Search

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

Was I Responsible? A Brutally Honest Reflection on My Father’s Last Year

This week, we buried my father.

On the day after Thanksgiving, at the start of the holiday season, we laid my dad to rest. Among those present were five grandchildren, four neighbor friends, three mourning girls, two sons-in-law, and a pastor sans a pear tree.

We kept it small. We sent him to glory in a rough-hewn coffin among the smallest of crowds. In this time of coronavirus, we tried to be responsible. No sibling of his was present. No son. No church family, save his pastor and a crew of food pantry volunteers (of which he had been one) watching from the safety of a truck on the driveway.

We kept it small, trying to be responsible. We had been so responsible for so very long. Or had we?

I had not seen my dad since February. I was trying to protect him.

I called him. Often. In the beginning of the pandemic I called him every day. Then every other. Then when school started back, every other week. Things got really hectic. Teaching school and coaching football in 2020 is no small feat. But I spoke to him more than I ever had in my life. I can honesty say that.

Still.

I hadn’t seen Dad since February. The last thing he texted me as I invited him to a gathering at my house for the Saturday before Thanksgiving (outside in an attempt to protect him and my mother and her partner, all hovering around the 80-year mark) was, “The Lord continues to be merciful and gracious to the completion of my bucket list.”

Getting everybody together again after such a long absence was on his list. We were so close. Four days away.

As a matter of fact, my sister and I were even closer than that. We were supposed to meet him on Wednesday– the day after he died. We had an appointment to look at a cottage in an assisted living community, but Dad didn’t show.

I didn’t have an inkling. Not a premonition, one. I always thought I would. I always thought I would know if something happened to someone I loved dearly.

He’d had them. When his dear Aunt Emmy died, he woke in the middle of the night to see her ascend to heaven in a hot air balloon. But me, I had no idea. He did, however, send me a signal — I just didn’t realize it.

The Tuesday night he died, alone, in his basement, tangled up in a chair, I developed a pain under my left shoulder blade, a throbbing behind my heart under my rib cage. It started right after dinner and bothered me all night and all the next day. I’ve never had an ache there EVER. But it was persistent. I tried stretching my back, pressing against door frames, taking Advil. Nothing did the trick.

Then, after my sister and I realized Dad wasn’t at our appointed meeting place at our appointed meeting time — after I’d summoned help from a neighbor friend of his (a neighbor so kind and generous, who I can never thank enough) — after he found my father, after my father was no longer lying there alone… the pain went away. Vanished.

I believe it was a sonar signal from Dad. From his heart to mine. A beacon begging he be found, my sweet-hearted, broken-hearted, father.

He’d died, the coroner tells us, of a massive heart attack. Instantly. Approximately twenty-four hours before we found him — approximately the same time my pulsing pain had begun.

I had not seen him since February. I was trying to protect him. Instead, I lost him.

Was it worth it? I honestly don’t know. I want to say no.

But then I will also say this… Our family, who was so very careful for so very long, gathered together in my father’s honor, and Covid, despite our precautions and best intentions, caught fire and spread like lighter fluid on the flames of our grief.

Three of the third-generation family members who came in for his funeral have come down with the virus. Six more of us are now in quarantine. The three with Covid are young. They have been thoroughly knocked off their feet. I pray they are soon well — and the odds are definitely with them.

But at seventy-eight, the odds would not have been in my father’s favor. And the illness could have (would have?) wreaked havoc on his body. It could have proved a slow and painful, a brutal end.

But I hadn’t seen him since February. Was that not also a slow and painful and brutal end?

I am wracked with guilt. This virus is awful. But did it also make me an awful daughter?

I certainly feel that way. I feel awful.

Teaching inside Covid’s Inferno

While teaching Dante to my honors sophomores, I can’t help but reflect on the parallels between his epic journey and the year 2020.

We should’ve known when we lost Kobe that this year did not bode well. Then March happened. And schools took a “two week break” to flatten the curve, and there was no turning back.

The year should’ve borne a warning label: “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.”

Two weeks trying to flatten the curve turned into two months, then two seasons, and now three. It seems there’s no flattening this curve. The bell swells bigger and bigger — but in reverse — as down we go, sagging lower and lower into this hell curve.

We’ve been plunged into Covid’s Inferno. A continuous downward spiral. Concentric circles of darkness and despair.

