Thursday, April 2, 2020

Write or Die

A couple months ago I decided to enter a writing contest through the Chickasaw Nation. If that seems random, allow me to explain that through my mother's side each of us are citizens of the Chickasaw Nation and on the Dawes Rolls. Because the Chickasaws have been so, so good to me over the years I always try to vote in the elections and be as active as I can living outside of the nation's boundaries.

That being said I entered the Anoli' Creative Writing Contest. Today I was informed I got 2nd place! Of course I am elated, although admittedly I would always want to be first. :) The Chickasaw Nation may choose to publish the winning entries this fall, but I do retain all rights to my work. is the 2nd (should've been 1st) place entry in this year's Chickasaw Nation Anoli' Creative Writing Contest. (Original work by me---did steal some small truths from some of the guys we know)

The Grind

By Avery Pullin

Idiot. I just threw two strikes on the paint, lighting it close to 93. I need to throw my curve. I’m solid with my curve. And this idiot is calling a slider? I haven’t thrown my slider all season. Let’s get out of this game and on the road.

I shake my head wanting him to see in my eyes the cuss words running through my head for him.

A changeup? You gotta be kidding me, Golder. How are you here?

It’s the bottom of the ninth, and although I’m usually middle relief I’m closing tonight. We have two outs and the only runner on base I inherited from the new guy who just got moved up from Low A. He didn’t even make it a third of an inning. Young guys. They always think they’re something until they get here. Especially hotshots like him drafted out of high school.

I shake off Golder until he calls my curveball.


Ball game. I come off the mound beaming. I’m shocked when I hear the 14 fans in the crowd explode into applause. Then I see Sammy the Seagull and Rusty the Fishhook on top of the home dugout doing a bobblehead giveaway of one of the Astros players. I shake my head. I barely remember when fans came to watch me play baseball.

Winning tonight put us one game ahead of the Hooks for this half of the season. Golder marches in complaining about what in the world I threw him with that last pitch. “A strike. I threw a strike.” I walk off.

In the locker room my bullpen buddies pat me on the back. Like me they’re thankful to get out of the blistering heat and humidity of Corpus Christi. It is time to go home, wherever that is anymore.

This is my fourth season in minor league baseball. I have consumed approximately twelve hundred peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a few homemade meals from my host family, “food” the clubbie makes and one dragonfly hamburger. The burger wasn’t bad after I pulled off the dragonfly, but I didn’t realize I left a wing until I got extra crunch in that one bite.

A quick shower and back to the bus. It has been a long road trip, and I am ready to sleep all the way back to Midland. Gosh. All I can think is that if I don’t sleep on this trip, the little guy I share a house with will be up playing Legos about 2 hours after we roll into town. I like the kid. I might even love him. But how he can make Legos the loudest toy in the universe at 7 am is about the most annoying thing in my life.

My host family really is great. I make $1,500 a month for a few months a year, so I do appreciate that they let me stay there for free. They even make meals. My host mom is a little over the top always wanting to come say hi after the games and pretends to take a picture of me with the kids. I know she just wants to chat with my teammates. She doesn’t realize how old she is now. But they’re great. They are really great. At least my host dad gets me on the golf course during the All-Star break. And they have casseroles stocked for me. Most of the time.

I had just dozed off when the lights of Buc-ee’s startled me. Thank, God. The only two good things about the Texas League is the occasional Buc-ee’s stop and Whataburger. Other than that these road trips are a grind. Finish a game, shower, get on bus for 10 hours. Every week. Just when I think I hate minor league baseball and bus trips with guys playing poker at 3 am and I have a draft email to my agent I’m about to send, we always manage to pull into Buc-ee’s.

I spend more time than is appropriate smelling the cleanness of the Buc-ee’s bathroom. Minor league clubhouses sound like they’d be fun with buddies joking around and playing baseball all day. In reality they are about as sanitary as a sewer line. No. Sometimes I’d rather change in the sewer line.

This clean bathroom gets me every time, and I run out with barely enough time to grab some beaver nuggets for the rest of the trip. I had 10 bucks left, but the nuggets were worth it. Might as well spend the last six on one hand of poker. I’ll get paid in two weeks. That’ll be the paycheck I save for school next semester.

Oh, yeah. I’m still in school. I spent four years playing for the LSU Tigers. We made two college world series appearances. I shined in Omaha my last year. But it was my last year, at least in eligibility, and teams knew that. The A’s took me in the 8th round, gave me a $9,000 signing bonus, and said they’d pay for college. I didn’t know a) how fast $9,000 goes and b) that “paying for college” had a limit.

