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postmodernfamilyblog

Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

Our Postmodern Family

Our Real Modern Family

I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for a while now… I guess ever since we decided to bake up a couple of twins from scratch using borrowed eggs and my forty-seven- year-old oven.  My daughter once called us the “Real Modern Family” – and you know, she’s right.  I’m a Southern woman married to a half-Korean, half-Italian/Slovenian Yankee man twelve years my junior; I have two beautiful twenty-something daughters, an arthritic dappled dachshund and a morbidly obese cat.  And now, after much thought and consideration — and then funding and injections, vaginal suppositories, and appointments — I have started motherhood all over again.  This will be the story of us: our real modern family. Or maybe, more appropriately, our postmodern family.  Postmodern, as in “radical reappraisal.” And our story is, indeed, a radical reappraisal of how to make and nurture a family.

Many things have changed since that summer almost three years ago when we began our in-vitro journey… I will do my best to record current happenings, as well as flashbacks to those glory days of post-modern fertilization, pregnancy pillows, and preeclampsia.  I’m hoping our story will be an inspiration to those battling the frustrations of infertility, to those navigating the beautiful and rugged territory of twindom, and to those who decide to either start a family or do it all over again at a rather ripe age.

Even as I try to type this, I question why I’m doing it. I have nothing special to say. I’m nothing special. I nearly stop before I’ve begun, but then I think… I’m nothing special, true… but I do have something different to offer. I can’t imagine there are too many forty-nine year olds out there lactating. Not too many women out there with twenty-three years difference between their last baby girl and their most recent baby boys, not too many women who, as my father says, “ran the engine and the caboose when it comes to supplying grandchildren.” Not too many women out there who just suffered through a sixteen-month stint of extreme sleep deprivation. If nothing else, I can be a freak show for people to point at and ridicule. Still, I hope I can inspire a few to give postmodern family planning a go.

Family X-Mas 2014

 

 

Featured post

My D-line Coaching Husband and his Boys

My husband is a big, burly, former D-line player and a big, burly, current D-line coach.

We have twin boys. Twin boys my husband waited thirty-six years to have. Twin boys whose genetics could prove the perfect combo to make him daddy to a couple of D-line players’ one day, too.

And I know my D-line coaching husband would love for his boys to follow in his shoulder pads and put their hand on the ground — along with a quarterback or two-hundred.

And it might happen. But then again, it might not. And we’re both okay with that. We encourage our boys to explore what they love and to follow their bliss.

And one of our son’s bliss involves football and trucks. He says he wants to drive a truck like daddy’s when he grows up and be “a coach” like daddy because he “loves to tackle.”  (He might be a wee bit confused.)

And the other one of our son’s bliss involves feathers and unicorns and everything Disney. He says he wants to be “Elsa” when he grows up because he “loves princesses.” (And some would say he is a wee bit confused.)

But I would never say that. And neither would his daddy.

So when Daddy takes our boys to Target after a particularly hectic week of football to spend their allowance and some time with them, one usually comes back with trucks and one usually comes back with princesses.

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And I love my big, burly D-line husband so incredibly much for this — for his ability to foster the joy and individuality of our two totally opposite twin boys.

And when Daddy takes the boys with him to Home Depot to pick up supplies for little projects around the house,  one is usually wearing his favorite blue boa and both are always wearing great, big smiles.

parker and tate

And I love my big, burly, D-line coaching husband so incredibly much for this — for his ability to walk proudly and without hesitation through the world’s most testosterone-laden chain store with our two totally opposite twin boys.

And when the boys pick out their Halloween costumes and one wants to be a police officer like his grandpa was in the military, and the other wants to be a unicorn like his imagination was in his wildest dreams, their daddy encourages them both with compliments and high fives.

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And I love my big, burly D-line coaching husband so incredibly much for this — for his unconditional love and affection for our two totally opposite twin boys.

Our boys are undeniably loved and undeniably fortunate. Both their parents encourage and support them and their choices, encourage and support them and their passions, encourage and support them and their personalities. Both of their parents encourage and support THEM — whether they fit our expectations — or society’s — or not.

Our hopes and dreams and prayers for our boys are that they be happy, secure, productive members of society, doing whatever it is they want to do and being whomever it is they want to be.

And my hopes and dreams and prayers for every child in every house in every neighborhood in every land is that they have a mommy and daddy — big, burly D-line coach or not — who wishes the same for them.

That’s all.

Amen.

Layer Cakes and Legends: My Apocryphal Appalachian Roots

Today I baked up a blackberry jam cake — a triple layer one, coated in caramel, and dusted in roasted pecans. And for some nutty reason, it reminded me of my grandmother.

