Monday, January 27, 2014


There's a new song on the radio that has just completely touched my soul... every word rings so true, and it really warms my heart.  

"So let your heart, Sweetheart,
 be your compass when you're lost
 and you should follow it where ever you may go."

I have to smile when I hear these words, because in a way, it is the truest and most honest thing I hope every little girl learns.

I think I was 9 in this picture, at my
first National Championships, and so in
love with gymnastics.  

"Yeah it's been a bumpy road,
roller coasters high and low..."

This is an all too familiar story.  Every woman, young or old, understands the concept of ups and downs in life.  From what I remember, happiness for me started when I was 4 years old.  I don't remember a lot before that... but I remember gymnastics, and I remember JOY.  For me the harsh reality of life started when I was 16, and the injuries came.  The pain and the frustration of losing a dream (twice) were a major low on the roller coaster that I rode.  I struggled severely for the better part of two years, trying to figure out who I was meant to be.  

No one would have blamed me if I quit gymnastics, in fact, most people tried to convince me it was the best choice.  That was the first time I remember really letting my heart guide my life.  I told them I could do it, even though I had NO IDEA if I really could.  I had offers to study theater in college, scholarships to go to schools and learn and develop a craft that I definitely had a passion for... but it wasn't enough.  Sure, I loved the arts, probably more than most people know... but I wasn't ready to give up on my first dream.  I just wasn't.  
The aftermath of one of my surgeries.

"So let your heart, Sweetheart,
 be your compass when you're lost
 and you should follow it where ever you may go."

So, I went to school where I could still do gymnastics.  Then there was healing, new friends and new opportunities that brought my coaster car all the way up to the peak of the tracks.  I had never known this kind of happiness, and though it was never easy, I was exactly where I belonged.  

And then I got sick. And the roller coaster car peaked out over the edge, and came crashing down that steep, steep hill. 

"You want to give up 'cause it's dark,"

My soul mates, and 4 of the reasons I never feel alone.
Without a doubt, this had been the hardest thing I had ever had to go through.  Looking back, I think my two knee surgeries were only preparing me for what was to come.  I couldn't rehab this illness the way I could an injury... it was harder.  In a way, I was broken, not just my leg this time... it was me, and the darkness that overtook me consumed my life for a long time.  The climb back up was so long, and so exhausting... but there were some very special people who tethered themselves to me... anchoring me, who wouldn't let me fall back down.  

"We're really not that far apart."

Again, people asked me, "are you sure you want to do this," and my heart was what held the answer.  As broken as I was, I knew that my heart would not accept a life without this sport.  So I worked and I prayed and I made it through the darkness to a place where I could again start climbing the tracks.  

Probably my most treasured photo.
This is me, coaching our Angel, Avery,
at summer camp at UWW.
As an athlete, you face many obstacles and adversity.  As an adult, the same thing happens... 

I had been living through the ups and downs and thriving.  Gymnastics was still a part of my life, and I still felt all of the joy I had felt as a child.  Most likely, because I was sharing that joy with children who were also falling in love with my sport.  Again, I was happy... and then one of those children died, and I didn't think there was a rope long enough to pull me out of the hole that my roller coaster had dropped me into.  

"You want to give up cause it's dark"

When we lost Avery I lost myself again.   I started to get sick, and would never admit it.  I saw her in every child I coached whether it was a two year old or a 22 year old.  Everything hurt.  Gymnastics hurt.  I would be giving some one a correction on a skill and two words in I'd have to turn my head and walk out of the gym.  It was like the air was pulled from my lungs.  I cried more last year than in the first 25 years of my life.  I thought I had felt pain... and maybe I had, but this pain was worse.

"No matter what you'll never be alone."

As deep and dark as that crater was I crashed into, again, I had some crazy incredible people there to help me navigate my way out of it.  There were friends, there were sisters, there were parents and coaches, and there were athletes... all of whom helped me heal.  But mostly, there were those little gymnasts, the ones who reminded me more of Avery than I'd ever liked to admit.  They were there to keep my compass pointed north, to remind me why I do what I do... and to remember her, on a daily basis.  A lot of us helped each other heal... and I learned a powerful lesson- healing together, is healing more completely.  
A balloon release for our God Girl, on the 1st Anniversary of
her death.  Both of my teams, college and little ones, came
together today to celebrate Avery's life, and to remember her.

Coaching my collegiate girls brings me so much joy!
It's remarkable how similar life as an athlete is to life without.  There will always be challenges, things to overcome, people to prove wrong, and things your heart wants to pursue.  I am at a loss for words to describe how blessed I feel to have listened so intently to my inner compass all those years ago.  If I had listened to everyone who encouraged me to give in to the pain, to let it go, would I have the same happiness?  Would my heart be this content with all of the joy I have right now?  

"Forgot directions on your way,
Don't close your eyes, don't be afraid."

These girls are my connection to Avery, and to my childhood
heart that pointedme down this amazing road.

If you come to a point in your life when you're not sure if you're headed down the right path.  If happiness seems so far away you don't know which way is up, or if you are just feeling lost about something or someone... take a second to listen, really listen to that inner compass.  It really does get things right.  

Love True,

"You want to give up cause it's dark.
We're really not that far apart.

So let your heart, Sweetheart,
I am blessed with the best, and most
amazing family!
be your compass when you're lost
and you can follow it wherever you may go.

When it's all said and done
you can walk instead of run
Cause no matter what
you'll never be alone."

Lady Antebellum- "Compass"

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