I’m surprised when I see a text from my girlfriend. She is usually asleep by this time. After college she did the successful thing and started working at a bank. She’s smart. She’s beautiful. In college I loved her because she kept me humble, reminding me I maybe wasn’t the stud ESPN raved about. In the minor leagues I keep loving her because she is about the only person I know who stays up to listen to my games. Her and my parents. Everyone else has pretty much forgotten the All-SEC kid from 4 years ago. Now she reminds me that the grind will one day be worth it and that I really am what they always said all those years ago.

Life has become two seasons. Baseball and the off-season. I get frustrated because I hate them both. During baseball season I want to be back home in Mobile working a 9-5, getting married, chilling with my friends. Then off-season comes, and I spend my days paying someone more to train me than I make actually doing the job I’m training for. And, well, I miss the grind. For the life of me I don’t know why I miss chugging expired milk from my ice chest. I guess I was born for this. At the end of the day being poor playing baseball during the season is better than being poor as a host at Applebee’s during the off-season.

That’s right. I’m 25 years old, a full grown man, and I’m not even a server. It used to embarrass me when tables asked for refills, and I had to go get the college freshman to take their order. Now I just go with it. If they find out I play professional baseball, sometimes they get excited and want to talk. Once I tell them we grill cheap steaks on an electric gridle in the hotel bathroom and I park my ‘07 Nissan Versa next to one of the 40-man guy’s Range Rover, they lose interest.  

“Wake up, Shortstop!” I hear as Tuesday punches me in the arm. I’m not a shortstop. I actually have never played shortstop in my life. Not a single inning. But my dad was my high school coach, and I’ve caught crap ever since. Only coaches’ kids play shortstop.

For what it’s worth, my buddy’s name isn’t Tuesday. His last name is Mundee, but we can’t call anyone by their actual name. This. Is. Baseball.

I slap the door frame of the bus as I climb off. I have to. I did it once in 9th grade after throwing in my first varsity game. I had pitched three innings with no runs and 4 strikeouts, so in excitement I slapped the door frame of the bus when we got home that night. I have had to do it ever since. I can’t not do it.

My beaver nuggets didn’t fill me up like I had hoped. It’s four in the morning when I try to tiptoe with my travel bags through my host family’s house. I’m starving. I pass the refrigerator on the way to my room. I sit on the bed trying to remember where we were last night. I can’t get over my hunger. I decide to raid the refrigerator. Afterall, they said to make myself feel at home.

Bingo! My host mom has a casserole sitting front and center. She knew I was coming home! Sometimes I am so thankful she tries to be the cool host mom. God, I feel sorry for her kids when they get to be 14. But they won’t go hungry. These casseroles are amazing. They’re the kind you get at the Baptist church on potluck day. I pull out the casserole and grab a fork. I don’t even need a plate.

Beans? A whole freaking pan of beans? Why is this woman wacko?

I look back into the refrigerator. Absolutely nothing else except sliced cheese. I grab two slices and go back to my room.

I am completely zonked in the middle of the best sleep of my life. I hear my phone buzz, but even my girlfriend will have to wait. And now there go the Legos, straight for the wall I share with the playroom. My sleep is ruined.

When I grab my phone to call my girlfriend back, I see it was our manager. Crap.

I can barely breathe as I call him back. Am I getting released? Just because I won’t throw my slider?

“Shortstop, pack your stuff.” I knew it. This is it. I try to hold back the tears. “You’re heading to Las Vegas. Flight is at 2:00 this afternoon. Congratulations!” I sit in shock. I just got called up to Triple-A.

It is bittersweet saying goodbye to my host family. Little guy gives me a fist bump, and I make him promise to come watch me later that summer. My host mom won’t quit crying like I’m her actual child and I just died. My host dad shakes my hand and offers me a ride to the airport. I accept. It’s then I realize they are the only people I know in this entire town. I don’t know anyone in Las Vegas. Man, this might be harder than I expected.

Triple-A is better than Double-A. We take a plane everywhere and not a bus. Our pay is a tad higher. Guys in the major leagues come down for a game or two at a time for various reasons, and they usually cater a nice meal. And I am one step. One solitary step from the show.

Two days into my Triple-A career and the manager called down and said a few choice words about my backside and to get it up and move. I scrambled. Words will never describe my love of the adrenaline that runs through me when I’m warming up in the bullpen. My first Triple-A game. We are in Salt Lake, and I don’t even know if I’m breathing as I trot to the mound.

Strike. Ball. Ball. Strike. Home Run.

Dang. That ball flew really far.