Not because she used to bake blackberry jam cake. (She didn’t.) Nor because she loved to bake at all. (She didn’t.) There was only one cake she ever made, and she made it every fall for Thanksgiving — a German Chocolate Layer Cake, triple-stacked to heaven and beyond. It defied natural laws.

Baking my own triple layer cake this morning somehow conjured up my grandmother’s spirit. Out of nowhere, a warm fragrant memory slipped in — a peppery whiff of Scotch snuff amid baking layers — and I was instantly transported back. Back into the warm half-circle spotlight of her bifocals, where she peered up at me with love and adoration… and then demanded I write down a select few of her stories.

Yup. Demanded. And Grandma always gets her way — even from beyond the grave. (Compromise was never her middle name.)

And she really was quite the storyteller — I like to think that’s where I get my passion for words — and her tales were always tall. As impossibly tall as her German Chocolate Layer Cake.  She told some doozies, but there was always truth in the pudding, er, batter… batter thick and sweet and loaded with flavor.

Her stories infused every room in her small house. They found you in every corner. You couldn’t escape them. Through the darkness of night, she was sitting on your mattress while you slept, telling you a story.  Through the closed bathroom door, you were sitting on the toilet while you shat, she was telling you a story. No exaggeration.

Her stories were a never-ending narrative. I’d heard them a thousand times. I thought I could recite them backwards. They were a constant. Like a beating heart. Always there. Always.

Until they weren’t.

I took them for granted. I tuned them out. I never wrote them down. I really wish I’d recorded them, old cassette ribbon winding like stretched caramel from one receptacle to another to help me transcribe her words from one era into another, today. Alas, I did not.

But this past summer, my family celebrated her oldest son — my Uncle Pal’s — 80th birthday. My two aunts and my father were there, too, rounding out her initial genetic contribution to this world.

The four sat atop a green, overstuffed sofa and held court, flipping through old pictures and regaling the second and third generations with Grandma’s tales of our Appalachian roots.

peters

Most of the stories I recalled immediately… their familiar cadence returning to me like skip rope chants learned in my childhood:

My grandma the buxom beauty — her breasts swelling so large when she contracted mumps at twelve that they never returned to what she considered a respectable size. She and her sister Margaret would mash them tightly in scarves, trying to achieve the ideal body image of her age — flat-chested flapper girl — to no avail.

grandma

My grandma the axe murderer — her one and only victim, a Harley Hog my dad bought knowing she hated them. Her brother had almost died on one; her son would not have the same opportunity. The Hog died instead, a quick, violent death from hatchet-strike to the fuel tank. Dad wept as his full-fendered baby girl bled out in front of him… the original chopped Harley.

My grandma, the exile — sent in her early twenties to country music legend Mama Maybelle Carter’s house, her childhood friend and neighbor. My great grandfather sent her away to keep the clambering boys away from the self-proclaimed prettiest girl in five Virginia counties. (Humility was also not her middle name.) Grandma spent an entire summer dancing the Charleston, little June Carter running between her flashing legs while Mama Maybelle scratched her guitar.

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Keeping Grandma away from the boys worked for a while, but she finally managed to run off and marry the love of her life at the ripe old age of 25 — an old maid by Appalachian standards. Grandpa was years younger than she was, also unheard of in that time period.  (I guess I get that from her, too.)

My aunts and uncle also told us a few tales I’d maybe heard, but had long since forgotten.

Like the seven-foot tall distant relative named Pleasant who was so small when he was born they could fit his head in a tea cup, and who slept in a Singer sewing machine drawer next to his parents’ bed. Pleasant grew up to be large and in charge, and was famous for once throwing a man out a second-story speak easy.

I also heard about an ancestor who, at 98-years young, could stand and do a somersault in the air. Backwards. That’s a back tuck, by the way. Cheerleaders drool for that kind of skill. He could do it at 98. Unfortunately, no one remembered his name.

But a whole lot of other names were remembered in my uncle’s living room this past July — names summoned from my grandmother’s looping cursive, scrawled in her black-papered memory book. Names like Viney and Velma, Tom and Tate, Willie and Chapman, and Emmy and Spencer, and Pleasant, of course. (I kind of wish I could have another kid, simply so I could name him or her Pleasant. No, scratch that. I’ll leave that up to my girls…)

Those names, written in Grandma’s looping penmanship, lassoed us all and pulled us back — back to our childhoods and beyond. Back to the crags and coal of the Virginia mountains. Back to the looping, sprawling deep-settled roots of our family tree.

The tree itself juts high and strong these days, with limbs spread far and wide. From London to Phoenix, her descendants are scattered like leaves in haphazard drifts of color and contrast in a beautiful, autumnal haze. We, indeed, have a glorious family tree. And her stories — our stories — deserve to be told.

