The Mane Event

The Mane Event

Gatehouse Office

I spent the week organizing the office at the gatehouse and sitting through middle school cheer try-outs.

I watched and encouraged and got water bottles and found the perfect headband and helped with the motions and listened.

Listening was the hardest part.

Especially when she tells you that part of her wants to stand-up and shout the cheer from the roof-top and make sure the motions are sharp and wear a cute headband and try her back handspring even if she needs a spotter and part of her wants to stop and not even try and not worry about making it and just cheer from the stands.

Trying out for something you really, really want can be really scary.

I get it.

And so I listened.

Because I understand more than she will ever know.

desk calendar

You see, I tried out for our cheer team when I was younger.

Not for cheerleader.

That required actual coordination and gymnastics and the ability to move arms and legs and your mouth all at the same time.

Instead, I tried out for something so much better.

The mascot.

happy office

We were the Lions and our mascot costume was amazing.  It consisted of a giant lion head with a yarn mane and huge paws and a furry lion outfit complete with a school t-shirt.  At football games the Lion danced around and encouraged the crowd and kind of mimicked the cheers and for five glorious minutes got to throw t-shirts and footballs into the crowd while everyone chanted the Lion’s name.

Leo the Lion sounded like the perfect job for me.

And so I attacked the tryouts with frenetic enthusiasm.

This was my moment.

This was my time to shine.

Football games wearing a giant, over-sized mane, here I come.

desk office gatehouse

I worked and practiced and planned out the perfect choreography for the event.

It involved growling and shouting and cheering and climbing over a chair and finishing the entire routine with a combination hand wave and somersault.

I think I even drew whiskers on my face.

happy office

And so the day of tryouts finally arrived.

There were five of us vying for the opportunity to represent the school in a lion costume.

First one girl went, then another, then another and finally it was my turn.

I shouted and yelled and growled and even made the last-minute executive decision to kind of scratch at the air in the middle of the cheer.

Suffice it to say that my choreography was amazing.


Until I went in for the big finish.

I started a somersault and somewhere along the way ended up on my side kind of sprawled out across the floor with my bow askew and my whiskers all over my hands.

I tried to save it.


I rolled over and attempted to turn the fall into a kind of cat-like crawl off the gym floor.

office sign

Needless to say, I didn’t make it.

They gave the job to an incredible girl who led the stands in chants and wore the head perfectly and threw footballs and never missed a game.

And me?

I was totally devastated for 27 minutes.

Then I ran for student council officer and won and planned the perfect outfit for officer initiation that involved a brilliant combination of stirrup pants and leg warmers.

Trying out for something you really, really want can be really scary.

That’s what I told my mother.

And all those years ago, she listened, too. 🙂


PS  My daughter ending up making the cheer squad.

But I still have my listening ears on because basketball tryouts are right around the corner for her sister. 🙂

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  1. Oh, my goodness!!! Anxiety all over again! Nothing like living through our fears again through our kids. Congrats to that beautiful thistle!!! And speaking of beautiful!! THAT OFFICE!!! Sophistication at its best…its bold, proud and amazing…like it just strutted right into that gatehouse and commanded everyone’s presence! Love!

  2. Michele Riggsbee :

    This so reminds me of my high school days! Thanks for always having the most wonderful posts!

  3. You have no earthly idea how much this just made my day. Seriously. -Love, the flag squad/cheerleader/musical reject

  4. sniffle sniffle, I remember my daughter’s dance team try outs and thought I would never live through that stress! Agonizing! And then college happened and there was rush…and then engagement happened and everything had to be Perfection…and then she was having a baby…Your office looks amazing 🙂 Thanks for the memory trip!

  5. Aww, what a great story. Congrats to your daughter for making the cheer squad. I actually tried out for the cheerleading squad in high school but was given the mascot position instead. We were bisons, and fortunately, I only had to wear a headband with ears and horns on it. But I also had to wear a loose brown jumpsuit with a tail when I really wanted to wear the cute little white cheerleader skirts. The jumpsuit got very hot in the gym during the basketball games. Ah well, I too survived and got a part in the spring musical. You’re a good mother to take the time to sit and watch and listen as your daughters pursue their changing interests. Good luck to aspiring basketball player.

