Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Felt Family

"I will cherish all the friendship I was fortunate to find, all the love and all the laughter in the place I leave behind."*

I had this post composed in my head last night. It was a story of laughter and fun, of team commitments, and true friendships.

The Felt Family
There's something extraordinary about this team-- this group of people we refer to as "family". There's a bond that forms when you share emotions; the hope and love for your children, shared excitement and shared tears. Last weekend we cheered in the stands as one, wanting the best for all of our riders. We all know what it feels like when our child doesn't make the main, so we all know what to say, how to help, and when to hug. We're like a small, perfect village. What could ever go wrong?

Like any family, the Felt family has a leader, the bearer of news good and bad. It was too early for Carlos to call this morning. It wasn't right. Part of our family is gone, he said, a good friend, a Dad.

The Felt Dads
The Felt boys had a blast in Tulsa. They are brothers. The older ones look out for the younger ones. They are different, but so much the same.
Pure innocence!

They find themselves now on new ground. They don't understand this loss, but they understand their teammate, their friend, their brother, and his sister are now suffering.

"All these good things will go with me. They will make my spirit glow. And that light will shine forever in the next place that I go."*

Our hearts go out to the Hatems.


*From "The Next Place", by Warren Hanson

Friday, November 16, 2012

Heading to Grands Calm, Cool and Collected

You need to grab a hold of that line between speed and chaos, and you need to wrestle it to the ground like a demon cobra! And then, when the fear rises up in your belly, you use it. And you know that fear is powerful, because it has been there for billions of years. And it is good.*

It started last night. The sleeplessness. For most nationals I'm only afflicted with insomnia once we actually arrive at the hotel. Then come the common exchanges between BMX moms: Did you bring your Benadryl? Your Tylenol PM? Ask for a room away from the ice machine...Did you hear those people in the hall at 2am? I went out in my pjs and told them to scram... And,  most recently from my friend and fellow Felt mom Ellen, "Should we make spa appointments?" Absolutely!

I want all of their dreams to come true. What mom wouldn't?

November 22-25 is GRANDS. This is what the boys work for all year. It was yesterday while watching William do his sprints that the nerves kicked in. It seems that I need to start my earplug/sleep mask/ Benadryl regimen a bit early.

William trains in our carport in the
predawn hour while I sip my coffee.
So why do I get so nervous? I'm not racing for Pete's sake! I don't like ME when I'm nervous either. I'm snappy and irritable. (I know. Hard to believe, right?) If I'm so ridiculously nervous, how must my boys feel?

As William heaved on his backpack on the way out the door this morning he said suddenly, "Man, I can't wait for Grands!" But then, if he could, we probably wouldn't be going. Is he nervous? Oh I'd be surprised if he isn't, and that's ok.

Swimming 4 days a week has definitely
increased Wyatt's speed on the bike!
I'm not sure Wyatt ever gets nervous, but this Grands could possibly be his final adieu to the 9 intermediate class. With his inevitable move to expert growing closer, Wyatt has dedicated himself to getting stronger and faster. He seldom trains with his brother, choosing instead to spend several hours a week in the pool swimming for ATAC.

These boys couldn't be more ready. They've done everything they can do to prepare. It's time to go to Tulsa!

While everyone fills their grocery carts with turkey and cranberry sauce, I fill ours with bottled water, Gatorade Primes and energy bars. Thanksgiving will be different this year, but we will still be with family-- our Felt family! I'm looking forward to all the laughter we share as we cheer on our riders. GO FELT!

On Saturday, I get a special treat! One of my dearest childhood friends, who I haven't seen in at least 15 years, is driving over from Norman, OK with her son to watch the race. I couldn't be more excited to hug her neck and laugh about old times.

Goodness! I feel better already. Safe travels and good luck to all the riders!


*Susan to Ricky Bobby in "Talladega Nights".

Sunday, October 14, 2012


"I got that nickname when I first turned pro,"
said Bennett. "A couple older guys gave it to me, saying I was smooth, like butter, on my bike. I think it's a good nickname. It's stuck with me."*

Our BMX family heard the tragic news early this morning, before the local media in Montgomery County Texas reported it. In their early report, there was no mention that Kyle Bennett was on the first ever U.S. Olympic BMX team; a legend paving the way for the future of the sport. Once realized though, tributes were planned, and a more in-depth story was written.