* * *

Yes, today I baked up a blackberry jam cake — a triple layer one, coated in caramel, and dusted with roasted pecans. And for some nutty reason, it conjured my grandma, who channelled my fingers and hijacked my blog  — to write about an Appalachian beauty with a penchant for layer cake and a story or two thousand to tell.

My guess is, she isn’t quite done with me yet.

Buzzed Sexual Assault IS Sexual Assault

Bill Cosby and Brett Kavanaugh have dominated the news this week — one convicted of rape; the other accused of attempted rape. And everywhere we turn, people are talking about it. And the discussion has been extremely divisive… about Kavanaugh, in particular.

Social media threads have exploded in heated arguments, friends and family lining up firmly behind Kavanaugh or firmly behind his accuser, Christine Blasé Ford. Our country, our families, our friendships are split — and incredibly, it’s almost entirely along party lines.

And it boggles my brain.

I don’t get it. I just don’t — particularly when women are the ones pointing fingers accusingly at the victim. Because odds are they, or someone close to them, has been sexually assaulted. But they have been conditioned by society to overlook it as simply “boys being boys.”

Trivializing and discounting stories of sexual assault by victims has been happening since man first wielded his weapon against a woman without her permission. Boys being boys. Biology at work.

Shakespeare even wrote about it, Ophelia proclaiming: “Young men will do it, if they come to it. By cock, they are to blame.” As if it is their biology and not the men themselves at fault. Well,  the “boys will be boys” mentality needs to end. Boys are not just being boys. Boys are being violent sexual offenders.

The truth is in the numbers. And the numbers state that 1 in 3 women are assaulted — violently or sexually or both — in their lifetime. That equates to approximately 20 women per minute.

I personally know many of these women — far too many. Family members molested by relatives. Friends assaulted by strangers. Students raped by neighbors… and family… and friends… and authority figures… and strangers. As a teacher, I learn about more students who have been sexually assaulted every single year –sometimes, every single month. My heart crumbles with the weight of knowledge. The numbers are staggering.

And the fact that I know about these assaults means that more women are telling their stories. And that is good. But we need more women to prosecute. And based upon this week’s events, that seems highly unlikely.

Sexual assault victims have already been violated in the most personal and painful of ways. And then, if they prosecute, they will be violated in the most public and painful of ways, too. Many women feel they can’t possibly withstand the relived emotional and physical trauma along with the fresh emotional and character trauma.

So they tell therapists and husbands and friends and family instead of telling the police.  The reasons are manifold: Fear, Ignorance, Shame, Guilt. Pain…

But the biggest reason of all is Society — all other reasons stem from Society.  Society persecutes — and as good as prosecutes — women if they report their sexual assault.

The US legal system is archaic and unfair in so many situations, but particularly so when it comes to sexual assault. Women are put on trial, right along with their rapists. Their character is targeted. Their value and worth is denigrated. Their lives and choices and actions and clothing are torn asunder… All. Over. Again.

To demonstrate just how far behind our legal system is, it wasn’t until 1993 that all 50 states made it illegal for a husband to rape his wife. Up until then, it was “to have and to hold till death do us part… our legs,” however HE wants, whenever HE wants. And there was not a damned thing a wife could say or do about it.

And outside of wedlock hasn’t been much better.

I was taken against my will when I was a teenager. And I said nothing. To no one. Not a friend, not a family member, not a single soul. Not until years later. I never even confronted the guy who did it — even though I saw him every day. Heck, I even kept dating him. And I just thought that’s how it was. We were a couple. We had already had sex. I believed if I’d given myself to him before, then he was entitled.

I was ignorant. I was a product of my upbringing. Men always had the right of way. I was supposed to defer to him, whether I wanted it or not. I had no voice. Or that’s what I believed.

So I kept my mouth shut. Except for when he demanded I open it. For him. And I never confronted him. And even if I had, he wouldn’t have remembered. And he would have denied it. Like Kavanaugh. And he probably would have passed a polygraph…

Because he was drunk. Sloppy drunk. Both times. So I told myself that he would never have done it, never would have ignored my NO if he weren’t. And I believed it.

I have a friend who didn’t report her assault either. She was groped and mauled in the back seat of a limo by two drunk guys who wouldn’t take NO for an answer. All while her friend was cuddled up in a corner of the car with a third guy.

My friend had the driver stop the car, and she got out, losing valuable possessions in the process, but not losing a piece of herself. But that so-called friend of hers got mad. Got mad at my friend for costing her a hook up. Told her she’d overreacted.