My students are suffering. My fellow teachers. My family. Me. We’re all suffering. Schedules and structure have been harrowed, relationships strained, connectivity disrupted, disjointed, destroyed. Time lost. Joy lost. Lives lost. Adolescent angst is at an all time high. Adult spirits are at an all-time low.

For a brief while — at the end of September — things finally seemed to be looking up. Turns out, we were just climbing one of the rocky walls that separate some of the more wretched ditches of the depths of hell.

Things began crumbling beneath us again. We rode a rockslide of new outbreaks, new quarantines, huge empty sections of classes as students became At-Home-Learners — a new, benign term for a much-maligned state in this 2020 school year. So… we went on hybrid again.

There are lots of hybrid creatures in Dante’s version of hell, half human, half beast. And now there are hybrid schedules in our version. Half our students here for half a week while the other half are at home, then switch.

The hybrid schedule is likewise half beast. Students really struggle with it. Still, at least kids are meeting with teachers in person. At least we can see their faces — half of them, anyway. Half-faced students, all foreheads and eyes, the rest hidden beneath masks.

Some say eyes are the windows to the soul. If that’s true, these kids still feel hopeless, despite our best efforts. Lost in a hell swamp. Drowning in an abyss of strangeness, angst, and isolation. And we are too… we teachers are drowning too.

We’re all fighting so hard. To stay afloat. To stay positive. To do good work. But we’re exhausted. It‘s an exhaustion like we’ve never known before.

And now, watching the news and seeing the headlines, the pictures — the miles and miles of cars waiting for COVID tests outside Dodger stadium, the pop up morgues constructed in El Paso, the renewed lockdowns in New York City — I feel like we’re waiting for a tidal wave to hit us and we’re armed with nothing more than a mask for safe passage across the swirling torrents of infection. Masks and wishful thinking.

…and so often kids let the masks slide down their noses and mouths while talking to each other and to me, sending droplets circulating into 2nd circle whirlwinds waiting to sweep us all up in their contagion. Droplets poised like microscopic 7th circle centaurs, arrows pointed at our chests.

It’s hard to guard ourselves from infection. If we haven’t been impacted physically, we’ve been impacted emotionally. Our hearts are feeling defeated. Covid has threatened every piece of refuge we have — school, home, church, and now, in this season, holiday gatherings. It threatens our every peace, this snapping, vicious multi-headed beast.

We’re in the ninth month of this journey. Surely we’re nearly done. I want so desperately to believe it… that Satan’s about to show his ass one final time so we can crawl down the hairy hank and emerge from this Hell hole of a year and into the shining light again.

I don’t know when it will be over, but I know it will. One day, good Lord willing –and hopefully soon — we will emerge, better for the journey. Wiser. More compassionate and understanding and thankful.

Good Lord Willing.

God, I hope it’s soon.

.

Get us off this Bumper Car Demolition Derby Year

This year is out of control. And the hits just keep coming.

Teaching in a pandemic is no joke. Being a Democrat in the South in an election year is no joke. Staying optimistic in the midst of unfiltered negativity and knee-jerk reactionaries is no joke. Unmuffled jeeps waving Trump flags and wearing MAGA hats stealing our Biden sign on Halloween night is no joke. Sweet-faced, golden haired, eleven-year-old girls coming into my yard in broad daylight to steal our sign — proclaiming it illegal, but willing to do it anyways (until I stop them and tell them to move along) — is no joke.

What is this world coming to? What is wrong with people? With the universe? With me?

I feel like no matter what I do, nothing is in my control anymore. Like I’m living on a bumper car track — strapped in and tethered to some chaotic electric current of negativity and mayhem. Like an All-State commercial has taken over my life. My world.

Sometimes I feel slightly in control. I can feel the tug of the steering column on the rubber beneath me as I try valiantly to drive my life and stay healthy and in good humor. And it begrudgingly responds to my demands — until some flying obstacle slams into me and sets me spinning inside this cosmic carny ride.

Well, I’m tired of this wild ride.

I’m tired of the gleeful abandonment of humanity I see on a daily basis. I’m tired of being accosted by distorted, funhouse mirror versions of values.