When we heard, we couldn't believe it. We were hoping it was a mistake. But no, Kyle Bennett died in an early morning car crash, leaving his fiancee and young daughter. 

My heart broke for them. They were suddenly living a nightmare, hoping to wake up, only to discover that what happened was real. 

Kyle Bennett was raised in Conroe, TX, by his grandparents. His grandfather "Pepa" first took his grandson to a BMX track when he was 7. He built Armadillo BMX, which is now known as "Kyle Bennett Armadillo BMX Park". The former Olympian hosted a clinic there just last Wednesday.

"I'm real proud of him," said Collins as he sits with Bennett outside his house. "He's my beloved grandson. When he first started, I'd say to him, 'Just don't give up.' If he lost, I'd say, 'Don't worry. You've got another one coming up.' "*

Today we watched Felix Baumgartner make his leap from the edge of space. Oddly, I found myself thinking of Kyle Bennett and his family as the live feed showed Baumgartner's mother - sometimes watching intently, and sometimes burying her face in her hands - as her son spiraled towards earth. While it was a nerve wracking 6 minutes for us, I can't begin to contemplate what it felt like for her.

Baumgartner made it though, landing smooth as butter, for his family to embrace him once more.

Please help Kyle's family by visiting to donate to the Kyle Bennett Memorial Fund.

Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Kyle Bennett. 


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Branded: Turning Sacrifice into Profit

Non-BMXers often ask us, how do you do it? One word: SACRIFICE. All BMX parents understand this. If there's a race coming up, and someone growth spurted and outgrew the $150 clips that you bought last month, you quickly get a new pair. If your child has worked hard all season and is sitting at #11 in N.A.G. points in late summer, you put another national on the schedule. All vacations revolve around racing. This isn't something we complain about. It's just a fact of life.

There are some parents, however, who have turned this crazy lifestyle into a profitable affair.

Beach BMX Designs
Bike chain and leather bracelet by Beach BMX Designs
A great way to say "thank you!" to that special BMX mom!
Vann noticed them first, a year or two ago at a national. "Look! Bracelets made from old bike chains. What a great idea!" While I have yet to make a purchase from Beach BMX Designs, I often nose around their display of artistically recycled BMX parts. With a houseful of boys racing BMX, jewelry designer Maribeth says,  "I created Beach BMX to provide us a way to continue our love of the sport and pursue my passion for recycling and repurposing materials!" Personally, I'm all about creatively recycling and repurposing, while getting back some of those race expenses. What a great idea! Maribeth gives back too...With the purchase of anything PINK, she'll make a donation to the Pink Ribbon Foundation and with the purchase of anything YELLOW, she'll donate to the Lance Armstrong Foundation! Check out Beach BMX Designs at

Wyatt is sporting his new KDM belt
that we picked up in Louisville.
A tee and hoody are in his near future.

Kid DynaMite Apparel Co.

Launched in May 2012, Kid DynaMite took off with a blast. Catering to the action sports family, "KDM's mission is to provide Today's Youth with some Real Options in clothing while providing the best Quality products to fit their everyday Intense Lifestyle." KDM's founder, Eric Bess has been heavily involved in BMX racing and freestyle throughout his life. He's also a well-known bass guitarist! How cool is that? I have no doubt that KDM, with their vibrant colors and bold designs, will be filling the closets of action sports aficionados everywhere.

Order a tee, and check out the sponsorship opportunities at Look for the release of their new line of hoodies in October!

Find this and more at!
Pinch Gear
"Maliek Byndloss' mom gave me a tank top to give to you. I stuck it in your bag." Huh?

While in Louisville, William and a friend were visiting in the SSquared pits. Stacy Byndloss struck up a conversation with William, and gave him the tank-- for me! When I had a chance to investigate, I discovered a heavy-weight, high quality, slim fit white tank with "Pinch" printed on the front. Admittedly, I had never heard of Pinch Gear, and my first thought was bike parts! Curiosity won, and soon I was googling "pinch gear". I struck gold!

What I found was a website full of shiny accessories, from sunglasses and handbags, to jewelry. "With style that stuns and attitude that stops traffic, these fashions don’t just make a statement. They make an entrance." Wow!

