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postmodernfamilyblog

Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

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postmodernfamilyblog.wordpress.com

I'm a mother of twin toddlers and two adult daughters. My dad says I ran the engine and the caboose on grandchildren, but I'm having a really hard time driving the potty train. (They always told me boys were harder!) I am passionate about family, football, politics, and good books, and I'm liable to blog about any one of them on any given week.

A Strange and Beautiful Win

“There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.” — Edgar Allan Poe

Last night was a beautiful win — but oh, the strangeness.

Come-from-behind wins in the final minutes of a game are the stuff legends are made of. The stuff that makes victory taste even sweeter.

But they are also some of the strangest game-scenarios of a coach’s wife’s life.

They are not my favorite. But they are. They are a paradox. (And as an English teacher, I love a good paradox.)

Last night was a hard-fought defensive battle. (As a defensive coach’s wife, you love it AND you hate it. Again, with the paradox.) And what you really love when your husband coaches defense is a shut out.
And our defense DID shut out their team’s offense, but THEIR defense… well, that’s where their 14 points came from.

And you have to hand it to that defense. They played hard. They hit hard and charged hard and sacked hard.And our offense will feel the effects of that HARD for awhile.

But our defense, they played hard too. They hit hard and charged hard and stole that ball hard when it mattered most.

And our offense scored when it mattered most — and scored just enough when it mattered most.

And while we might have liked a few more points on that final scoreboard, and a few less battle scars at the end of the fight, it was still beautiful.

Yes, there was some definite strangeness in the proportions — but oh, what an exquisitely beautiful win. #CANES

Will there Ever be Something to Show for It All?

They say the routine is important… and I’ve got one of those. A snuggly throw over my legs, a cup of coffee at my side, and the predawn pads of fingertips on keyboard.

I show up. Every weekend, I show up. (Maybe that’s the problem. Two out of seven is just not enough…)

Because I struggle. The words fail me. Or I fail them. I think it’s probably the latter. 

I read last night an afterword from an author talking about how she had this story to tell and found herself trapped. Snagged in a tangle. Me too, mama.

Character failures. Overdrawn dialogue. Dead sentences. Like I’m wading through hardening concrete. It feels almost impossible, and I’m barely slogging through.Am I making progress at all? I honestly don’t know. 

I’ve been working at it for years. Years. I’ve been writing my mind and my matters for years.

It is my innermost driving force. It is who I am. A writer. A puller of words out of the ether and onto the … what? Screen? Isn’t that still the ether? Am I even really a writer if there’s no heft in the hand to say that I am?

My boys see the books in my library. My office full of published works by other writers. They ask which are mine. Which did I write? 

Bless them. They have such faith in me. They see me as a writer. But can you be something without the something that makes you that thing? 

Can you really be a writer without the book?

I mean, if you’re a chef, you’d better have food to back it up, right? 

What about a retailer if there’s no product to sell?

If you’re a ditch-digger, there’d best be a ditch in your wake. 

Still, I keep going. I keep doing. I pull my computer up to my lap before anybody else is awake, and I pad out my ponderings and my plotlines and I persevere. I invoke the muse – like I literally practice the invocation of the muse (if it was good enough for Homer, maybe it will be good enough for me), and I fumble along in the darkness before dawn.

Digging the ditch, making the meal, so I can sell the wares. The words And maybe they’ll come. If you build it they will come. That’s the saying, right?

Here we go!

We’re buckled up to this season and ready to roll. And I can’t help thinking about a friend of ours driving to visit us for the first time.

“It was dark,” he began. “I was riding along at a pretty good clip. No hazards, no cause for concern.

‘Until there was. Until I hit a bump and went airborne, headlights skyward, road falling away…. All I could do was pray and shout, “HERE WE GO!”

My friend’s story feels like the perfect metaphor for every football season. We football families strap ourselves in and get ready for this ride of our lives.

We think we’re ready for anything.