I want kindness and order again — not “law and order” makeshift militias raiding my property on Halloween night while my boys and I are snuggled up in our pajamas watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.” Robbing our boys of sweet memories and replacing them with nightmares of cult followings and cruelty. Robbing my husband and me of our faith in this country’s democracy and the processes it founded so long ago.

My heart and my country have been flung off course from all directions.

Nothing feels normal anymore. Nothing feels right. Everybody seems to have an accelerator, but no brakes. An uncanny ability to aim for one another with a gleam in our eye and maniacal laugh on our lips. I do my best to stay out of the way of barreling bullies intent on careening me off course, but it is getting harder and harder to do.

Because I’m leashed to this bumper car demolition derby of a year and I despise everything about it.

I’m tired. I am a strong, fierce female fighting the good fight, but boy, am I tired.

Somebody bring back compassion and calm. Somebody cut the negative energy encircling and snaring us all. How about a whole lot of somebodies… Let’s cut this negative energy at its source and bring back the compassion and calm of America again.

Trying to be a Good Steward This Gathering Season

It’s no secret, this is my favorite time of year. Everything about October through December fills me with joy. The autumn leaves, the pumpkin spices, the snack-size candies, my football-coaching husband climbing to the press box with clipboard and khakis.

I don’t know what I love most. (Well my husband, obviously.) But the softer, cooler weather is pretty sexy too. The fog settling like cashmere over tree limbs at sunrise. The sky sparkling like jewels in the heavens at sunset. The porches peppered in mums of russet, paprika, persimmon and plum. The woodsmoke perfuming the air.

And then, there’s all the seasonal fashions and accessories that emerge: chunky sweaters, glittering helmets, plastic jack-o-lantern totes. From stadium to city sidewalk, to hearth and home, earth and sky… all bursting to celebrate the gatherings of fall.

But this year things are so different. So full of cautions and fears.

Football stadiums are limiting fans. Trick or treat is banned in some places. Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations are enough to give this mama of extended family traveling from multiple states a panic attack.

Y’all. I love trick-or-treat tykes. And turkey and pecan pie. And stockings hung by the fireside with care. And twinkle lights and Christmas ornaments. (God, how I love a decked-out evergreen.) But most of all, I love all the cheesy customs of a crowded living room full of family singing carols and sipping cocoa and making memories to last a lifetime.

But I worry so much about my mid-to-late seventies parents joining my thirty-something girls and our first-grade boys and and my high-school-teaching self and football-coaching husband. I worry about how much their risk of contracting a potentially-deadly virus could exponentially increase if we all get together. I worry about losing time with them if we spend time with them during the holidays.

But then, I know the value of those memories, the necessity of connection, the loneliness of isolation, need for family love. Their fear of missing out on valuable time with their grandkids vs my fear of my kids missing out on valuable years with their grandparents.

Which is more beneficial? Which is less? The weight of weighing this cost/benefit analysis is unbearable.

We all feel so burdened. All of us. We’ve spent seven full months carrying this pandemic weight. None of us has gone unscathed, although some of us have suffered far more than others.

Surely this final trimester will bring this baby full term. Surely we will leave Hell behind and find a bright, shiny, newborn New Year in its place come January. I know it’s not a rational thought — but it is a deeply-rooted one, full of hope and desire and fueled with prayer.

In the meanwhile, I desperately want to see those I love most in the world during this season I love most in the world. So we will be as responsible as humanly possible. We will be social — at a social distance. We will wear our masks, and sing our songs six feet apart, and sip our alcohol while we use our alcohol wipes.

Our lives are short enough as it is. And God told us to be good stewards of them. So as for me and mine, we will balance family and safety in this season the best way we know how. We will make carefully-measured memories with the carefully-measured time God has given us. We will be good stewards as we gather together.

Happy Gathering Season, y’all. Be cotton-headed, but not a Ninny Muggins. Wear a Mask.

.

.

A Nasty Woman’s Testimony

While working on my novel, I’ve been doing research on the patriarchy — that time-honored tradition of passing power through the penis. You aren’t a member if you don’t have a member.

I uncovered some questionable (but fascinating and honestly believable) etymology on the word testify. In ancient times, vows (and deals) were made by laying hands on (or beside or below) the testicles –take note of that root (and yes, pun intended…) — and then swearing. Women had no testicles, so no testimony for them. They couldn’t take a sworn oath. As a result, they weren’t in the membership. Literally.