While these beautiful things aren't BMX related, Stacy Byndloss can still use her BMX connections to promote her business, and support her son's dreams.
Thank you, Stacy Byndloss, for the tank!
I believe that BMX families need to support one another, and our young athletes. Next time you're looking for an artfully designed BMX bracelet, a rockin' new tee, or just something to make you feel beautiful, keep it in the BMX family.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Heading to South Park? Say Hello to Andy and Frank

I turned off my Kindle on a flight home from Houston on Sunday to avoid scrambled airwaves and mortal peril. With light quickly fading as we waited on the jetway, I thumbed through the Sky magazine. The word Pittsburgh caught my eye, forcing me to disrupt my sleeping neighbor and turn on the overhead. For twenty pages I read of Pittsburgh's success in avoiding recession, and their boast of a "healthy higher education sector" fostering their "knowledge based economy".

Still, what's there to see?

My jaw dropped when I saw it. I can't believe I didn't know!  I swear I wiped away drool upon discovering that there in Steel City is the largest museum in the country devoted to a single artist -- Andy Warhol.

Andy Warhol by Annie Leibowitz, 1976

He's not my favorite, but he's home-grown, wildly pop, and his art will influence others for years-- no--- forever.

I immediately checked museum hours (open Friday until 10pm with half price admission after 5!), and  distance from the track (a mere 13 miles). My mind was made up.

As if this weren't exciting enough, an hour outside of town, tiered above a rocky hillside is Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. Wright's Prairie Style, which ended abruptly after a tragic incident involving his cook, his mistress, and an axe, made him famous, but Fallingwater (1935) was his crown jewel. Wright achieved something wholly American; a structure communing with a Pennsylvania waterfall, and existing as one.

Regrettably, we won't have time to visit Fallingwater. We're going to race after all!  However, we will be visiting Andy Warhol Friday night. Won't you join us?

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Moonwalk, 1987
screen print on Lenox Museum Board
38 x 38 in. (96.5 x 96.5 cm.)
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection,
Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Safe travels to everyone headed to Pittsburgh. See you there!


Monday, June 25, 2012

Olympic Dreams

I was once a future Olympian. Weren't we all?
When I was seven, my dream was to become an Olympic swimmer. I swam laps relentlessly, burning off excess childhood energy that, if bottled, would be the finest wine to me now. I've recently been informed that I was a terror; a spoiled child who played my divorced parents like a fiddle. The only person who had patience for me was my older cousin Craig. He indulged me for hours with his stop watch as I swam on and on in our Papa's Palm Beach pool, confident that my Wonder Woman bathing suit was shaving off time. Did Craig maybe believe in me? Did he think I could be an Olympic swimmer? No one ever said, and my dream slowly died, as I outgrew my chlorine faded Wonder Woman suit.

Beginning last Friday, tracks all over the country celebrated the upcoming 2012 Olympics by offering Olympic Day. Racing was free for all, along with complimentary one-day USA BMX memberships for new riders. On Saturday, our family participated with our friends at Circle City BMX in Dothan. There was a good crowd and energy in the air. To add to the nostalgia the Olympics invariably invoke, the "Chicken Dance" blared, sending the kids onto the track to shake their tail feathers before taking their bikes into staging.

William Parker, Wyatt Parker and Britt Dooley had a blast racing together
in both 20" and cruiser, at Olympic Day at Circle City BMX
I asked a couple of fellow BMX families how they felt about the Olympics:

"Britt never thought much about the Olympics until he started racing BMX 3 years ago. Because he participates in BMX and it's an Olympic Sport he's actually followed it more this year than in the past and not just the BMX stuff. He's become fascinated with the process that one has to go through to qualify for the Olympics. And how hard it is to get there. He has the lofty goal of getting there someday and representing the US. Watching Barry (Nobles)  barely miss out making it opened his eyes to just how hard it really is. He looks up to Barry, Connor (Fields), Mike Day and the rest.

In Britt's perspective, the Olympics has gone from being an after thought to something he has begun to appreciate. It's now a goal of his one day to stand on that podium and hear the National Anthem played.

Big dreams, little guy doesn't understand just how hard it is to get there."

- Payton Dooley, dad of Britt Dooley (11int)

"The Olympic games are a way for a person or a team to represent their country by competing against the best athletes from other countries in the sport they love, in the biggest race in the world. There is such excitement about supporting USA because of the freedom we have that makes living in the USA so great. This year it's even more exciting and meaningful because the sport Warren loves most, BMX racing, is in the Olympics. The fact that Barry (Nobles) was competing to go made it even more meaningful. Although Barry didn't make the cut, Warren's looking forward to watching and cheering on team USA. Warren hopes to have the chance to go to the Olympics one day & race BMX for team USA."