  6. Oh My!! The anxiety all over again for us parents. We live through it again and again because we love our kids and we feel every emotion they do. I bet you were adorable as a lion!! I can see you going through all the antics and we know that you have to have the perfect outfit for whatever role you take on!! I’ve got to say, life with you is an adventure even if I only get to observe from the pantry. 🙂 Happy St. Pat’s Day — are you wearing green?? Well, tomorrow is St. Joseph’s Day – Italian patron of the family — and that means wearing red. That’s right up your alley. Have a wonderful day!!

  7. Kansas Cowgirl :

    I LOVE your life stories. Thank you for sharing with us.

  8. You just made my morning….. I busted out laughing and then found myself wiping away a few tears … as I was “fondly” remembering those kind of days with my two kiddos… (who are grown now… but oh the memories that we share and laugh about!!) ….. Now.. I am going to scroll back up and re-read the part where I just about spewed coffee out all over my screen from laughing!!! Your “Real Life” anctics crack me up!!!!!!!!!

  9. Michelle Rudis :

    Oh my, what a gorgeous office!! From one who was almost given her money back from an Arthur Murray Dance Studio, I had to laugh out loud at your description of trying to attempt a ‘save.’ Cute story, Karianne! And congratulations to the newest cheerleader!! I just love that the twins don’t feel the need to do/be the same–independence is so important. They are very fortunate to have a mom who really listens 😉

  10. Ah…tryouts! I remember them fondly! Congrats to the daughter that made it! Good Luck to your other daughter! Love these stories! 😉

  11. Great story to remind us to try for everything we want and if we come up short it just means something even more perfect is waiting around the corner. Life lessons from a woman wearing red lipstick are the best.


  12. I wish all the children out there had a Mom like you. Love your office.

  13. Oh my love your office! And your story! Cheerleading tryouts are tough so glad she made it! As a teacher truly could tell who made it and didn’t by their faces only after tryouts. Exciting but heartbreaking for others! I was a cheerleader many years but the year I truly wanted it to cheer on #12 with dancing dark eyes I did not. Devastated but thanks to my
    Mom and great friends (and that handsome fella who said I want you as my personal cheerleader anyway ❤️) survived. Part of life. But praying for your basketball player! Love your office! Truly thinking of changing my formal never used living room into my share my stories room. Scared to pieces to change but thanks to
    You have some ideas. But if you are ever in my neck of woods would hire you
    Put haha . Enjoy sunshine and spring almost! Happy St Patrick’s Day ️️sorry trying to type outside with dog in
    Lap who wants my attention. Yes life is good.❤️

  14. Hi KariAnne, congrats to your daughter for making the squad.

    This office space is so clean, uncluttered and airy. Love the soft tones.

    What a beautiful space to work in.

    Have a wonderful day.

  15. Congratulations to your Mini Thistle for making the cheer squad!!! Prayers sent up for your other Mini Thistle pumpkin for her big tryout.

    KariAnne, you nailed all of those emotions perfectly in this post….I am so sharing this with my junior high students on Monday! I had tears of laughter rolling down my face at “the last-minute executive decision to kind of scratch at the air…” We read your blog often in class because you beautifully illustrate the concept of “voice” to these budding young writers. They also love your home and beautiful photographs. If you’re ever in the market to adopt more kiddos, let me know, I have many volunteers! 🙂

  16. What a great story. Thank you for sharing it with us and congrats to your daughter!! Love your office. Stunningly beautiful 🙂

  17. Congrats to that adorable little Thistle!!!
    Fingers crossed for her adorable twin!! : )

  18. I just relived 7th grade cheerleader tryouts while reading this post.
    Frizzy hair and all!

    How blessed your girls are to have you cheering them on. 🙂

  19. Oh goodness. I avoided All Things Coordination. My mom had me in baton lessons in elementary school in her attempt to make me graceful and it just didn’t take. Except for marching, I could mostly be still in band and choir. 😉 Sadly, my children seem to have inherited my lack of skills. Congrats to your daughter and good luck with basketball tryouts.