We meal prep and mentally prep and lay out kids’ clothes for the week. We load game bags, and wine cabinets, and schedules on Google calendar to share with husbands. We set reminders, too. Lots and lots and lots of reminders. Daily, hourly, minute-by-minute reminders.

But no matter how many times we’ve been down this road, no matter how prepared we think we are, no matter how many calendars and frozen dinners and and bottles of wine, something will go wrong. Something always goes wrong.

Some unknown, unpredictable speed bump comes out of nowhere and sends us airborne. Our eyes must turn skyward as the road falls away and we shout, “HERE WE GO!!!”

It never fails.

But neither does God. It’s not us in total control, no matter what we think. That belongs to God.

Life is hard. And the football life is harder than hard.

But football families can do hard things… With our best-laid plans and God in control, we can do harder than hard things. We can do this football life.

2021 Football Season — HERE WE GO!!!

When Our Hearts are in Deep… and At Risk

I’m a teacher. I pour my heart into my students. Every Day. From first bell to last, I show them love. I grant them access to my heart and mind and do my best to access theirs. It’s my calling and my job. And I love it.

There’s a movie I used to love called Freedom Writers. It’s the story of a teacher and her students — students society has shunned. Problem students. Rebellious students. Students most likely to be given up on. But this teacher doesn’t. She’s determined to help them see their potential, to find their voice, to show them the power of using it to better themselves and the world around them. What’s not to love, right? It’s what I try to do with my students. It is my number one goal.

So I was telling this fellow teacher how much I love this movie, and she floored me by saying she hated it. Really? She’s a literature and writing teacher too — and her personal story isn’t too far removed from the students’ in the film. She grew up rough, she spent her fair time in alternative schools. She didn’t trust herself, her abilities, or her voice. She was a rebel who found a cause in teaching. She dedicated her life to helping kids find themselves and their voice.

So I wondered, really wondered, why this teacher friend of mine hated this movie so much.

“Because that teacher gave too much of herself,” she said. “She destroyed her marriage, her mental health, her life outside of teaching. She gave TOO much.”

Dang.

My friend wasn’t lying. 

And that made me think about our current situation — teaching in a pandemic. Giving and giving and giving to fit our students’ needs. Because need us, they do. They need to be in school. They need the socialization and they need the quality of an in-person classroom. We saw – and are still seeing – the fallout from not having classes and classmates in person the last year and a half.

And we teachers need to be in school, too. Their faces, their physical presence keeps the fire lit inside us. Its a symbiotic relationship. Physical connections fuel educational connections.

But what does that mean for us as teachers? For the teachers who care passionately and want to give our students our very best so they may have the very best education?

It means we risk destroying ourselves in the process. These days, our hearts are at risk. Literally and figuratively. But more on that in a minute…

While we teachers work, our own children attend school. Many of them are too young to be vaccinated. Still, we send them to school because we believe in the power of in-person education, despite the risks. Right now, the benefits outweigh the risks, so I believe they are where they need to be. But they are not as safe as they could be. The risks could be reduced for them, even without the ability to be vaccinated yet. Masks can help reduce their risk.

But in most places, there are no school mask mandates. And without mask mandates — or at least the autonomony in our classrooms to require them — the virus will spread like wildfire. The Delta variant is hitting kids as fast as adults. It is as contagious as measles.

Wearing a mask does less to help the person wearing it than it does to those around them. So when my children wear masks and no one else does, their masks do little for them. And if I, a vaccinated teacher who poses little to no risk to others, wear one, it does very little to help my students. But if we all wear masks, it does innumerable good. And if we all wear masks, it does zero harm.

Because I’m not saying put a needle in your arm and subject yourself to “poison” or “policing,” or whatever notions you firmly believe in. That’s your right. But I am saying put on a mask to help protect MY CHILDREN. And my immunocompromised friends. And my medical provider friends and family who are exhausting themselves – giving WAY TOO MUCH OF THEMSELVES – for people who don’t believe the virus is a big deal.