- Shannon Lee, Mom of Warren Lee (10x), Thorsby, Alabama

Warren Lee (center) earned gold medals in 10x and 10c
participating in the Olympic Day race at Weaver BMX (Alabama).
Warren hopes to race in the Olympics one day.

Will there be two Olympics for Connor Fields?
Ever since our time in England for BMX World Championships, the Olympics have been a hot topic in our home. We know the young men and women who earned their positions on Team USA will represent their country well. I asked William his predictions for 2016. It didn't take him long to make his list. "I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings". He hesitated. "This could change."
William's picks for Team USA in 2016:
  • Felicia Stancil
  • Dani George
  • Cole Tesar
  • Maliek Byndloss
  • Collin Hudson
  • or maybe Connor Fields again
I made the point to William that for the 2020 Olympics he'll be nineteen. "I suppose I have a shot in 2020 and 2024", he contemplated. "I'm going to go ahead and go in 2020. Then I can finish my education and start my career. I don't want to be stuck with nothing to do after the Olympics." 

He said it as matter-of-fact-ly as if he had told me he was going to brush his teeth and go to bed.

Congratulations Olympians! Never stop dreaming!


Thursday, May 31, 2012

England Swings Part Deux: Life is like a box of chocolates

"My momma always said, 'Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.'"

During the World Championships, Vann met William between each qualifying round, talking through a fence that kept the riders quarantined. "Is he eating?" "Did you tell him to go to the bathroom?" "How are his nerves?" Vann nodded his head emphatically at each of my overbearing questions.

As it was, William remained cool as a cucumber throughout, which I can only attribute to the confidence that comes from 6 months of intense preparation. I, on the other hand, was nothing short of a basket case. Completely out of character, I'm ashamed to say I lost my marbles on one of the two ticket-takers at the NIA. I won't go into details, but the poor guy didn't deserve my wrath. He'll never see it, but I offer my public apology just the same.

Remember to breathe was the best advice I received, from a BMX mom who'd been there before. (Thanks Josette!) As motos went on, our group began to relax and have a good time. Our USA pits were directly behind the Japanese, who, without a lick of English, cheered enthusiastically each time the announcer uttered "Germany". The Germans didn't have a big crew there, so I'm sure they appreciated it.

We knew it would have to be more than skill to carry William through eighths, quarters and semis. Strong riders were falling out left and right. As William crossed the line in a qualifying position in his semi, I finally felt at ease. He would have a world plate!

Partly due to fate, and mostly because William always cranks to the line, William was able to choose an inside gate for the main. When he came out of the gate, no one could argue that he deserved to be there. He quickly fell into a third place position entering the first turn. Attempting to move into second, his pedal struck the ground, jamming his knee, and moving him into the fourth spot. He was lucky to hold on, but was unable to gain back a medal position, and finished fourth. We were unbelievably proud and excited!

After awards, photos and hugs, when "Let's party all night!" turned into "Let's grab a quick bite at the hotel and go to bed", we finally had an opportunity to discuss the race with William. 

"WELL?" I said. That was all he needed. His tired, but happy face turned to us as he began his tale. Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get. He said his favorite line from "Forrest Gump", and I wondered. Did he not think he would do so well? Did he expect more?

He told us of the friends he made, and we laughed as he described how he communicated with his new Japanese friend (3rd place finisher Yuichi Masuda) through head shakes and sign language. The kids from Great Britain were shocked to learn that policeman in the U.S. carry guns, and William proudly described to them his own personal arsenal, which really had them in awe. Surprisingly, they asked about one another's governments, and compared the differences. We learned too, that we're not just the spawn of England or France, but our own unique culture-- wild, crazy Americans!

When he finished, I understood what William meant. Take advantage of what's in front of you. Live life now. You never know what you're gonna get.

Watch this awesome Video of Factory Felt riders at Worlds by Phillip Habib

The very next day, William turned eleven. We celebrated with our friends the Habibs, in proper Medieval fashion. It's not everyday an 11-yr-old boy gets to visit a castle, chop off his brother's head, and see a Shakespeare play on his birthday. It was a great time with great friends!