My friend had bruises and scratches on both breasts and was sobbing on the side of the road. But her friend was pissed — at my friend. NOT at the guys.

And I know a friend’s daughter who was raped. And she did report the assault. But then didn’t press criminal charges. Because she was afraid. She was afraid of being put on trial — right along with them. Yes, THEM. Multiple rapists. Drunk. At a party.

And I know a former student who was molested by an older man she knew and trusted — trusted right up to the point he stuck his tongue down her throat and palmed her breasts. After a party. And he was drunk. And she likewise reported the assault. But even then, not much happened to him. Not much at all.

And the common denominator here?

Sexual assault… but I bet you thought I was going to say DRUNK. That all the offenders were drunk. Which they were. But that excuses nothing — no matter how society tries to sugar-coat it as an excuse.

He didn’t mean it.  He’d had too much to drink.  That’s not like him. He never would’ve done that if he were sober.

Well, guess what? Drinking is NO excuse.

What’s that public service announcement? “Buzzed Driving IS Drunk Driving…”

Well, Buzzed Sexual Assault IS Sexual Assault.

It’s looking like karma may finally catch up to Brett Kavanaugh for his drunken debauchery of thirty-plus years ago. At least I sincerely hope so.

And I hope karma gets all the other sexual offenders who have not yet paid for their crimes because the women they violated were too afraid or too brainwashed by society and its” Boys Will Be Boys” excuse to make sure they paid.

And I hope and pray that the #metoo movement — the so-called buzzword of 2018, a buzzword born on the backs of so many buzzed men humping away in their entitled, animalistic states as if their biology dictates and depends on it — I pray that the movement upends the status quo.

I hope and pray that women will find the courage to tell. Find the courage to prosecute. Find the courage to change Society.

Today, I write about myself and other women I know. Women who are my friends and family and students. But I am reminded of a compelling and powerful meme I saw this week: “She’s someone‘s sister/mother/daughter/wife.

She’s not someone’s something. Society needs to understand that.

SHE IS SOMEONE.

 

 

 

 

The Beauty of Light on Bended Knee

The change of the speed of light causes a change in the direction of the light. And that causes… well, beauty… soul-seizing, earth-dazzling beauty.

Technically, it’s called refraction, but I prefer “Bent Light.” Refraction sounds so… stuffy. And Bent Light is anything but stuffy. It’s atmospheric poetry and brushstrokes in pastels and crayola colors. It’s sunrise and sunset and rainbow. It’s the Northern and the Southern lights. It’s all of God’s Grandeur on display.

And I, too, have recently changed speeds and directions. And I have found that my regular shiny self has definitely been bent. In fact, I am one giant cluster of Bent With A Capital B.

I’m bent at the shoulders and knees… I’m praying. A lot.

You see, I can’t seem to do it all. I can’t seem to stay caught up. Not anywhere close to caught up. My to do list stretches off into the horizon and mocks me if I dare try to cross a single thing off it. So I’m left with bent knees and distant goals.

Which leaves me frustrated. (A lot.) And impatient. (A lot.) And absolutely exhausted. (All. The. Lots.)

But then tonight, when I sat down to write about all my doubts, all my dismay, I got distracted. I got distracted from my hard-angles and angsts by the notifications from the Instagram pic I took of a sunrise this week.

A jell-o sky sunrise.

And that jell-o sky sunrise got me to thinking… thinking about the beauty of light on its knees. If light didn’t take a knee, we would never have color. We would never have promise.

God gave mankind His promise by way of the rainbow. The promise that storms would pass and the world would be profitable again. Not stale. Not flat. Not weary.  (To combine some flood narrative with some Hamlet.) The world was given depth and beauty through light on bended knee.

And let me tell you… these past few weeks, I’ve been up close and personal with some stale and flat. I’ve felt the unprofitable. And OH, how wooly (“That’s weary, Nobody gets wooly. Women get weary” — to combine some Hamlet and some Bull Durham.) But anyway…

Lord, how I’ve struggled. But in those struggles, I’ve seen the most deliciously decadent sunrises — sensory feasts for my near-starving soul. I’ve seen them nearly every morning.

I’ve seen plum sorbet daybreaks and bright jell-o skies. I’ve seen peach parfait cloud stacks and strawberry-syrup haze.

And I’m reminded that while my life might be hard right now… and my shoulders and knees may be bent way more than usual… that is a far cry from a bad thing.

I needed to be humbled. I needed to shake things up, to be shaken, to be bent.

Because, as Gerard Manley Hopkins so eloquently wrote, “the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”

Yes, bent light makes metaphysical masterpieces. And bent knees make metaphysical masterpieces, too.

