coach from some school somewhere. We'd ask a series of questions and determine whether that school would get a second call. Sometimes I would take as many as three of these hour long phone calls in a night. I grew sick to my stomach when I would hear the phone ring and completely weary of these calls. I then started eliminating schools. 

When they called the second time, I would tell them whether they made the cut. I made the second-most-difficult decision of my sports career when I decided I wanted to play big-time Division I basketball. Was this the right decision? Again, you can't retreat in your mind to the past. So I try not to think about it. I had many smaller Division I schools tell me, flat out, that I would start and play all the time for them as a freshman. I passed on that opportunity in the hopes of playing for a national contender. I think I was good enough to play top D-1 but not good enough to play a lot or be a stand-out at that level. I was a center stuck in a forward's body. I never could gain the weight or the strength that it would take to be a super star center at that level. Let's face it. 6'3" and 160 pounds just wasn't big enough. Imagine that. 

But again ... the past is the past. After a long and drawn out recruiting process which included many coaches coming to visit my house and then me taking visits to a handful of schools, we narrowed it down from approximately 70 schools to just a handful. In a very emotional decision, I chose Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky over Florida State University as my college of choice. All I could think of was how relieved I was to sign that national letter of intent, secure a full scholarship, and be done with recruiting calls, home visits, and official visits. Here was the amazing Diddle Arena back in 1995. It looks quite different today but it could easily seat 6,000 plus for a woman's game. These were great numbers at the time:

The summer of 1995, I left Fort Lauderdale for Bowling Green. I would never return to Fort Lauderdale to live again. That was the last year I lived by my family. It was also the point that my relationship with John would stand its greatest test. We would spend the next 18 months long distance. This was before email or long distance plans. We were broke and we would barely see each other over the next year and a half while he finished his degree in Florida. I have to admit that I often lost faith we could stand the test of time. 

After one emotional phone call, I remember flopping down on my bed and telling Kristi I wasn't sure we could stay together. Kristi laid next to me nearly in tears. "Wendi," she said. "You have to stay together. If you and John don't make it, then I know I'll never make it and I'll never get married." I guess she was right. We did make it, and man, I am so glad that John was so determined to marry me. I gave him every reason to give up so many times. Those are details for another post. Let me get back to basketball. Here is my entire family on a visit to Bowling Green. This was taken at Jackson's Orchard ... one of my favorite places in all of Bowling Green to be. It's hard to pick pictures for this post as I have so many. I've tried to just touch the surface on the four years I spent in Kentucky.

I met Kristi on my recruiting visit to Western. We ended up paired as roommates. You were required, as a basketball player, to spend your first two years in Central Hall dorms on the fourth floor. I later found out that Kristi called the coaches to beg for another roommate when she learned of our matching. I guess I didn't make a good first impression. Kristi and I were night and day! But what a blessing the coaches decided to go with their guts and put us together. We fast became the best of friends. We lived in the dorm together for two years and then in an apartment for one year before I ran off and got married.

Here we are in our dorm room of two years in Central Hall. #403 if I remember correctly. You can tell this was freshman year because I still have my Florida tan.

And here is Kristi and I at a practice. This was pretty typical of Kristi. Flying by me. She was the most tenacious player I have ever, ever, ever encountered. If you were in her way, watch out. She'd stop for no one.

I became very good friends with all of my teammates but specifically two other freshmen: Shea who I am going to be seeing next weekend, and Heather who I was also be seeing next weekend! Heather left after our freshman year. Sophomore year my bud Jaime (who is here visiting me now) moved into Central Hall. She became a very close friend as well. Here's a picture of me and Jaime at Kristi's wedding. I am holding the "nutt bucket" and yes, this was featured on the The Wedding Story on TLC. We were castrating cattle, and as the Matron of Honor, I was entitled to this privilege.

And here is a picture of me with Kristi and another great friend that I still talk to online some today, Laurie. She is now a mother of twin boys. We are in San Francisco here:

So, college basketball. It was an amazing opportunity. I got to see places and go places and participate in things I would never have been able to do without basketball. Here's me experiencing snow in Maine. I was not enjoying this as you can probably tell. The Florida girl in her first experience with cold weather.

And here I am on a horse at Kristi's family's ranch in new Mexico. We played in the NIT that year in New Mexico and spent a few days enjoying her home.

I had no idea how to dress in cold weather. I was naive and clueless about nearly everything. My teammates took me under their wing and taught me everything I needed to know to dress like a southerner and not stand out like a sore thumb.

My scholarship at WKU meant I didn't owe a dime for my schooling. What an amazing blessing. I actually got better grades in college then I did in high school due to the fact that my boyfriend (now husband) was back in South Florida and I just wasn't in to the party scene. When all of my teammates would leave for the night, I'd study. What else did I have to do?