Sunday morning we made our leave, sad to miss our friends racing cruiser, but happy to be on our way. We headed to Paris on a 24-hour lay over. Not wanting to waste one minute, we hit the cobblestones running. Notre Dame was crowded, but amazing just the same. We had dinner with my cousin Jill and her family, while the boys played soccer with their Parisian cousin Jude in the gardens of the Louvre.

By 10 pm we were all worn out, and contemplating the long flight ahead, when Wyatt pulled the Puss in Boots face. "Oh pleez can we go to the Eiffel Tower?"

With rubber legs and tired faces, we rode to the top at midnight. Too tired to walk to the hotel, Vann hailed a cab. Wyatt was asleep within the minute.

Go to England. Ride your race. Skip and hold hands. See a Shakespeare play. Be crazy. See the Eiffel Tower at midnight. Go to New Zealand.



"My momma always said, 'life was like a box of chocolates.
You never know what you're gonna get.'"

Many thanks for all the love, support, well-wishes, and congratulations sent out to William. Your presence was felt!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

England Swings: Part I of the 2012 BMX World Championships

"England swings like a pendulum dooooo..."*

Here I sit alone in the small foyer of our adjoining rooms, the only wi-fi hot spot in our home of 8 days. Luckily I have my warm (no ice or fridge) sauvignon blanc that Vann so lovingly procured. Snores surround me.

J.R.R. Tolkien honeymooned here in 1916!

We're staying at THE Plough and Harrow, and I do mean THE. This was THE place!--  Back in the 1800s that is. Today we figured out the plumbing.

HA HA! Actually, this was in fact the posh potty in the gruesome Tower of London.
The plumbing is quite tricky here though.
But now for the real deal... Why are we here?

We're here because I have a son who deserves it.
We're here because he's earned it.
We're here because he's willing to give it his all.

William Parker and Coleman Habib:
 representing Felt Bikes and the USA!

Today was first practice. I won't lie. The track is tough, and the first straight has William worried. He's not the only one though. There were multiple wrecks coming off the first jump. William did wreck in practice today, but his only injury was a little blood and dirt on his coveted USA jersey. THAT's what mattered to him, but a little soap and scrubbing in the hotel sink had it good as new.

Tomorrow's practice promises good things. William knows how to dial in a track, and he has a plan. I can hardly wait for him to take on the World on Thursday. GO USA!!


*From "England Swings" by Roger Miller

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Wet Winning Weekend at the USA BMX Dixieland Nationals

The rain was falling Saturday morning as we huddled under the Felt tents.

Sam Brown dominated 16 girls
Photo credit: Mike Carruth
"What are you doing?" Sam (Samantha) Brown glared at William as he was gearing up for practice. "You're just going to slip on the gate... and fall... and hurt yourself... or get muddy!"

His dad and I had been giving him the same speech for 30 minutes, but it took a pretty team mate to talk some sense into him. He stayed safe and clean by warming up in the parking lot.

By race time, the rain had ceased, and the sun had come out to dry the track. First rounds went well, with nearly the whole Felt crew, plus Wyatt and Charlie "Chooch" Christopher, transferring out.

Semis were thankfully uneventful. Everyone under the Felt tent easily moved on to their respective mains.

Racing in Georgia comes with the added bonus of family. My Georgia cousins came to watch the races and cheer on the boys. With the boys transferring out first round, there was a lot of time to hang out and visit in the pits, and discuss all of the fishing, baseball, boogie boarding, etc. that's going to take place on our upcoming family beach vacation.

As we stood on the fence waiting for Wyatt's 9 intermediate main, a screaming parent startled my cousin Judy's 7-month old daughter who had been sleeping peacefully in her sling. Judy leaned in to me and asked, "Do you guys yell like that?" Vann laughed. "Heather used to!" I then explained that I am now well under control, and proved it by standing demurely at the fence as Wyatt finished 5th in his first main as a 9-year-old.

Not long after, William was on the hill for 10x. He shot out of gate 4, and never looked back.

I lost it.

Wyatt covered his ears and crept away. Vann, in between his own shouts of "Stay on the cranks!" and "Close the door!" urged me to calm down. There was no calming me. I was a BMX mom possessed.

I screamed my head off as William brought in his first USA BMX national win.