I can’t wait to see what beautiful things are created from my soul on bended knee.

 

 

 

 

Between Mattress and Mayhem: An Existential Crisis 

Yesterday morning, I woke up at 3:15 AM to the frantic noises of my aging Dachshund grappling to free herself from the sliver of empty space between mattress and footboard. She had slid there at some point in the night. Slipped into a dark, cruel void while dreaming of far better things. And she found herself dog-paddling for her life in tight, terrifying circumstances.

Seems to be an appropriate metaphor of my life right now. I’ve been dreaming of better things, too. Bright. Big. Beautiful. Things.

And many of them have become a reality.

In the past five years I’ve become a born-again mother, a newborn blogger, and (this year) a reincarnated teacher.

The dreams are beautiful. And real. And the reality is hard — still beautiful, mind you, but hard. Hard as calculus equations on an English major. Meaning, it can be done. But it requires a whole lot of concentration and a whole lot of help. And I find myself in short supply of both.

I’m kind of grappling out in the darkness right now, dog-paddling for my life in tight and terrifying circumstances.

I’ll start with the born-again motherhood part.

There’s probably a reason a woman’s eggs age. God knows how much energy it takes to chase after kids. Especially boys. Twin boys. They take, like, megatons of energy. Like nuclear-power-plant-on-the-sun tons of energy. Energy I may have had thirty years ago (although honestly, I kind of doubt it), but still, energy that’s in decidedly short supply now.

My energy looks more like the 40-watt lightbulb at the end of a basement pull-switch. And the boys’ energy — well, it’s accelerating somewhere close to the speed of light.  So they run roughshod over me. A lot. And they fling fisticuffs behind me. A lot. And they make messes all around me. A lot. The possibilities and prepositions are endless.

And then there’s the newborn blogger part.

I have such high hopes for my little blog. She’s like my third toddler… I love her, and I’m so proud of her, and I want people to love her. But she also requires a ton of time and energy — time and energy currently directed at my boys and my students. So she settles herself across the tightly strung stretch of my very last nerve and periodically pinches it.

“Hey! Remember me? Don’t you love me anymore??? Feed me!”

So I stress out and lash out and try to paddle faster… typing aimlessly into the dark, cold, bitter abyss.

And finally, there’s the reincarnated teacher part. The part where I’m reborn in a new school after leaving a building where half my teaching career was spent — a school where everybody knew my name. A sitcom theme song kind of place. (Cheers to friends and family and feeling at home!)

And right about now…  after a month in my new place, I’m not gonna lie… I miss the camaraderie of my old school. I miss knowing the routines, and knowing the staff, and knowing the culture. But mostly, I think I miss knowing who I can let my hair down with. Knowing who I can be my best sarcastic, gritty, authentic self with.

So instead, I’ve been building the units and planning the periods and grading the essays and faking-it-till-I’m-making-it… paddling as fast as humanly possible.

But I still feel lost. I still feel alone. I still feel trapped in a tight little space between mattress and mayhem.

And I can’t help thinking about the Corleone family “going to the mattresses” to ride out their mob wars. Holed up in apartments, twenty beds lined floorboard to floorboard, sleeping en masse for protection. Caught between mattress and mayhem.

That is totally me right now. Except not en masse. I’m flying solo.  Being swallowed whole. While paddling as fast as I can. Up hill. In the dark. Through the swirling abyss.

But I can do the hard things. I will do all the hard things — Mother twins. Pen blogs. Teach teens. Despite the abyss. Because of the abyss.

Because if there’s one good thing about an existential crisis, it’s that you learn you’ve gotta keep paddling. Harder. Faster. Longer.

Because if you stop, it’ll get you for sure. But if you don’t, a higher power will hear you. A higher power will come to your rescue. Will scoop you up by your ribcage, calm your frenzied, feverish heart, and set you back down again. Close to, but not inside of, that deep dark abyss.

Somewhere between mattress and mayhem is salvation. Just keep paddling.

 

The Letterman

Our football program is a storied one. Giants have grown from our gridiron. Heroes have hailed from our hashmarks. Our Friday Night Lights have incubated some of the Greatest Of All Time.  There is one GOAT, though, that stands above all others.

This past Friday night, my twin boys and I were in the field house when HE walked in — larger than life and with a twinkle in his eye.

Now my boys are incredibly shy —  hiding behind my legs or climbing daddy’s shoulders around most people — but not around this hero. They’ll line up for some knuckles or a quick hug Every Single Time.

No, I’m not talking Trevor — although he was there on Friday night too, and just as genuine and gracious as ever.

But nope — I’m talking E. The man. The myth. The legend.