I loved basketball, but I don't think I loved it enough for the commitment involved with big-time basketball. Don't get me wrong. I worked hard. I worked as hard as I could. After returning from my only summer at home in South Florida between my freshman and sophomore years, the coaches told me that I was the most improved after the summer break. And I agreed! I had worked my tail off at home. I was disciplined and did what I was asked, even when eyes weren't watching. At the end of my freshman year, I was awarded the "Harry Burns Courage Award." I think this was given more for my support of my teammates and refusal to participate in the party scene and instead focus on my grades.

As the years went on, I definitely became known to my teammates, coaches, and fans as the "mother hen" or the team mother -- the person that could be trusted at all times. When two of my teammates got into a drunken brawl one night in college, both of them called me for help. The cops ended up releasing one of them into my custody knowing that she'd be okay with me. That was my team role, and even though I didn't participate a lot on the court, I worked to do so off off it all the time.

But no matter how hard I worked on the court, I wasn't as good as many of my teammates, especially my first two years. I remember feeling so frustrated that my teammates, some of whom didn't work very hard and were out all night the night before practice, could still do things on the basketball floor that I would never be able to do. But I stuck with it and was determined to be the best I could be. Here is my entire team sophomore year. What a great group of girls and friends.

From left: Jamie, Jaime, me, Stacey, Jaana, Kristi, Tenisha, Sharonda, Danielle, Lesley, Shea, Laurie, and Tarshia. You can tell how much of a family this was from the fact that, over ten years later, I still remember all of their names.

I also, no matter what I did, could not put on the weight that was required of a center. And it wasn't for lack of eating. I ate an unbelievable amount of food. I ate in the cafeteria three meals a day. I remember breakfast would typically be two glasses of orange juice, cereal, waffles, eggs, and fruit. At a minimum. All of my meals were like that. And still, it took me nearly three years to put on twenty pounds. I then got sick and lost nearly ten pounds in one week. Go figure. Here are some pictures of me during my first two years. These were years that I played sparingly and happily so. I know I deserved my role on the team. I had been told when signing with WKU that I would need two years to get to the place where I could be a big-time contributor.

With Bri outside of the locker room. When I came to WKU, the team the year prior had been in the top 10.

Getting ready for a photo shoot. This says October of 1995.

My locker. At the time, WKU had one of the best locker rooms in the country. You should see how shabby this locker room is compared to the one they have now!

Photo shoot freshman year. We did a progression picture of "ladies to athletes." This is me as a lady. Ha!

Of course Bri was a huge fan! They made numerous trips to come and visit me at WKU.

I spent many an hour in my "Huisman" chair watching game film and dissecting more than I care to remember!

At the back door of our locker room.

I loved my teammates. I loved my coaches. I loved our fans. I loved traveling. I loved the notoriety. I loved how embraced we were by all of Bowling Green. I loved signing autographs. It was fantastic!
But basketball was hard for me. It was a huge time commitment and balancing that with school work often let me feeling like I was struggling to stay afloat. There was practice, individual work-outs, team meetings, weight lighting, game film, team meetings, team events and appearances. There was a lot to it. In addition, we travelled a lot and would miss a lot of class for traveling. I enjoyed it and thought it was the hardest thing I ever did all at the same time.

I was known as one of the most energetic "Lady 'Toppers" (short for Hilltoppers). I was supportive of my teammates, even from the bench, and would always get a roaring cheer when it was finally my turn to go in the game my freshman and sophomore year.

I played those first two years under the legendary Coach Paul Sanderford. I remember that he worked us very hard. That he expected nothing less than our very best. That he was, nearly always, very fair. That every time I made a mistake he would say, "Wendi, how could someone with a ___ SAT screw that up so badly?" Each time he did this, my SAT score got higher and higher. And quite honestly, I didn't have that high of an SAT in the first place! 

He still credits me with helping him develop his coaching philosophy "nine pounds of air" in telling me that this ball was just air at the end of the day. That I didn't need to let it effect me so much. 

At the beginning of my sophomore year, JB moved to Kentucky. He had graduated from the Fort Lauderdale Art Institute with his Associates Degree in graphic design and quickly got a job for an advertisement firm in downtown Bowling Green. He got an apartment and our relationship moved forward. It was difficult for John. He knew NO ONE in town but me. And I was very busy with a life that was not my own. I can remember one night planning to have dinner together and being told minutes before I was to arrive for dinner that we instead had to go to a team function. He had no money and was living with boxes for furniture for quite some time. But the team quickly embraced him as one of their own. Here is Natalie at a hayride about to plant one on John!

After my Sophomore year, I went in for my post-season player meeting with the coaches. It was then that Coach Sanderford informed me that he wanted me to red-shirt my junior year. This means that I would practice with the team for a year and go to classes, but I would spend the year getting stronger and return to the court as a junior again after the year "break." It is a way to give a player time to get bigger and better. While it made sense, I was, truly, crushed. I did not want to play basketball for five years. I was tired and wanted to graduate with my fellow classmates.

