Happy Mother’s Day & thank you to all

I graduated college because of my mom.

I am a writer because of my mom.

While God gave me the tools to use the English language, my mom forged those tools into reality.

It was the fall of 1981, Thanksgiving break, when I told my mom that I was homesick and not going back to college.

After giving me that look (and everyone knows that look), she told me a few things (my mom never cussed) and said, in no uncertain terms, that if I was to quit school I could no longer live in her house.

So, thanks to that swift kick in the rear, I got back in my car and drove six hours north to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and eventually earned my degree in journalism in 1983.

Less than two years later, I was called on Mother’s Day by my aunt to tell me my mother had few days left on this earth.

I needed to go home.

Within a few days my mom, who had basically kicked me out of the house a few months earlier to become the sports editor at the Santa Maria Times despite her cancer (because I wasn’t taking the job because of her illness), died.

Lorraine Catherine O’Connell, with her two children by her side, took her last breath and passed away at the age of 46.

I am not one of those guys who misses his mom every day.

I miss her a lot and I miss that she missed her four grandkids.

Those four would have made her laugh a lot and the one girl of the bunch — my daughter — would have been spoiled big time by my mom.

I found out that my mother kicked my behind back to college because she continually kicked herself for not going to college. She had an academic full-ride scholarship and turned it down to be with my father — who later died at age 46 because of alcoholism and cancer.

My mother pushed me to follow my passion — writing.

I love putting words together and making people think, laugh, smile or cry.

I appreciate everyone who reads my words. I am thankful you take time out of your day to do so.

I know not everyone likes what I write.

I get it.

You cannot write something everyone will like — especially in a column because it means you are not taking a stand.

I am thankful for all the good words when I see people out and about, whether it be at a sporting event, in the grocery story or walking through a mall.

I appreciate taking time out of your day to come up, shake my hand and say you love reading my stuff.

I also get my fair share of people who do not like what I write and that is just fine with me. I am thankful they read what comes out of my brain (although I do wish those would come with an actual name and not anonymous or via a screen name).

I am a pretty blessed individual.

Thanks to Craig Bartoldson, Alex Marshall and Ross Gallabrese, I have sat in this seat since October, 2005 and met a lot of wonderful people.

As you know, I am an advocate of coaches, teachers and administrators.

But, most important, I am an advocate of our kids. I love being around our kids.

I love watching them succeed. I love watching them succeed after failures.

I love their resiliency and their drive.

I appreciate when the same kids who were really nervous the first time I interviewed them, are the same kids who later had no problem coming up to me and just wanted to visit for a short time.

I am blessed.

It has been a pleasure to have the opportunity to bless and be blessed.

I now have been given the opportunity to bless and be blessed, to teach and be taught in another community.

It has been a pleasure being your sports editor for the past 139 months.

Not always easy. Not always rewarding.

But, always fun, always challenging.

I spent nine years coaching girls basketball at Jefferson County Christian School and forever told my girls that I wanted their best every day.

Their best.

Sometimes their best would not be very good at all, but that never excused them from giving me their best.

That’s what I tried to do every day here — give my best.

Sometimes it was really good, sometimes it stunk and sometimes it even surprised me.

But, that was my goal each and every time I stepped into this office or into any athletic venue.

I now will be doing that in Kentucky.

I have accepted a position to be a member of the sports staff at the News-Enterprise in Elizabethtown, Ky.

My last day for this newspaper will be Wednesday.

I am thankful to everyone who gave me this opportunity.

But, most importantly, I am appreciative of the staff who helped deliver sports to our communities — Ed Looman, Ralph Cox, Matthew Peaslee, Aaron Petchal, Stephanie Elverd, Patrick Meyers, Ashley Newman and, of course, my twins, my brothers from other mothers, Brent Sobleski and Fred Younce. We also received wonderful contributions from Megu Kolanko and Kristen Shimko.

We have worked hand-in-hand through long, tedious hours with a lot of laughs and smiles.

We probably got on someone’s last nerve, but that’s being part of a family.

Thank you for everything you gave these kids and communities.

Matthew Peaslee is a talented, talented young man and has been a great addition to our communities.

I appreciate and am greatly thankful for all of the friendships our family has made.

Without the move from San Diego to Steubenville, the move from the country club back into journalism, my daughter would not have found her husband, my son would not have found his friends and my wife would not have her friends.

At the same time, we would not have our church family, who have been with us every step of the way and we will miss that.

But, I now get to church shop, if you will, and find a new home to honor and worship God.

I will miss those inside this newsroom. We have also laughed a lot — before, on and after deadline. I am grateful for all the conversations.

I am thankful for all the help from Action Images and Newbrough Photo as they have made my life much easier with their talent and kindness.

The same can be said for the sports staffs at the Times Leader and The Intelligencer and surrounding chain of newspapers. It was a pleasure being side-by-side with you.

The long hours I have talked to various coaches throughout the various sports are easily some of the best moments in my professional life. We didn’t always talk sports. We talked family. We talked life.

Thank you to all past and present athletic directors. You have made my life simple and appreciate the talks and friendships.

A big pat on the back and huge hug goes to Michael D. McElwain. He is a talented man.

We have had many conversations about a lot of things. You made me a better person and sports editor.

I appreciate all the lessons and gazillions of hours of hard work on our football editions.

My next phase will be in another state and I look forward to forging those friendships.

They will be valued and treasured.

I am humbled.

Thank you to all.

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