His given name is Edgar Moore, but his fans — his generations and generations of fans — they all know him by a single letter. A single vowel.  “E.”

Now “E,” the Letter, is the most influential in the English language. The Silent E  has transformative powers, working in concert with consonants to turn soft vowels into hard ones.

“E,” the Legend, is likewise influential. Far from silent, he cheers and cajoles, working in concert with coaches to turn soft players into hard ones. And he takes his job VERY seriously — and we’re not simply talking Friday nights in the fall. E is there with the team sweating it out at every summer workout and every fall practice.

And he’s been doing it for over thirty years. Over the past three decades, on any given Autumn afternoon, E has been spotted making his way across busy Church Street from the local Burger King, where he has a job (of 28 years), to the field house, where he has a calling (of 33 years… and counting).

E has been a part of every championship season the Canes have had — and he has the four state rings to prove it. (Plus three more in baseball). He’s worked with three head coaches and hundreds if not thousands of  players. As a matter of fact, four of the coaches on staff wore purple jerseys back in the day, and E was their manager then.

And E is their manager now.

But his role with Cartersville Football goes way beyond Manager.

E is Encourager and Nurturer and Motivator and Dancer (has he got the sideline moves!) and even (most surprising of all to those not in the inner circle), Odds-maker.  His skill for predicting game outcomes is uncanny.  His track-record is mind-blowing. Vegas should be so lucky as to have an E in their corner.

And we here at Cartersville– we know how extremely lucky we are to have him in ours.

E is a blessing to every member of our football community — coaches, players, families, and fans. We all know his name. We all sing his praises. We all know his worth — Priceless.

Because there’s simply no CANES without our Not-So-Silent E.

Struggling Is Not Failing: New Life and the Worries Born With It

I love seeing new things – things I’ve never seen before.

A few years back, I saw my first fox. She was making her way across the neighborhood green space under cover of darkness, but the streetlights revealed her unmistakable fiery fur and trotting stride. She was beautiful.

I was in awe.

And then yesterday, I saw my first great-nephew. He was lying sweetly in a nest of swaddling blankets, tiny paper finger and toenails topping long, fragile fingers and long, slender feet. He is beautiful.

And I am in awe.

He came early. Seven weeks early. And his mama suffered. She was put on hospital bed rest and then filled with the fumes of a hazy, magnesium hell to battle the preeclampsia ravaging her body.

It was not fun. Nor was it effective. He “broke” her belly (as my sons say) via C-section the very next day. At 33 weeks.

But he is 33 weeks of pure perfection. Surprisingly alert, his eyes dance inside a noggin tiny enough to fit in a teacup, his elfin features glow beneath a widow’s peak of dark, twiggy hair.

This newborn child is beautiful. And so is his newborn mother.

She is pure perfection. Her eyes smile through the pain of incision, through the fog of postpartum, her freckled features deceptively serene beneath her halo of glossy, dark hair.

Because she is the perfect newborn mother — full of self-doubt, full of concern, full of fear.

She worries about milk supply and let down. She worries about milestones to be met and schedules to be set. She worries about bonding time and spending time with her twiggy little nestling when she’s discharged and he’s left behind in the NICU.

She worries about nurturing him and guiding him and loving him well enough to one day set him loose in this big, scary world with all the tools and confidence he needs to flourish.

She has so many worries. But those worries make her the perfect mother. Because that’s what good mothers do. They worry. And I would worry if she weren’t.

Really good mothers strive to always do the right things — the best things — for their little ones, no matter how big they get. No matter how old.

But good mothers never do ALL the right things; they never do ALL the best things.  Because mothers – even the really good ones like my niece – they’re only human. So they struggle.

But just because you are struggling doesn’t mean you are failing.

I saw that on a meme just yesterday and it spoke volumes to me as a mother, as a wife, as a writer, as a teacher.

Because just like my niece, I am struggling.

Because another new thing I saw this week was a brand new classroom — in a brand new school system. And it has left me full of self-doubt and fear and concern. I am full of worries.

I worry about school supplies and letting people down. I worry about the schedule to be set and the milestones to be met. I worry about bonding time with my students and spending time with my twins.

I worry about nurturing them and guiding them and loving them all well enough to one day let them loose in this big, scary world with  all the tools and confidence they need to flourish.

I want to do all the right things, all the best things. And I know I won’t do all the right things all the time. I won’t always do the best things. I have so many worries. But hopefully those worries make me a good teacher.

I struggled a lot last week. My niece struggled a lot last week. But we both have to remember that struggling doesn’t mean we are failing. Humans struggle — we’ve been doing it since the Garden of Eden. We trip. We fall. We get back up again. We persevere. We triumph. We excel.