(On a sort-of-side-note… all my life, my father has told me not to swear. Curse words out of a woman’s mouth turn it ugly!!! Well, rest assured, if there’s a double-standard, I’m going to fight to liberate it.)

And speaking of fighting, I’ll fight when somebody tells me I should keep quiet — especially when it comes to my opinions.

I’m not sorry for having opinions. I never tell anyone not to say what matters most to them. And neither should you. I have seen — in an up-close-and-personal way — how absence of dialogue, absence of voiced opinions, breeds dangerous dogma.

When only one perspective is heard, that’s when things can go horribly awry. That’s when cults emerge. That’s when fascism reigns supreme. When there’s only one voice shouting from the rooftops over the top of all the others — that’s the only time I believe it’s okay to say, “Will you shut up, man?”

This country was built on freedom — of all sorts. And should’ve been built on freedoms for all kinds of people. But we’re just now getting to that. We’ve made tremendous progress. We’re closer than ever.

And that’s why some sorts of people keep telling other sorts of people (people like me) to be quiet.

You know what kind of people want people like me to be quiet? Two kinds. The kind of people who have nothing to lose if the status quo is maintained… and the kind of people who hide behind the kind of people who have nothing to lose. Those who support them and hold them aloft and give them praise and feed their egos because they’ve been conditioned and brainwashed for a very long time to believe that the status quo is the only way to go. That if we rattle the cage, we’ll cause it all to fall down.

Well, let it. I’m tired of being caged. And hushed. I’m ready to rage against the machine, against the patriarchal juggernaut.

You know who I admire most? The ones who have escaped the smothering muzzle of the patriarchy and have come to speak out against it. And the people who still struggle under the massive gears, yet rail against it nonetheless. And the people running as fast as they can away from it, screaming warnings about it to the rest of us as loudly as they can. And the people running behind it, casting stones at it as hard as they can. I’m one who has escaped it, and still struggles under it, and runs away from it, and goes after it. I am all of those. And until it falls, so many of us are.

You know who I do not admire? The folks who ride atop its motorcade, waving flags of past injustices and touting its greatness. I do not admire the ones who ride its coattails like it’s their divine right to be pulled along because they wear the color of their forefathers and support the prejudices it fosters.

The patriarchy is really good at denigrating people who don’t align with their likenesses. They love to label so many. But today, I speak for me. For women. They judge us by our physical appearance — label us dogs, liars, bimbos, pigs who are ugly, fat, and horse-faced (to name a few). Or deem us weak because we bleed and have nothing dangling between our legs. Or call our voices harsh and our motives nasty. If we wield power, they call us monster.

They separate us from them… the members from the member-less. They love to make us the reviled Other.

Well, I will embrace the Other. I will wear my Nasty Woman shirt to Kroger proudly, despite the looks I get — from men and women alike. Like I should keep my opinions to myself.

I’m tired of being tried under the patriarchy’s rules and shamed for being a woman with a voice. Tired of being told to shut up.

You know who tells me to be quiet? No one. I will wear shirts, post signs, write blogs, and sing out for all the world to hear. My voice, my body, my opinions, my choices.

They are my rights — and should’ve been from the beginning of this great nation. We’ve been slowly gaining ground. And we cannot lose it now.

So watch out, patriarchy, the monsters and nasty women are coming — not for your member, just membership.

The Painful Privilege of Teaching your Husband’s Football Players

Teaching is a tough calling. And so is football. Both are hard and agonizing and leave you feeling bruised and battered. There are many days — sometimes almost all the days — that you’re left wondering why you willingly press your heart and soul onto such a grindstone, only to be continuously worn down.

Hit after hit. Tackle after tackle. Fumble after fumble. Punt after punt. The lecture goes wrong. The lesson plan fizzles. The handoff is bobbled. The class gets defensive. The kid you thought you’d finally wrangled into catching the ball, drops it at the last second. Some never make it into the end zone.

So many hard drives seem to end without points scored. Is all the work really worth the reward? Is there a reward?

I say yes. Even beneath the gritty pressure, I can spot the moments of brilliance, the shimmer amidst the dust. The glimmer of hope, the sparkle of fire waiting somewhere at the buzzer. For me. For them. For all of us. The grindstone polishes us all. But the going is always rough.