This happens three more times before I get my first out. With that I’m pulled. At least I struck out one guy. And, well, I didn’t let the guy behind me inherit any runners. Baseball is all about almost every statistic except the final score, so you can make it look any way you want. All in all it was a rough night. I’m pretty sure the balls were juiced. Or maybe it was the elevation. I know it probably wasn’t me. I am actually a great pitcher. I am really something. At least I was until I got here.

Gosh, I love baseball.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

What Do You Say?

As I sat down to write this morning, my cute little 4 year old popped his head into the dining room, "Mom, what does a sheep do when he gets dirty?"

"I have no idea."

"He takes a bath! HA HA HA HAHAHAHA!!!"

He is now on repeat with the joke that he made up. This has been our life lately, and it is absolutely amazing. Between binge watching Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and the rad jokes our 4 year old makes up, we have laughed until our guts hurt.

A few years ago my friend Meredith encouraged me to listen to a podcast called Simple by Tsh Oxenreider. At the time I did not know that this one podcast would provide me with such solace and be exactly what I needed to hear in many areas of my life. Over the years I've heard Tsh talk to farmers, priests, writers, friends and travelers. She always kept to the theme of simple.

It was probably 2018 when I decided to do a word for the year instead of a resolution. I used that word for 2 years now, and over time I grew into finding ways to make life exactly that. Maybe simple sounds lazy, but I found it took a lot of practice to learn to say yes and no when I needed to.

Going into 2020 my word is present. I want to be present in each moment. When I'm with a friend, I want to be present in our conversations. I try to block out that time when I can be present; when I'm not being the modern woman juggling too many commitments and deadlines. When I'm with my kids (which is A LOT), I try to truly invest in their today. This week the weather was perfect, so we laid on the trampoline and ate popsicles. Not every day is as relaxing, but I find when I am present in each moment of the day I can find so much more joy in the everydayness of life. When I'm with my husband, I try to put my phone away and really know about his day. And when I'm with myself, I blast my podcasts or Walker Hayes and go to town cleaning house or writing or whatever I need to do. Sometimes that is fun. Sometimes it is housework. Sometimes it is simply necessary.

This is taking practice--with my friends, my kids, my husband, church, Bible study, phone conversations. It is not something I am good at naturally, so the two weeks I've been purposely embracing this word I have found it takes work.

Being present in what I'm doing in this moment means saying no to other moments. Last week life got hectic. We had choir kids from Uganda for a couple nights, baseball camp, mid-week services, our first small group, school and Bible study starting back up. I had to choose what to say yes to every moment of those days. Everything was fun, but everything would have killed me. When the week was over, I realized I enjoyed so much of the week because I was present in what I said yes to. Had I said yes to everything, I don't think I would have enjoyed any of it as much.

So I took this lesson and contemplated this week. When do I say yes and no? I live with anxiety and one thing I've learned about myself is that when I say yes to everything, I am not doing well. I tend to pile on commitments almost as if it will distract me from the anxiety of any moment because I have too many moments to consider.

I also know for me personally I need to write. My husband loves rocks; he is incredible at his job. My mom loves to work outside, and their farm is immaculate. My sister is an amazing educator, and she shines at work. What does that look like for me, a stay at home mom still in her pajamas at 11:00? What can I say yes to for myself so that I care for my children yet function as a complete human? For me it is to write.

Recently I signed a contract to write for a regional magazine. I'm enjoying this! It is quite fun to write a topic that someone assigned to me--a topic I didn't have to create. However, I am still trying to squeeze in my personal writing. I need that part of me that longs to create with words. This fall I began listening to Shawn Smucker and his wife Maile share on their new podcast "The Stories Between Us." Much of what Maile shares resonates with me, and I have found encouragement to sit down and write and not feel guilty. (If my kids were hungry or not clothed, I might feel guilty. But right now I sent them to the playroom and allowed them to learn to play by themselves and I carved out time for me and the words that come out.)

Both through experience and listening to Maile, I have learned I don't have to sign contracts or sell my soul to any publication to be a writer. To create. I can be that independently, and I'm still as much a writer if my six chapters of my novel never become thirty and get inked in black and white on a shelf at Barnes and Noble. That would....oh, EXCITING! But that wouldn't make my writing more real for me.

So today I said no to Bible study. I could tell I needed to be home, and I know the kids need it if I'm feeling it too. I said no to lunch out with the girls and listening to an awesome women's Bible teacher. While it would have been a blast, I would have paid for it all afternoon. And I said yes to my kids and watched them play Mario Kart. I said yes to myself and made a white chocolate mocha (maybe 2) and wrote a blog post. I said yes to a healthy lunch at home with my husband. It is okay to say no. But it is okay to say yes too.