It’s all about the perseverance. And Grace.

Because thanks to the grace of God, if our intentions are pure, and our efforts are hard, and our passions are strong, we will not fail. Struggle, yes. Fail, no. We can do this hard thing.

So Lauren, you and me — and all the mothers and teachers and humans out there — we can all do this hard thing. By the grace of God.

I am in awe.

 

 

 

For the New Wife on the Team

For the new Wife on the Team:

It’s a daunting challenge, joining a new coaching family. There’s a whole lot of feeling your way around and searching for a niche.

It’s an uncomfortable place to be and can feel incredibly isolating – especially if you don’t have biological family close by to help with the kids and the nerves and the insecurities. Because there are ALWAYS insecurities when you’re with a new team. Always.

In the beginning, you usually feel more apart from than a part of a new football program.

I vividly recall two lonely seasons not long ago where I was completely apart from the other coaches’ wives. It was just me and my twin babies, a stroller loaded with a pantry full of snacks, and a haunting suspicion that in the whole grand scheme of things, no one on staff besides my very own coach gave a darn about whether or not we were ok.

Every Friday night, I hunkered down in the far corner of an end zone because we couldn’t navigate the stadium risers on our own (and no one ever offered to help). So we dodged band instruments and blazing-fast receivers. And we stood apart and alone.

One of my favorite social media hash tags is #footballisfamily. Sadly, there was no family on that football team.

Now, however, thanks to the grace of God, my personal little football family has found itself in the midst of a football program that is all about family. There is true connectivity and support amongst the coaches’ wives on our current team. There are welcome notes and survival baskets at the beginning of the season. There are group texts for reminders and updates throughout the fall. There are generous hugs and helping hands in the stands on Friday nights. And there are potluck dinners and hearty conversations in the field house after games.

This is what the hash tag #footballisfamily should be about.

So I’m writing this blog — not for the new wife, but for the established wives in your football family.

I’m writing this as a gentle reminder that all of us have been there. We’ve all been the New Wife — the one no one knows. And sadly, some of us have even been the New Wife that no one ever knows… the one that no one ever reaches out to before the transient nature of the football life has its way with us, and we move on to our next location and our next potential football family.

So I’m writing as a reminder that football SHOULD be family.

Don’t be the wife who never reaches out to welcome the new member. Don’t be the one who assumes someone else will do it — somebody else will check up on her because you, you with the twin toddlers and the teaching job and gazillion essays to grade and gazillion students to nurture and never-ending dishes and laundry and dusting to do (well, you get the picture), you are helmet-deep in The Grind and you just can’t do a single thing more.

Ah, The Grind – the world-famous Football Grind.

It weeds out the unworthy. It leaves the weak in the dust. It measures mental and physical toughness and true character. It ensures that when you’ve given it your all, there’s still more of you to give – to your team. Because football is not a solo sport.

For any team to be successful, it is well understood that every single member must fully embrace The Grind.

And we wives are no exception. We have to be tough and driven and full of desire. And we must always be willing to push through the fatigue and give just a little bit more – for our football family – at home and in the home stands (and away ones, for that matter).

So push through your fatigue, coaches’ wives. Find your reserves and be the New Wife’s Left Tackle. Cover her blind side. Show her the ropes. Send her the welcomes and the updates and the encouragement. Help her wrangle her nerves and her kids in this brand new stadium.

Give her love and support and encouragement and bathroom breaks. (Nobody ever thinks of the bathroom breaks.) Help her become a part of the team.

Correction, help her become a part of the family.

Because Football… it really is family.

Who Cares What Men Prefer? You Do Not Need a Man to Translate Scripture or Life For You

I’m not a man hater. I’m not. But I also know (I’ve learned the hard way) that I have the freedom to decide for myself what I like and what I think and what I do.

I’ve written before about the Toni Morrison quote that compels me to write: “The function of freedom is to free someone else.”

Well, yesterday, while thumbing through social media, I came across a blog that slung me so far backwards that the bars of my prison-house were very nearly reinstated. It damn near set me back decades.

And that blog proved to me that I’m not done yet. That I need to keep fighting. To truly free myself from the side-effects of my childhood and to help free others still struggling behind the iron shackles of dogmatic religion. Not faith. Religion.

The blog was a recent post from The Transformed Wife. The title is menacing enough to me — the word “transformed” implying that the author was forced to undergo a dramatic, life-altering change to fit into the unforgiving mold of Wife.

But then there’s the title of her Monday blog: “Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins Without Tattoos.” As if women should  be driven and controlled by men’s desires. Our minds, our lives, our bodies. Controlled. By men.

Ugh. The title was frightening, but I kept reading.