  20. Robin Stephens :

    Aww…what a kind, thoughtful momma you are! Kudos to you!! Losing is soooo daggone tough….even when we know we can’t all win all the time. Happy for your sweetie pie girly that this time around “yes” was the answer. Fingers crossed for her sidekick’s tryouts soon. =).

  21. oh, Honey… Bless you! Been there, done that, have the battle-scars to prove it. I, too, did not make cheerleader in junior high, and then rooted my daughter on each and every tryout that she had for her dance/pom teams/squads. She, unlike her mother, is very talented and had lots of coaching/classes. We live through it… with very listening ears. The hardest part is not over-advising!!

  22. Love your Mom stories. So Perfect. My girls don’t know my personal “try out” story…high school Pom Poms…a huge deal…I was SO excited and So ready…then I got my number…546 of 550 girls that tried out (sigh)…needless to say, I did not get a spot on the high school squad. But I was a twirler…tons of stories there…my mom would go to the football games to watch me perform at half time and then leave(!) – she had seen all she needed to see! It’s great being a mom!

  23. An Excellent Story from An Excellent You! 🙂

  24. Two ears, one mouth!!!

  25. S-P-I-R-I-T, spirit!
    Hey, let us hear it!
    Gonna high gear it!
    ‘Cause we’ve got spirit!
    Ok, so now you can see why I didn’t even try-out…
    Congrats to your daughter!

  26. What a cute story! My high school Mascot was a Lion too! I went to practices to try out for drill team but ended up getting a job after school instead so I joined Pep Club and became a Pep Club officer, totally good call.

  27. HI KariAnne,
    Your blog is the only one I read where the words and the stories are more important to me than the pictures! I would read your posts even if you didn’t have pictures, but they’re pretty neat to look at too, so I’m glad you put them in!
    I tried out for cheerleading in 7th grade for the Varsity squad. I made it but because I was a tiny little thing they asked me if I would’t mind being on the Jr. Varsity squad. Sadly I accepted, but then in 8th grade I made the Varsity group. YAY!
    My Satellite data ran out the other night and I wasn’t able to pull up the pictures of your new fabrics, (*sigh* as I am a seamstress), but I saw you were going to be at Hancocks in Paducah, KY. (The largest fabric store in America!!!) It’s only 55 minutes from my house, so I’m hoping to drive down and meet you. I’ll drop my hubby off at Harbor Freight Tools and we’ll both be happy!
    Thanks for writing such a wonderful and heartwarming blog. I can’t stand it when I miss one of your posts.
    Blessings, Jeanne

  28. Excellent advice. After the agony of first tryouts,come will I try again, what if I don’t make it even though I am on the team now. Oh no a new coach and what about team captain? I can hardly stand it! I really only wanted to go through this high school stuff once! Now it is 2 at a time for my #4 and 5. I hope I survive it; I know my sweet resilant girls will.

  29. OMG, I just re-lived my horrible cheerleading tryout in High Sschool! Like you it didn’t end well. I did the routine, yelled as loud as I could and put all my energy into that final jump up in the air, but instead of shooting UP in the air I somehow launched myself forward like a cannon and found myself flying towards one of the judges sitting front and center, the very cute captain of the football team. I still can see the look of fear on his face as I was propelled towards him, LOL! Luckily I managed to somehow land on my feet at his feet instead of his lap. I got points for enthusiasm but none for coordination. I think it was safer for everyone that I stuck with running on the track team.

    Love your office. The wall paneling really accents the space beautifully.