I quickly turned my attention to William's friends racing 11x. As Joey Leto took the lead, I continued to cheer. Joey crossed the line for a win just as William approached me at the fence. A smile lit his face like sunshine and warmed my heart.

I hugged him. "I won!" He said.

He rode off to congratulate Joey, whose smile was the size of William's. As the boys exchanged accolades, I heard William say, "that was just the confidence boost I needed".

Indeed it was. With Sunday's race cancelled due to weather, we left Atlanta on a high note.

I won, I heard William say to himself in the car. I WON.

Look out England, here we come!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Will Power

It's human nature to remember the dates of the events that shape us. I've heard them referred to as "defining moments". One such event happened to William five years ago today. While he recalls little about those months, a seed was planted in his soul that continues to grow into strength, courage, and an unwavering determination to succeed.
One month from today, William will take on the world in Birmingham, England.

An edited repost of 
Sometimes They Fall: a Story of Courage

April 24, 2007 was the last Tuesday in April. I know this because my book club meets the last Tuesday of every month. It was going to be a big night at the track. The weather was beautiful and the track was pristine. The BMX dads had a fish fry planned. I opted out, choosing instead to discuss Out of the Flames with my book club ladies. Vann took the boys to practice and join in the fun.

My phone started ringing during our heated discussion of Michael Servetus, and his gory demise at the stake. I'm never interrupted at book club. I answered. The voice on the line was forcibly calm, hiding panic. "William is hurt. I need you to come to the track now."  I began spewing questions, but the only response was, "Get here NOW."

I left abruptly, trying to control my speed, all the while wondering why on earth I wasn't meeting them at the emergency room that I was driving past. The drive seemed too long. I hurried. The phone rang. HurryHurry.

I saw the ambulance first.

After a full night of practice, followed by a race, the kids ate dinner and continued to ride. It was almost time to leave when William was hit. The other rider didn't see him. I was told that William cried out and went silent. When they tried to lift him, his left femur folded, and the ambulance was called.

William was sprawled on the track, the color gone from his face. He wasn't crying. He was loaded into the ambulance with me beside him. He was immediately stuck with an IV and given the maximum dose of morphine a 55 Ib body can take. The pulse in his left foot was checked repeatedly for signs of a severed femoral artery. We looked like a parade arriving at the hospital, with everyone from the track following behind the ambulance.

"Only three visitors allowed", we were told, as all but Vann, Wyatt and I dispersed. William's pants had to be removed for the x-ray. When the technician began cutting his pants, William began to cry. "I know it hurts baby", I soothed. "My new pants!" He sobbed. They were brand new red Fox racing pants. Then he turned to me quietly and asked, "Mommy, will you please get me some boxers in case this ever happens again?" Apparently he picked the wrong night to wear his Darth Vader drawers.

Watching William's face during his x-ray was torture, and I wanted to borrow his morphine drip just to get through it. The technician summoned us to the screen. It didn't require a phd to see that William's left femur, the largest bone in his little body, had snapped like a twig. In my nauseated stupor, I asked, "Is it broken?" (The image shown is a week after the accident. It's probably a good thing that I couldn't locate the emergency room x-rays.)

We were informed that the pediatric orthopedic surgeon had been called, and was on the way. When he arrived, he quickly explained that William would be prepped for surgery, and surgery would be performed immediately if the bone could not be set externally.  It was past 11:00, and Wyatt was asleep in a chair. Vann needed to get him home, and was forced to leave with all the uncertainty looming. Soon after, I was introduced to the team of surgeons, orthopedists, nurses and anesthesiologists who had been assembled to put our son back together. When it was time, I kissed William, and held his hand for as long as they would let me, as they wheeled the gurney to the O. R.

William has been the cause of the longest hours of my life: first, his laborious natural birth, then, this. Time stood still as I fidgeted restlessly and made necessary phone calls.

After three hours, William's chief orthopedist, Dr. Fahey, materialized in the waiting room. The cast application had been successful, and the bone had been set externally. William had been placed in a spica, which you really have to see to believe. I was led to recovery, where William was just waking up. He looked down. "Oh God", he muttered softly. I held his hand again as we were checked into our room. Drowsy from morphine and anesthesia, I thought William would sleep. Instead, he cried softly the rest of the night. I cried too, because I didn't know how to help my son.