And speaking of giving too much of yourself. Let me get back to how we are all — every last one of us — putting our hearts literally at risk. Let me tell you about my baby sister.

She’s 50 years old and she contracted a light case of covid last year. Sniffles, sore throat, fever, body aches, loss of taste and smell. She had zero comorbidities and was presumably fine afterward, but six months later she discovered the long-term effects. The virus had desiccated her heart. Her previously healthy, Peleton-bike-riding, yoga-loving heart. 

She thought she’d developed exercise-induced asthma. She began coughing with exertion. Having trouble breathing during exercise. Things went from bad to worse. She nearly collapsed climbing a flight of stairs.

An x-ray revealed major issues. A cardiologist was consulted. The diagnosis: myocarditis due to Covid. A heart function of 12%. She’s been on medication and a life vest for two months and showing little improvement. So in the next week, she’ll go into the OR for a defibrillator/pacemaker combo and then again later for a valve replacement. If these measures don’t work, she’ll be put on a heart transplant list. 

My previously healthy, vibrant, mask-wearing baby sister, 50 years old.

And the same thing is now happening to 20-40 somethings at high, high rates. They are coding in ERs every night. They are filling up hospital floors and ICUs faster than they were last January. And the morgues are getting there. And the cardiologists, they’re busier than they’ve ever been.

Can we ALL please just wear our masks?

And I know while I’m writing this that I won’t change anybody’s minds. That those who hate masks and rage against vaccines won’t read what I write. Or if they do, it’ll be to lash out at me. Or troll me. Or laugh behind my back. I know that. I’m not writing it for them.

I’m writing to the people who will read my words because they believe, because their hearts are in this and they know we’re in deep. They believe if we don’t do something, the outcomes will be tragic. They believe in the power of prevention. They believe in protecting our loved ones, keeping our kids in school, and our economy afloat.

I’m begging friends like these to please pick up their masks and pick up their phones and to use their voices and help change the world.

Help us keep from sacrificing way too much: our children, our medical professionals, and our economy. Please.

(And if you have similar personal stories or concerns and want to reach out, please feel free to send me an email at hhester05@gmail.com.)

This Teacher & Mama is Worried about this School Year

I’d been feeling so good, so hopeful about having a classroom full of consistently present students this year. That there would be no more masks at school. No more social distancing. No more diligent seating chart documentation. Hopeful there would be no more quarantines. 

I was feeling good about devoting my mind and energy to educating my students, not keeping them disinfected.About sending my boys back to school where the focus would be back on schooling.

I’ve been vaccinated. Many of my fellow faculty members have as well. Even some of my high school students have been. These vaccines, plus Covid19 cases subsiding due to a variety of factors, had me feeling hopeful. 

But then July hit. And the delta variant began wreaking havoc. Cases are rising again.. as rapidly as November of last year. But this time, a new fear comes with the rise. This time, kids are getting really, really sick. 

Last year, the severe coronavirus cases – and/or severe aftereffects — were more likely to occur in adults. And even mild cases left some adults with severe aftereffects – my baby sister being one. Covid19 saddled her with viral myocarditis and only 15% of a functioning heart.

She tells anyone and everyone she can to get vaccinated. I agree. My physician daughter does too. I trust my daughter who knows and trusts the science.

But our kids… the little ones… they can’t get vaccinated yet. And that scares me. 

Last year, our children, our students, were fairly safe. Our school system had only one student hospitalized – with Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome — due to Covid19. Thankfully, that student pulled through. 

But this year, things could be very different. 

This year, with this delta variant, children are being more heavily impacted. This past week, here in Georgia, a five-year-old with zero preexisting conditions died of Covid19.  In Mississippi, seven children under twelve are in the ICU with Covid19. Two on ventillators.