  30. So glad she made it! Failing can be devastating. Now to cheer the next Thistle to her moment of glory! Love the new look at the gatehouse. Are those simple frames on the wall? It looks amazing!

  31. Sometimes you really hit me right between the eyes – that doesn’t sound right. You touch my heart. Your words bring tears to my eyes. My daughter is older now, but she still needs my listening ears and to be fully present as she shares her life with me. How blessed I truly am, but it’s taken quite a journey to fully appreciate this. Thank you for sharing your life and your heart daily. I so appreciate you and your very moving words. Blessings to you, my dear!

  32. Hurray for your daughter!! I’m cheering for her and you because you are a great mom. 🙂

  33. When my daughter was a high school sophomore (she’s 32 now with 3-year-old twin girls), she tried out for the cheerleading squad. The first time she wasn’t successful which devastated me more than her. She had never had a disappointment until then. She was determined to try again the next year. I wasn’t so sure since apparently the scoring system for tryouts was heavily weighed toward the more experienced girls. The day of tryouts, I waited for her in my car. She got in and said, I made it!” My supportive reaction, “You did? How did that happen?”
    She went on to cheer for 2 years and one year in college. Plus she was valedictorian! I guess my questionable support didn’t harm her.

  34. Oh this brought back some memories! You are a wise mother, Karianne!

  35. I recall my cheerleading days fondly. The local high school mascot (a mini-
    cheerleader not an animal) from age four through elementary school, it was natural that I would cheer throughout my high school years.

    During my pre-sophmore year, we attended cheerleading camp at UT-Cookeville, TN. There, college level cheerleaders mentored each team. My school, Adairsville (GA) High School, was privileged to be selected as one of the elite teams in attendance.

    Somewhere during camp and between clandestine trips to the college ice cream shoppe (that us an aside, as you say), we witnessed what would be a transforming event for our team. For me, in particular. During a camp cheering demonstration, one of the college teams ran through a resounding and spirited cheer named “Boom-Sha-Boom!!” led by the most gorgeous boy in camp.

    When we returned home to Adairsville, my teammates asked me to lead them in our rendition of this cheer for the benefit of our Cheerleading Coach. A tall, lanky, and less than self-assured me emulated the same bass-level cheer of that gorgeous male cheerleader. It was a huge hit and was the most often repeated cheer of my high school cheerleading career.

    Even today at 57 years old, forty years removed from high school, and with moves to seven states in the mirror, friends from Adairsville still often mention that cheer. Your children are making memories. Boom-Sha-Boom!!

  36. My mom cheered, I cheered and my daughter cheered – now she is a young adult and coaches cheer at our local high school. Trying out can be such a scary thing but as your 27 minute comment proves, there is life after (and more to life than) cheer leading whether you make the team or not. Congratulations to your daughter and to you – an official cheer mom : )

  37. I read your blog faithfully, but never comment. This post, however, brought back a strong memory of my school years. You see, I was the school mascot for our school. The “Colts”! Actually I was only half of the mascot….and sadly because I was tall and gangly, I ended up being the back end of the colt. I spent our football games bent over at the waist holding onto the waist of my tiny friend who had the pleasure of being the front end of the Colt…. needless to say, there was no glory in being the back end of the horse….merely following the front end, trying to hold the animal together. The fun was in being a part of the whole production…as I was never cute enough or tiny enough to even be considered for the cheerleading squad. I think perhaps the biggest lesson I learned in trying out for the squad was that it was ok to fail. There was always something else to do….and whatever it was, it was important to give it your all! And so I set out to be the best horse’s arse I could be!!!

  38. OMG You painted over the coral reef! I painted a large part of my house coral reef when i saw your office the first time. 🙂

  39. When one door closes, another one opens. Years from now, your daughter will wake up one day and suddenly realize that you truly do know whats it’s like to pursue something bigger than yourself. That moment will forever be aw inspiring and she’ll suddenly realize that you have always been her biggest fan:) Thanks for sharing that Ms. Thistle!