After, well, the worst night of our lives, William finally slept. Visitors and nurses came and went. Vann arrived after taking Wyatt to preschool, and we were informed that William would be discharged that afternoon. We were scared, but relieved that he would be home with us. Vann sent me home at last to shower and try to gather myself before collecting Wyatt. 

My phone was ringing when I arrived home, and it was Kim from my book club. "What happened? How's William?" I'm sure she wasn't expecting the earful that she got.  Then she asked,  "how are YOU?" I looked down at myself, in the same clothes from yesterday, now dirty and smelly from the bmx track and the long night in the hospital, and all I could do was blink away tears. "Oh, I'm fine." Right. I'm really glad she didn't fall for that one, because she immediately gathered the troops and lined up our dinners for the following three weeks. If you don't go to church, I highly recommend joining a book club.

Vann arrived home with William a few hours later. We were given no instructions on how to care for him. We had no clue how to carry him, put him in the car, or wash his hair. Leaving the hospital, Vann was given no assistance putting him in the truck, while poor William was crying in pain. The nurses in the hospital looked at William as if he were an alien, and it had taken three of them to figure out the best way for him to go to the bathroom. How were we supposed to do all this at home?

The first week was terribly difficult, as William was still in a tremendous amount of pain. Vann and I took turns sleeping in Wyatt's bed to be near William, and Wyatt would bunk up with one of us. William had always slept on his belly, but now had to sleep propped up on pillows, with more pillows positioned under his knees. Full of pain and frustration, he didn't sleep much.

William spent his days in a chair in our living room where he was most comfortable. He would doze off while reading BMX Today or BMXer, dreaming of getting back on his bike. It didn't take long for overwhelming boredom to set in. The following Tuesday, William announced that he wanted to watch bmx practice. On that first night back at the track, I think everyone wondered if he would in fact return to the bike. Our big burly track director, David Shields, held back tears, and had to turn away so William wouldn't see. What no one seemed to realize was that the thought of not returning to bmx never entered William's mind.

Three days after the accident, William's kindergarten teacher, Ms. Kenton, came to visit. William still had one month of school, and we weren't about to let this hold him back. She convinced William of how much the class missed him, and that he should come back when he felt up to it. We made arrangements for Wyatt to go to preschool five days a week, and I accompanied William to kindergarten for the remaining month of school. I'll admit, sitting in the cafeteria day after day with a bunch of kindergartners who couldn't open their milk cartons was a little trying, but I was so happy that William could still participate. His classmates were wonderful, and would take turns throwing the ball with him at recess.

Still, William suffered continuously from the frustration of being immobile. His dad, brother and I were constant cheerleaders trying to lift his spirits. After a couple of weeks, I was beginning to feel quite sorry for myself. Having William in that body cast was like having a 60 Ib baby that could bark out orders. My back ached from lifting him and his equally heavy wheel chair. My mind was numb from attending kindergarten. I was pathetic.

One particularly rough day, I dropped into bed exhausted, questioning again how we were going to get through this. Now, you may or may not believe me, but my dead grandma has a weird way of popping up when I least expect it. That night, her voice loud and clear in my head said these words:

You can not change what has happened.
You can decide whether to be weak or strong, or negative or positive.

I sat straight up in bed and vowed right then to end the pity party.

On Mother's Day, William received the best surprise. We were invited to watch Ricky Carmichael practice on his local track. Ricky and his buddy Ben Townley jumped high and did tail whips, and generally did a marvelous job of showing off. William loved it. Best of all, Ricky was the first to sign William's cast. We still have it, and it looks like a strange, headless body.

William's 6th birthday rolled around, and he chose to celebrate at the track. Originally, we had made plans to surprise William with a trip to Disney World. Just so you know, even if your child has a major accident and is in a body cast, that stupid mouse will not refund your deposit. We made the most of it just the same, and had a good night at the track. The boys pushed William around, and threw the football with him. (Pictured: William with his friend Keagan.)
Time dragged on, and after seven weeks the big day for cast removal finally arrived. William couldn't wait to ride a bike, and I couldn't wait for him to take a bath. We quickly learned that things don't always go as planned. William's leg was healing at an angle, and we held our breaths as Dr. Fahey debated surgery once again.  Because William was growing so fast, he gambled, betting that William's growth would ultimately correct the problem. The decision was made to remove the spica and put William in a long leg cast.
William was glad to have one leg free, and quickly became somewhat mobile again with the help of a walker. He would practice in the yard where it was safe for him to fall over. I taught him the classic phrase, "I've fallen and I can't get up!" Being able to move around a bit helped ease the disappointment of still being in a cast. 
Three weeks later, we had better luck. The bone, although crooked, had fused well, and William was free at last. It would still be several weeks before William was allowed on a bike, but the day the cast came off, I let him ride his brother's big wheel. I had to carry him on and off of it because he still couldn't walk, but he could ride that big wheel like a champ. It wasn't long before he could begin using his trainer. This helped to strengthen his legs before he actually started riding. 
When the day came for him to return to the track, everyone paused and watched as William, limping severely, but fearless, walked up the starting hill, 
and rode again.