I am a teacher, and I am a football coach’s wife. And I am lucky enough to see my two worlds collide every year when I teach some of the players my husband coaches (and I cheer for) on Friday nights.

It is a privilege, but a painful one. The hardness and heartache of teaching players can be amplified beyond belief. But thankfully, so can the blessings.

Because of the duality of my relationship with these guys, I know so much more about them than what I usually know about my students’ lives.

I know who their parents are, where they come from, and where they hope to go. I know their strengths, and their weaknesses too. I know who struggles with neglect, who is spoiled rotten, who wants a D-1 scholarship, who just wants a family and fishing pond. I know who lost their mother to drugs, who reads on a 4th grade level, who travels from apartment to apartment to outrun bill collectors. I know who loves Hot Cheetos, or Hair Bands, or X-Box Live.

Over the years, I’ve had players with every privilege in the world and players with nearly every misfortune imaginable.

I’ve taught players whose moms were booster club presidents and players whose moms were boozing it up behind the press box. Players whose dads worked the sideline chain gang on Friday nights, and players whose dads worked the prison chain gang on the roadside on Wednesday mornings.

I know these things because these kids become my kids — the way all my students become my kids. But then, they’re also my football family — and football families have incredibly strong bonds. So they tell me things they wouldn’t necessarily tell somebody else.

Sometimes I learn their deepest truths in class discussions, sometimes in private ones, sometimes in journals and essays and notes. Sometimes by the way they dress, or interact, or suddenly withdraw.

I challenge these boys, I hold them to high standards, and demand they meet them. And sometimes they don’t. More times than I can count, they stumble and fall from the burdens they carry.

And when push comes to shove — and it always does (football is a contact sport after all) — I am here for them to vent, to fail, to get back up, to keep pushing forward. Because I know their lives. I know their stories. I know their pain and/or their privilege. And I know their potential.

And heaven help me, when they refuse to meet that potential, to seize the bar and raise it — to bench press it farther than they ever thought possible — it hurts me.

But I have to remind myself that if their fighting spirit — so evident out on the football field — doesn’t manifest itself in my classroom, I shouldn’t take it personally. Some of them are fighting demons far darker than the one found inside the book I’m asking them to read or the essay I’m demanding they write.

It frustrates me when I know they’re just being lazy… but it wrecks me when I know it’s because of their demons.

I know so much more about these players than simply their stats and their numbers listed in the program. And I wouldn’t trade my job or them as students for anything.

They inspire me and bless me and teach me more than they will ever know — more than I can ever teach them — about perseverance through pain, and about finding and keeping humanity inside so much hardship.

They teach me that, though struggles might run deep in your life, courage can too. Football has helped them see that. And teaching football players has helped me see that too.

Yes, the grind of teaching — and particularly teaching students with lives that shatter innocence (theirs and yours) — wears your heart and soul down. You give more (and sometimes lose more), than you ever thought possible.

But the wearing down also polishes your heart and soul. You often gain more than you ever thought possible too. So yes, the rewards are always worth the work. Are always worth the grind.

The Absence of Smiles

Do you ever feel like the celery in a hot wings basket? Or an ad on YouTube? Or the tootsie roll in the bottom of the Halloween pumpkin? Judged and found lacking? Or ignored altogether? Unable to connect?

I’ve been feeling that a lot lately. And I think it’s the isolation behind the mask. I find myself trying to connect by overcompensating — chattering aimlessly, using lots of hand gestures, smiling till my eyeballs vanish — trying to appear welcoming, to sound happy, to be happy. But I probably just seem crazy.

Teaching through a mask to 190-plus students also wearing masks is lonely business. And no matter how hard I try, they mostly stare silently back at me. Judging me. Or worse — not caring. Or even worse still — feeling as isolated as me.

Because I definitely feel lonely. And dejected. And detached. (And I fear that they do too.)

There’s a human connection we miss when we can’t see whole faces. Two-thirds of our features are currently hidden. And what’s hurting me most is the lack of smiles. I’m missing them something fierce.

And it’s breaking me.

Smiling’s my favorite. They’re so contagious — way more than COVID-19. And while the virus droplets aren’t getting shared and spread, neither are the smiles.