I agreed to the red-shirt but told Coach Sanderford that if he was going to red-shirt me, I was going to get married. We had been planning to wait until I graduated, but if that was going to be three years away instead of two, forget it.

We moved ahead with our wedding plans and plans for me to red-shirt. However, during my junior summer, Coach Sanderford unexpectedly left WKU for Nebraska. Coach Steve Small, who was an amazing Associate Head Coach during my first two years and was one of the coaches I was closest to and most influential in recruiting me to WKU, took over. After long discussions, Coach Small decided NOT to red-shirt me. Mostly because I begged him not to. However, the wedding plans went on and before my senior year, I was married. I became the first ever married Lady 'Topper. Here I am before my wedding:

My junior and senior years were more frustrating for me. I had done the work to get playing time and did not feel that I was getting what I deserved. I continued to have a good attitude and never bad-mouthed the coaching staff or the team to anyone, but those closest to me knew that I was frustrated. If I did express frustration, Coach Small would remind me that I didn't need success on the court. That I would go on to my fantastic life aside from basketball. But that didn't help me at the time.
My playing time was also very inconsistent which was hard to deal with. I'd go from starting to not playing, to playing nearly half a game, to playing two minutes a game. I was a very good defensive player, but ultimately, offense often talks louder. Looking back, I think my decision to not "stir the waters" probably hurt me. I refused to go in and complain about my playing time, and I think, as a result, it was easier to sit me.

Again though, that is in the past. I hold nothing against my head coach. I loved Coach Small. He did the best he could. I just wish things would have gone differently the last two years on the court.
Off the court, things continued to go well. John and I were married, and I had the extreme privilege to receive WKU's academic athlete of the year award my senior year. My family flew in to surprise me for the event.

Here I am with my teammate for my last two years, LaVonda.

My last year on the hill.

The seniors I graduated with: Shea, Kristi, me, and one of my other great friends, Katashia.

These girls were my sisters. During my infertility journey, Katashia offered to be a surrogate for me. I remember her saying, "Wendi after two kids and two bad knees, I'm fat anyways. I might as well be fat and pregnant with your babies." I had other fantastic friends as well. Katie C. and I were great friends during my senior and her freshman year, and many other girls too numerous to mention. But without a doubt, Jaime, Kristi, Shea, Katashia, and Laurie were my lifeline. They were my "team" during my years there.

Here's what I do know about my time on the hill. It was exhilarating. It was life-changing. And it was where the Lord wanted me to be. I got to see a few teammates come to the Lord for the first time or come back to Him after not following Him for a time. I had many people share with me their journey back to the Lord through the way I lived my life then. He had me there for a reason. Sometimes I wish things went a bit differently, but college basketball was a fantastic launching pad for me into teaching and coaching -- which will be my next (and last and shorter) sports history post.

I belonged at WKU. It was an opportunity of a lifetime and one I am most grateful for. Sports molded me into the woman I became. I owe WKU and the entire coaching staff more than I can put into words.

And that is the end of one of my longest posts ever. I've stayed up WAY too late writing it. But there you go. College basketball in a very large nutshell. ;)

Questions regarding Turkey

So I thought it might fun if I did a post answering all the questions everyone has about our new lives in Turkey. I have had a few questions already either in person or on my blog that I will include in the discussion. But thought it might get me thinking if I allowed you all to post your questions. It can be anything. No question is too trivial or too dumb. You post the questions, and I'll post the answers. If I don't know them, I'll work to find them out. So, let's have at it. Comment away.

P.S. In other good news, I put the boys down for naps today at 1:30. Isaac woke up at 4:30 and Elijah is still sleeping. What an amazing nap overlap! May have been my best yet! Sweet!

Jaime is here!

How wonderful to catch up with old friends! Jaime came over slightly after 7pm last night. Since John is on call today, the company is especially wonderful! We went and ran a few errands this morning and just got back from our friend Christopher's birthday party. Now it's nap time. Later this evening we plan to go watch UK play up at the hospital with JB since we don't have TV.

So blessed to get to have this time with a dear friend. It's been way too long since Jaime and I have been able to talk through anything but the computer.

Don't worry. Pictures to follow!

Friday, March 26, 2010


I'm whooped.

Today I did a three mile run with the boys in their jogger. I haven't run a full three in quite some time.

Then, when we got home, I climbed on my borrowed stationary bike, put a Praise Baby video on for them, and biked for fifteen minutes.

Today was technically supposed to be an off day. However, since my friend Jaime is coming into town tonight, I thought I would use Saturday or Sunday for an off-day instead.

I am so excited to see Jaime. I am trying to remember the last time I saw her. I honestly think it has been since we still lived in Kentucky. Back in 2003! Jaime was my teammate with me at WKU and was one of my closest friends. We still stay in touch. She is now a coach in Kentucky, married, and has a little girl.

She'll be here until Monday. What a great way to spend JB's LAST CALL WEEKEND EVER!!!!