William has been searching for a BMX nickname. We tested out "Will the Thrill", but that is commonly used by A PRO rider William Grant. We've been through them all, including the Shakespearean notion of "the Immortal Bard". That one was quickly rejected. As it goes, William came up with a name himself, and shared it with me last week:
Will Power

It suits him, don't you think?


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Even a BMX Mom Needs a Break

I'm exhausted. Just now I added it up. I was in 9 states in the month of March. To top it off, I turned old---

I would've never made it without Rick Castro,
dad of William's Felt team mate Ricky, who promptly
changed the tube I blew up in William's cruiser.
The week after the Super Nationals in DeSoto, TX, I lamented to Vann, "I can't catch up. I'm worn out!" To my sweet husband's credit, he sympathized, obviously understanding the logistics of traveling half-way across the country, toting two boys and three bikes. It would've been four, but I left one home, Wyatt's cruiser, deciding that I couldn't handle the tight turn around between cruiser and intermediate during quarters and semis.

Tired or not, it was worth it. I relished the time with my boys, and they raced like champions, together earning five podium spots for the weekend.

One weekend later, we were in our home town of Fort Walton Beach for a USA BMX FL state qualifier, where I whined to our friend Bill Madden, "I don't get it. I'm STILL tired!" He commiserated as he hobbled on his healing broken hip, which didn't stop him from snapping a few gates.

As for the HTG monogram, you'll just have to guess.
On March 29 the unthinkable happened, I turned 40. Vann and the boys showered me with cards, flowers, kisses and CAKE - home made by my favorite chef- Vann the Man.

At 4 the next morning, Vann drove me to the airport. I hadn't been to Wyoming since our honeymoon, where Vann got frostbitten on a deadly snow mobile excursion, and we were far too cold to do what honeymooners generally do.

It was time for #sistertrip2012.

I know I'm lucky. I have a sister who I share everything with, and she shares everything with me. Every year it's non-negotiable-- We're together for one week of sisterly love.

It's our sixth night in Jackson, WY, where we remember childhood summers sipping Shirley Temples in the Cowboy Bar, and long family drives through the Tetons. If I had to choose one paradise, it would be here. 

My sister Wendy and I don't ski. We've been asked that question 100 times this week. Instead we play cards by our fire, and remember who we are.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Texas on my Mind

My Pa Pa- "Mac" McClanahan (center)
I can hardly wait for Wednesday to come. Just me and my boys are heading west on a Spring Break racing adventure. I haven't spent much time in Texas; an aunt's funeral in Waco, a few trips to San Antonio to visit my sister when she was in college at Trinity U, and a spa trip to Austin. That's about it. Despite my lack of time there, I am 1/4 Texan.

Although I hail from the Florida Gulf Coast's Redneck Riviera, where beer funneling is the #1 sport, my maternal grandparents were native Texans. I didn't know my Pa Pa, a leader in the Texas/Louisiana oil industry of the 1950s and 60s, but I know from my Grandma Helen how to be a strong-willed Texas woman. I guess you can say that I'm Country and Western.

Grandma Helen (left) with my mom at a rig christening
Throughout my engagement to Vann, Grandma Helen generously gave me sound marital advice: "Nod and smile at him honey, and then do whatever you want." Unfortunately for Vann, I put this advice in the bank, along with, "Honey, don't take any crap!" So my sweet husband will load four bikes, his wife, children, cooler and a toolbox in our Suburban and send us off to Dallas, while he stays home to work.

I'm excited. The only thing I know about Dallas is who shot J.R. While we travel in unknown territory, I'll think of my grandparents and explore my roots, knowing they're with me in spirit.