And I’m not just missing the smiles. I’m missing myself. It’s like my personality has been purloined by my PPE.

I never thought not seeing smiles could impact me so much.

But even without the masks, smiles are so few and far between right now. Everything and everyone is so angry and divided. Between the plague and the politics, I feel a social distance not solely attributable to the pandemic.

We’ve been losing our humanity for a long time now. And it’s what I need more of. More connections and grace. Not more exclusion and judgement.

Not more I’m better than you because I think like this. Or I’m better than you because I have accomplished this. Or I’ve been rewarded with this. Or I wear this. Or drive this. Or live here. Or work there. Or have this skin color. Or vote this color.

I want to belong, not to exclude. I want to be a part of something. Not to feel like the last one picked. But also not to be part of a click. And I definitely don’t want to be a dick. I just want to be included and to include others. To be a part of, not apart from.

Can’t we do better? Can’t we love better? and live better? and be better? Even behind masks? Because I am a believer in the safety and science of masks. But I’m also a big believer in smiles.

I miss sharing and spreading and basking in smiles.

The Most Critical of Workers are Reporting for Duty: Students in the Pandemic

As school starts back, we have a whole new essential workforce hitting the frontline in the pandemic. Teachers were labeled critical workers by the POTUS. And that is as it should be. We are willing and able to meet the challenges ahead — especially with a dedicated and conscientious school system supporting us. 

But I’m here to call attention to another group of critical workers out there — a group vital to the core function of society and the entire future of our great nation. A group of young, unsung heroes willing to do whatever it takes to succeed under strange and difficult demands. 

I’m talking about our students.

The changes these kids are facing — and embracing — are enough to rattle the steadiest of veterans. Our school has opened on a hybrid schedule, leaving us at half capacity inside our walls, with kids reporting both in person and virtually at different times throughout the week. The hallways and stairwells have one-way signs, there are hand sanitizer stations every fifty feet, lunches are eaten inside classrooms, masks are worn when social distancing isn’t possible, and desks face one direction and sit six feet apart.

But these kids of ours — these superhero Gen-Z go-getters — they are taking all these hurdles in stride just to be here and be educated in far-from-ideal and so-far-from- normal conditions.

And they’re doing it with smiles on their faces. Not that I can see their mouths, thanks to the masks they wear so willingly — but I can see those smiles in their eyes. And they can see mine. Or I truly hope so. Because I love being with them again, interacting, forging relationships, watching light bulbs click on, discussions unfold, learning ignite. 

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s far from easy peasy Lysol squeezy. Despite our school system creating one of the best re-opening plans I’ve seen out there, I’m not gonna lie, things feel weird. Because being socially distanced to keep us all together is messing with the normally exaggerated and wide-open personalities of my teen students.

I’m sure some of it has to do with the trauma of the past four months — the PTSD of losing classrooms and classmates and social lives literally overnight. And I’m sure a large part also has to do with the smaller class sizes and the masks we wear.

But y’all… I’m used to kids who like to talk. Who, if anything, talk too much most of the time. They’re teenagers. On the cusp of adulthood. It’s a confusing stage under normal circumstances. So they talk through their confusion in class A LOT… way more than they do at home. They feel freer to vocalize thoughts, feelings, dreams, and fears. And through their persistent chatter, formal class discussions, and best-friend heart-to-hearts, they learn who they are, what they know, what they believe, and where they stand in life. And I love that about teenagers. 

Like, really. I’m not lying. Some teachers love it when their students are silent. But me, I love it when they’re not. When they feel comfortable and safe enough to give voice to their rapidly-evolving thoughts and feelings. 

But this year, they are quiet. Eerily so — as if the masks are acting as mufflers. 

And not just for them. Me too. 

I teach because I love to make connections, to share literature and love and learning with young people so they know and understand their worth and potential. My goal is always to make a positive impact. 

But this year, my impact feels muffled, like my best efforts are falling on… not quite deaf ears, but more like mute mouths. Our kids, I think, feel vulnerable and isolated and self-conscious. 

But then, these kids are also brave. Brave and here. At school. In a brick and mortar building. Present and determined. They make me prouder than they’ll ever know. 

I wish I could put into words how much I love them. How far I am willing to go to help them succeed. How much they inspire me to be the best possible teacher — because they deserve only the very best. 