Y’all. That’s scary. As a parent, it’s terrifying. As a teacher, it’s terrifying. This year is terrifying on a whole different level. And while some would argue the odds are minimal, tell that to the parents of these children. 

Our middle and high school students have the option to be vaccinated. And some have been. I am thankful for that. But not all of them have been. Likely, not many.

And none of the elementary school age kids have been. No children under twelve. No children my boys’s age. They haven’t because they can’t yet. But rest assured, as soon as they can be, my boys will be. I want to protect them. And I want to protect others. 

But until then… I’m hopeful that masks will be back. And social distancing. And diligent seating chart documentation. And while I’m prayerful that there will be no more quarantines, I’m worried.

This teacher is worried, yes. 

But mostly, this Mama is worried. 

stop and soak up the magic

It’s a soft, gentle, Sunday morning.. Everything feels full of quiet goodness. Like everything is good enough. Like there’s no need to hurry through anything, just soak up the sweetness while the boys still snore in their beds.

And I do need to.  Need to soak up the sweetness.

Because time is flying by. 

There’s only a few minutes more till the light shifts from magic to mundane.

There’s only a small window left till the occasional tire turns to a steady drone that snuffs out the birdsong.

There’s only a few quick hours till the church bells swell to welcome the congregation.

There are only a few short weeks till summer is over.

There’s only a few short years till the kids are out struggling in this world on their own.

There’s only…

There’s only.

Stop it.

Right now, there is enough. It is enough. Right now.

when you’re brittle and trying not to break (the tale of an introvert in mourning)

Something’s gone wrong with me. I’m impatient. Inadequate. Unmoved. 

I roll my eyes at people who deserve my patience. My sympathy. My empathy. Where has my empathy gone? 

It’s like I’ve suddenly been remade of a very fragile substance. Like I’ve been through the fire and have cooled and turned crisp. Like glass, thin and sharp. Like peanut brittle, but without sweetness. Like dried bones.

Who am I anymore?

Is this what mourning is like? Distancing myself from every feeling so I don’t shatter into jagged bits that will cut someone? 

Because I really think I could. Cut someone. If pressed.

I always thought mourning was feeling everything. Feeling it all so hard and so sharp that it stole your breath and left you drowning in a dense sea of emptiness built from never-ending tears. 

But me, I’ve only truly cried once. The night I buried him. Cried in a fetal position in the floor of my closet until I thought I would vomit — not just the contents of my stomach, but my stomach itself. Cried until bile ran through my veins and tear ducts. Until my intestines flipped and twisted into a knot and wrung out the tears, said, ENOUGH, and sent them packing.

After that, I cooled. 

And backed away. Pushed anything and anyone away who tried to make me talk about it, made me try to feel it.

Leave me alone. Let me alone. Let me.

Who the hell are you to ask me how I’m doing, anyway? Who the hell are you? You have no right to this pain. 

I’m not sharing it with you. I’m not even sharing it with me. It is sacred and not to be touched. It is strangled deep inside my sigmoid colon where it needs to stay. Contained.  Lest I shit all over you. 

Lest I cut you with it, too.

Distance. I need distance. I’ve needed it for the last seven months. 

I’ve put everything and everyone beyond arm’s length. So I don’t get touched. Touch. Feel. I can’t handle it. 

But I know I can’t stay like this forever. I need to get back to what I do. Teaching. Writing. Motherhood. Feeling. 

I’ve always been good at these things. At motherhood and writing and teaching. And feeling.

But I’m still so brittle. So frangible. So far away from who I am. 

How do you teach like this? How do you awaken the minds of your charges when you are terrified to reawaken your own?

And how do you write like this? Without digging deep? Without dipping into dark, muddy shit.

And Motherhood. It’s impossible to mother without shit. Without getting cut. Without feeling. 

Impossible.

I’m an imposter right now. This is not who I am. 

But one-half of the people who made me is now gone. And the person I was came unmoored. And sank. And is buried somewhere in my twisted reality. 