The entire intent of the blog is to caution women about everything from advanced education to independent living and thought. She strongly suggests in the second paragraph that women be wary of attending university lest they learn to be “independent, loud, and immodest instead of having meek and quiet spirits.”

Are you kidding me?!?

My skin flinched; my lips curled; my eyes rolled. I was sucker-punched backward to my broken and bridled teen years, where I had this exact bullshit horsewhipped into my soul.

I still suffer from the aftermath. I am meek and quiet – at least in person. This computer screen gives me confidence and a voice. But in person, I tend to shy away when conversations heat up. Or when I do speak up, if somebody pushes back hard enough, I back down. I shut down. I was conditioned to avoid confrontation, to keep my head down, and to NEVER contradict a man.

And it pisses me the hell off. (I was also taught never to cuss. That it’s not ladylike. But I’m making pretty good progress there…)

I was also conditioned to believe my sole purpose in life was to submit myself to men and to fear my own thoughts and actions – a notion the author goes on to address: “The husband will need to take years teaching his wife the correct way to act, think, and live since college taught them every possible way that is wrong.”

Vomit. Convulsive. Bile-riddled. Projectile. Vomit.

My father’s church did not approve of women attending college either, despite Dad hailing from a family full of advanced degrees. (He and his brother have PhDs; his sisters have a Master’s and an MD.)

But no college degrees were in my future — only apprenticeship under some elder’s wife where I would learn “biblical womanhood” and how “to serve others” and “live in submission” to my husband.

That was my destiny.

Luckily, I was rebellious. I was really good at being a thorn in the side and a fly in the ointment. And after a long, exhausting struggle I was finally deemed an unfit vessel for husband and church, and thrown out of the fold and into to my grandmother’s arms.

She was headstrong and rebellious, too. And she taught me to believe in myself. Or she tried. And so did my aunts and uncles.

I spent a single semester at UT in a dorm room under their generosity. But the brainwashing from all the biblical bludgeon-ings was too deepset. I clung to the notion that being in love and in a marriage and with child was my one true calling.

I still believe motherhood is one of my truest and strongest callings. I absolutely believe in love and marriage and children.

But I do not believe in submission and ignorance and mind-control. And I never will again.

The author also states the importance and value of having young women remain “under their father’s roof until they get married.”

One of the biggest regrets of my life is that I never lived on my own as a young woman. I believe independent living is one of the most crucial life-skills a woman can glean. The ability to think for herself. Provide for herself. Trust in herself. To believe she is strong. And capable. And worthy.

I learned all of these things. But it took me a long time. I didn’t really absorb them until after I was divorced, when I struggled to survive on rice cakes and peanut butter and struggled to find my confidence and my voice. But survive I did. And more than that, I found my voice and I found my confidence (as confrontationally-challenged as it may be…).

But I am proud to say that both my girls gained independence and self-worth at a far younger age than I. They are strong, capable, autonomous women. One of my daughters, a surgeon with more advanced education than practically any person I know (and will continue her formal education for another four years), responded to the blog’s ridiculous restrictions with the following:

Well, I’m probably the most in debt of any woman out there. And I’m a 31 year old non-virgin. With a tattoo. It seems, based on this grammatically horrifying piece, I’m undesirable. But my brain is worth more than the 300,00 dollars I’ve invested in it, and I will never waste my heart on a man who teaches me how to think or feel.

Well said, my girl. Bravo.

And my other daughter, in honor of International Emoji Day, promptly posted a green vomiting icon. My sentiments exactly, my girl.

So my freedom has resulted in the freedom of my girls. And I take great pride in that. But I’m not finished yet. There are still women out there who believe they can’t exist without the guidance of a man — someone who can translate life for them.

Because the part of the blog that rattled my soul and wrenched my girl parts the most was the sorrow the author felt for women who “have not read the Bible with their father or husband to explain it to them.”

To EXPLAIN it to them?

What. The. Fuck.

What the ever-loving, mind-blowing Fuck?!? (Told you that bridle was gone. I’m the only one who controls my mouth now, thank you very much.)

Let me tell you about the husbands and fathers who “explained” scripture to me. They twisted it. They tortured it. They twisted and tortured scripture and they twisted and tortured me.

And it is taking me a lifetime to free myself from the dogma and the dictators.  Don’t let me be you.

Don’t eat the bullshit. Don’t learn the helplessness. Don’t believe the lies.

You are worthy enough. You are smart enough. You are strong enough. You are important enough.

To think for yourself. To govern yourself. To believe in yourself. To educate yourself.

To love yourself.

So do it. Be it. Live it.

And then help someone else do it and be it and live it too. That’s the function. The function of freedom.

 

 

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