As our superintendent says, this school year should be seen not as a challenge, but as an opportunity. An opportunity to grow and become better at our craft. I want to be a better communicator and a better teacher — to bridge the social distancing distance and reach my students. And teach my students. And see them grow. 

I will rise to that opportunity, and I will seize it with both hands (well-sanitized, of course).

Because my students are willing to do the same. 

The Alchemy of Football: Spinning Straw into Gold

Football players know how to spin straw into gold. They know how to take the tough times and hard hits and turn them all into victory. Into pure gold.

Football has proven to me that alchemy exists. Remember alchemy? The science of legend and starry-eyed madness — that Middle Ages’ fever to turn base matter into precious metal?

It can be done. Football has discovered the secret. But there’s no short-cut, no cheating, no sleight-of-hand or fairy dust or smoke and mirrors. It takes months and months and years and years of dedication, sacrifice, discipline, and hard work.

The transformation is real, but not everybody makes it through to the other side. The process is hard. The grind is grueling. And if you survive it, you transcend it. And the result is pure gold.

But this year, the alchemy may be interrupted.

The hard work — the blood, sweat, tears put in during the off-season — may all get upended. Snatched away before the first opponent is faced. Snatched away by a virus that has completely transformed the world into something none of us recognize. A kind of reverse alchemy where conversation becomes altercation, faith reduced to condemnation, politics spun to propaganda — fueling shutdowns and shouting matches. A virus ending with so much death — of people, civility, relationships.

And in the aftermath of this virus, in an upside-down world, we may lose football for a season.

Robert Frost penned a famous poem about how quickly beauty and youth and life can pass us by — how “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” But I refuse to believe that. Beauty may be fleeting, and youth and life as well, but character is steady. Character remains.

That character is particularly evident in the new movement currently underway to give players input in decision making. One of the leaders of this newly-established #WeWantToPlay initiative is Trevor Lawrence, a player with well-established, 24 karat character.

Trevor is leading the charge to allow Power 5 conferences to play football. His points are valid and well-articulated. These schools have abilities that smaller colleges (and high schools) don’t have. They have the funds to take proper precautions and place programs in bubbles that will isolate and monitor players, their contacts, and their health. While there are still risks, these colleges’ situations are as ideal as it’s possible to be right now.

Still, there would be sacrifices. Beyond the risk of actual contraction are the documented after-effects of COVID-19, including potentially life-altering heart complications. These young adults are willing to make the sacrifice. They are adults, after all. They should have a say. Their voices should be heard.

High school football is another story entirely.

My family is involved with high school football. Our players are not adults. They do, however, know and understand sacrifice. Both the boys and their coaches have sacrificed a lot for the season already — and now they may end up sacrificing their season. It’s a sacrifice they never saw coming; one nobody signed up for.

Sacrifices are hard. In a normal year, football demands countless hours of sweat, blood, tears, bruises, sore muscles, brain power, and lost family and social time. This year, the sacrifices could be far more.

There are no easy answers. Some will have a voice in the choices of sacrifices. Others will not.

But if I’ve learned anything about football, it’s that sacrifice renders gold. If the Power 5 conferences have football, those players and their coaches will spin straw into gold.

And if high school and the smaller conferences don’t have a season, they, too, will spin straw into gold.

Even if the alchemy of football is interrupted… its magic will not be reversed. It will not be halted. It will persist and proclaim itself victorious. These young men and their coaches will come out on the other side stronger.

For all involved in football programs, it’ll sting — and way more than a little bit. It’ll hurt — a lot. For us, football IS fall. But the loss (or unexpected win) of a season won’t cause any of these coaches and players to fall. They know sacrifice. They’ve overcome pain and hardship before.

Because the gold of football is not in the wins, in the trophies or championships, in the college careers or NFL draft picks.  No, the pure gold that is forged from football is strength of character. So while the spent blood, sweat, and tears of the off-season may come to nothing, it won’t really come to nothing. Not really.

These players and coaches — from high school to college– have gold pumping in their hearts, fueling their souls, and lighting their wisdom. They are strong, brave, principled, driven, and more flexible than a game plan at halftime.

With or without a season, these programs will be victorious.Their gold will stay.

And even better, their gold will help lead the way out of this dark age and back into light.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