Be Blessed,

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


Since I was a kid, I have always enjoyed genealogy and the family lore my grandmother whispered as if the whole county didn't already know. My grandmother Naomi made gossip an art. She often proudly reminisced that as a teenager she gently opened family letters above a kerosene lamp so that she could read the latest happenings. Then she would seal the envelope back together before being caught and whipped for such a crime.

It has been no surprise to me as I have grown older that I am undoubtedly my grandmother's child in numerous ways. Her love for knowing family legend was passed to me across her kitchen table. Her love for writing it down was passed to me from her soul.

This summer I spent a great deal of time in Arkansas. In one visit I took the chance to attend a writer's conference from a local author and teacher. While I could list numerous lessons I learned in that week, perhaps the most impactful was my narrowing down of what words I wanted needed to write. I've heard it said that you should never embark on the journey of writing a novel unless you feel deep down you cannot go on unless you share that story. I've always had an idea bouncing in the back of my head but was too afraid no one else would care. I shared this with Gwen, our instructor. She gave me the confidence that I would have readers and that I should--I must--put this book into focus.

I came home to Texas and thought.

Then my fingers could not quit wrestling. They had to write this story. I have written two chapters--both of them are Chapter One. It is a book my soul cannot live without telling, yet I fear deeply that I will not tell it adequately.

As I have researched for this novel, I have spent countless hours with my grandma's brother who has provided (a bit unknowingly) a plethora of stories from which I have pulled. I have also had late nights and early mornings sitting here at my dining room table browsing the latest hints on My dad's phone records would show my influx of calls telling him I found a headstone related to the lore or an infant child we never knew about or a picture of kinfolks we had never laid eyes on before.

Today as I studied our family tree I found that my great-great-grandmother was born in a little community north of town called Jethro. You may know my parents own Jethro Farms and suffice to say I lived the first 18 years of my life right there in Jethro where my great x2 grandmother was born in 1879.

While I have always known we go generations deep in North Franklin County, it is reminders such as these that make me think about the land on which I came of age. It amazes me the trees I rode my horse through were trees where my great-great-grandparents may have met. It fascinates me that the river we played in was a river that for so many generations provided for my family. It fills me with daydreams that the very dirt beneath my feet for the most formative years of my life was the dirt that my great-great-great grandparents cultivated to merely survive. It is the dirt on not just where I was raised, but it is the dirt of home. Roots so deep that try as he may my husband has yet to pull them completely out of Jethro. Land where when I take my last breath and my body longs for rest that I pray it finds its peace back in that very dirt where I can take my place alongside my ancestral legends. And, honestly, I pray too that when that day comes the lore told of me pales in comparison to what I have learned of them.

I thank those of you who read this blog. I do not post regularly, and it has never been my intention to gain a wide audience or payments for writing it. I prefer writing when it's good. When it's something that strikes me. For now my writing is centered on my book, but as you see today sometimes I need a break. Occasionally I need to write in a new format and feel more casual. So thank you for allowing me this outlet to put thoughts on paper and explore ideas. And, if you're curious about this book I'm writing, here is a prelude to give you a taste. It is historical fiction. I will stress fiction. I don't need crazy kinfolks pulling out their old ways on me. But much of it is of course history too. I will let you decide on which side each word falls.

It was all over the news that summer: records from the Great Heat Wave of 1936. Maybe it was a record worth recollecting; maybe it was a slow news day. Either way the news reporter sent to our local nursing home to get recounts on this heat wave 60 years later sent a chilling shock into our home. At first no one could blink for fear they would miss the story unraveling. I stared at my dad who held his breath as his grandfather was the first resident interviewed.

“Sir, do you remember the summer of 1936?”

Stone cold and not looking up from his afternoon dominoes, my great-grandfather gave a hard no.

Taking his cue that the old man either didn’t remember or didn’t care about the summer of 1936, the reporter went to the next table. There he found a few folks who enjoyed a reminiscent chat a little more than my grandma’s folks. At least when it came to 1936.

Grandma was always telling stories of her kinfolks from the old days. But those kinds of things you just tell family. And probably family doesn’t really believe it anyhow. When she marched into our house that evening, that smirk meant both she had told us so and yet could we believe anyone else almost found out. We lived out in the country so we didn’t have neighbors within any sort of earshot, and it was probably for the best since she didn’t even make it to the door before she let in on everything she had told us forty-eleven times about 1936, “And that old man just sat there like he couldn’t even remember yesterday. Oh, he remembered that summer. He remembered. He could lose all his memories and half his toes and he’d still remember 1936.”