Growing up, Ashley had two things she loved to do most: music and softball. She was quite the little third baseman, and her team, the Polecats, ruled the league for 3 years - sweeping not only the championship, but the sportsmanship awards each year. So fun! When we moved to a neighboring state, Ashley picked up in a new league, enjoying it to the fullest until she aged out of the youth league.
Since the junior high did not have a softball team, she played basketball for 2 years until she got to high school. She was so excited to get back to playing the game she loved so much. Unfortunately, the moral environment of the high school team left much to be desired. On her first long road trip, some of the girls turned on a movie on the bus that was horribly raunchy. Her request to turn on a different movie was met with ridicule, and Ashley slid down in her seat and stuffed her ear buds as far as she could into her ears to block out the filth. Needless to say, this and the fact that she did not participate in other activities her teammates were fond of, did not endear her to the other members of the team. She was definitely the odd duck in the room and felt that keenly. After one year, she decided that she would run Cross Country instead. She had always enjoyed running and fit in better with the girls on the team.
The beginning of her season was great. After a while, she began having severe pain in her legs. She dismissed it as shin splints, and pressed on. After a few months, it got to be unbearable, and we took her to an orthopedist. A bone scan showed that she had 3 severe stress fractures in her legs, and she had to stop running. The fractures took 8 months to heal, and then returned within 2 weeks when she began training again.
After visits to 4 different doctors, we finally found one who did some computer analysis and discovered that one of her legs is turned in slightly. While it is not visible and does not hinder her movement in any way, it causes one of her feet to hit the ground with twice the force that her other one does. Three doctors had advised her to give up running, and the 4th said that she might be able to resume with orthotics in her running shoes and a very slow return to training. She began down that road, and decided to pray about what she should do.
Shortly afterward, she came home one day her sophomore year, completely excited. "Mom! If I give up Cross Country, I can take choir!!! I can still run on my own, but won't be breaking my legs with the hardcore training."
She threw herself completely into music this year, playing the violin in the orchestra, and singing in the women's a capella choir, taking AP Music Theory in school, and teaching piano and violin after school to earn some money. Totally in heaven!! She loved it.
Then she began having problems with tendonitis in her wrist, which was making her violin playing very painful. She was so discouraged - she had already given up two things she loved, and could not bear to lose this, too. More doctors, cortisone injections, and eventually surgery ensued. The pain improved, but still has not gone away completely. She has been able to play still, but only for short periods of time. She was moved down to a lower position in the orchestra so that she could take breaks when needed and would not be depended on to lead. Heartbreaking, but merciful.
What pleased me more, however, were the awards she received from the graduating seniors. One presented her with the "Little Miss Sunshine Award" for her positive attitude, and another gave her the "Encouragement Award, for demonstrating the love and kindness every group needs." I was so touched that while the school recognized her achievements (which is wonderful), these fantastic friends recognized her for her character. What a far cry from her experience on the softball team!
So this morning, I'm feeling grateful for a wonderful daughter and her good friends, some of whom I will miss terribly as they head off to college. I'm also grateful for the strength and opportunities that come with every challenge if we look for them and grab hold.