Meet the Basket Wives: Anne Thomas

This month’s Basket Wives profile is my dear friend Anne that I had the privilege of meeting and living next door to last year when Joe and her husband Omar played together in Brindisi, Italy. It didn’t take but a couple of visits for us to be able to talk and share about so many things. Anne was such a wonderful blessing to me last season.  Not only did we share many encouraging talks, but she was always willing and wanting to help me with the kids and did so in many aspects. Anne watched Elijah and Naomi for me twice a week when I took Abby to gymnastics while Joe and Omar were at practice. She would also have Naomi over to play in the mornings with her daughter Amira (who was a month younger than Naomi) twice a week while I did school with Abby. She watched all the kids so Joe and I could have date times together. And she was even available for me to dump all the kids on her to go take a nap when I was feeling really awful from being pregnant and Joe was gone. In other words, she completely spoiled me! This year I have been much more lonely than in the past because I got used to having such a great friend next door to me last season.

Anne is such a special person and another wonderful example of a woman who has sacrificed for her husband in order for him to do what God created him to do. Enjoy getting to know Anne a little bit better.
How did you and your husband meet?
Omar and I met his senior year at UTEP at my family’s restaurant in February of 2005. He and a few of his teammates walked in and well, being as though my whole family is huge UTEP basketball fans/supporters, I knew exactly who they were. I was shocked when Omar approached me that evening only to try to “hook me up” with one of the other players. I declined. I knew to be cautious of athletes. And so, the night moved on but I didn’t. I watched Omar (“O.T.”) the whole night. I felt I had met him before. Towards the end of the evening, I decided to approach him and give him my number ( I think he was more shocked than I was at my forwardness)… and as the story goes, “the rest is history”. He had a home game the following evening and asked if I would be there. I told him I would and after that night’s victory and a phone call to go to the movies with him,we have talked everyday since ;0). From the first phone call, I felt I had known him all my life.

Where was the first place you lived after getting married? Can you tell a little more about the experience?
The first place we lived was Rimini, Italy. This was Omar’s second season there (2007-2008) and I had visited there the year before, twice. We fell in love with this city. Rimini is in the region of Emilia-Romagna and is located on the Adriatic Sea. This city is truly a city to see, if given the opportunity, in the summer months because this is when the population almost triples due to tourism. The conditions we lived in were honestly some of the best we have had in my almost 5 years living abroad. We had a fairly decent car, the apartment we lived in was 3 bedroom with two bathrooms, located directly on the beach. The club was also fairly decent. We didn’t really struggle with financial issues (except for the normal “late” payments) and we made some great friends (also huge basketball fans and supporters) who have become our Italian family. They helped get me adjusted to living overseas and when I found out I was pregnant with our first (only a month after arriving), they helped me get the doctor’s appointments I needed and did all the translations that I needed. Even though this was my first introduction to European healthcare, the experience prepared me for what I would have to deal with later! Omar and I visit Rimini at least once a year.

How many years has/did your husband play(ed)?
My husband has played overseas since 2004 (this makes his 7th year), I have been with him since 2007.

What cities have you lived in internationally?
Rimini, Italy; Pau, France; Rieti, Italy; Brindisi, Italy, and currently in Avellino, Italy.

If you had to pick a favorite city, which one was it and why?
Well, like I said before, Rimini is the place we always visit. We love the area there (it is near Bologna, San Marino and a small town called Riccione) and our friends there are like family. The best time to go is during the summer months because the beach is beautiful. I also loved Brindisi. The town was great and it was a good overall experience, the team, the club and they won the Legadue Championship!

Please share one funny moment in your life as a Basket Wife?
Wow! Too many! I guess the best one would have to be when Omar signed for the second half of the 2008-2009 season in Rieti, Italy (note: this was the last season that this team was in the first or second divisions in Italy; they went bankrupt, which should give you a good idea of what we encountered in our 5 months there). He signed in November and I joined him in December. Our daughter was 6 months old at the time and until April we were living in a hotel room. Needless to say, it was a experience neither one of us will forget. In April, we received our apartment which was being remodeled and was only half done. It was on the top floor of a building with businesses and other apartments below us. Little did we know that we had moved directly above two elderly ladies (sisters) who did not like any noise. None! We could not walk, run the water, play with our daughter on the floor because it was too loud for them. Their way of telling us when we were too loud? Banging on their roof (our floor) with mops and brooms and screaming at the top of their lungs vulgar language in Italian. The best part was when Omar had had enough. We were teaching Amira to walk and she would often roll around the apartment in her walker so, one day Omar was letting her go back and forth when lo and behold the door bell rings and here stood a 5 foot woman with a broom and shoved it in Omar’s face. Well, he must have had enough because he took our broom right down to her apartment, rang her doorbell and shoved it in her face. Yes, we were greeted by the police about an hour later (they were huge basketball fans, so no worries there) and they proceeded to tell us that these ladies were a little on the medically crazy list. So, that sealed the deal… we spent the next month and half walking on tip toes and only running the washing machine or bath tub during the early afternoon hours. On our last day there however, Omar made it clear that we were leaving when he rang their doorbell (at 5 am) to tell them good-bye!

What was the toughest struggle you encountered in your life as a Basket Wife?
Every year is a new year. No matter how many times you have done this, you are never totally prepared. I can leave the U.S. thinking that I packed everything I will need for the next 9-10 months in my 5 suitcases but either I have too much of the wrong stuff or not enough of the right stuff. So, the convenience of the states is what I struggle with. Things that are convenient in the states are impossible here and I try to accommodate for that when packing. I can’t just shoot down to a Walgreens or CVS and get what I or the kids need or call in to my pediatrician’s office at 8am and have an appointment scheduled for 10am when they are sick. Going to the grocery store always makes for an eventful trip and driving there, I almost always have to ask God’s forgiveness because of my attitude towards the drivers. The good thing is… The Lord has a sense of humor, He has put me through it all to teach me patience and perseverance.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned as a Basket Wife?
To trust the Lord, as I stated in the last question. I’ve learned patience and perseverance to the tenth degree which I am thankful for because had I not been here, there’s no telling where I would be placing my trust and faith. I’ve grown to understand struggles in this life are there to teach us life skills and lessons. In this lifestyle we have a lot of benefits and our husbands get a lot of recognition but that may not be the case for us women. We have to stay positive and remain a constant in a very (sometimes) unstable situation. No matter the struggles and difficulties that come with leaving home, friends and family with two children, it seems that at the end of each season I leave with another lesson learned, amazing friends and a little more faith and I’m always stronger in my walk with the Lord.