And when I start digging for her, I face hard questions. Not the Did you love me? questions. Because I know he did. I truly, deeply know he truly, deeply did. 

But the other hard questions. The shitty ones.

The Were you ever really proud of me? and Did you ever really know me? ones. The Did you ever really even want to know me — like who I was, not who you wanted me to be? questions. 

All the dark complexities of being a daughter in a patriarchal papa’s world kind of questions.

Will I ever be less brittle? Feel less brittle? Feel? 

Will I be able to reignite the flame that got doused, strangled somewhere inside my intestinal fortitude? Get back to the warm-blooded me who is flexible enough to teach my students the way they should be taught? To mother my children the way they should be and deserve to be mothered? To write about the things I want to write about, that I should write about, that deserve to be written about. To search for the answers to the questions I manage to write out, but still can’t write about. Can’t write through.

Is there a way to tap back into the life forces that pull me through this universe when a major life force in my universe has tapped out? 

It’s all so complicated… and so different from what I expected.

How we Turned our Master Bath Nightmare on Maple Street into a Dream Come True

So there was this one hiccup in our Dream House – a diaphragmatic spasm worthy of killing the whole deal. The bathroom in the owner’s suite was a nightmare. A nightmare of Freddy Kreuger proportions. 

It was a sliced up, diced up disaster. A dumpster fire. 

Could it be saved? Could we cut away the thickness, the clumsiness, revitalize it to something functional and aesthetically pleasing?

It was our biggest challenge.

When we first saw the bathroom, it consisted of two maimed spaces – one housing a massive vanity with a single, way-off-center sink and the other, the bathroom proper.

How should we proceed? Even without the wall separating the two areas, there wasn’t a lot of space to work with. 

We knew we wanted a shower and a tub, but not a combo. My dream was a soaker tub. And Mike’s desire was a large shower. But how?  There was very little functional space to work with. 

So we borrowed from Peter to pay for a Potty. We took a game room closet that backed up to the master bath from the great room and converted it to a toilet closet. It’s a snug fit, but still functional.

This picture is pre shower glass, which you’ll see soon… The water closet door and trim have yet to be installed. (More backorder backstory)

This rearrangment of assets freed up some space for a tub and shower, but not a lot. My sister, however, had supplied a solution: a wet room. Putting a free-standing tub INSIDE the shower area.

She pulled up pictures. She showed me pictures. She had me at pictures.

Even so, it would be tight. The soaker tub would have to nestle into into the space where the original combo had been. It would have to be short. Fifty-four inches short. I am tall. Seventy inches tall. Would I have to cramp and crimp my legs?

And Mike’s shower. He has shoulders. Wide shoulders. Wide, lineman’s shoulders. Would he have to dip and curl his shoulders?

Stress segued to satisfaction when we stepped in for a dry run. There was plenty of room for the both of us. The tub rests on a slightly slanted ledge for run off into the plenty-wide-enough shower. 

We used the same warm, white subway tiles and dark grout from the kitchen for the wet room walls and traditional hexagon tiles for floor, veined slightly to match the faux marble tile on the floor in the dry areas. The faucets throughout the bath are long-necked and matte black and remind me of old-fashioned water pumps. We surrounded it all with seamless glass, for the illusion of even more space.  

The vanity is one of my favorite parts of our entire remodel.

It’s a pickled teak piece I found at Signature Hardware. (The only purchase not made at a discount or overstock site). I wanted it. I needed it. I designed the rest of the bathroom surfaces around it. We topped it with the same creamy risotto-flecked granite as the kitchen and twin vessel sinks in white ovals to replicate the lines of the tub.

The cabinet’s pale, Scandinavian lines allowed us to continue the black and white color scheme from our kitchen. It also lent itself well to the industrial finishes I was seeing and loving so much. We placed two simple, black-framed mirrors and two strips of exposed-metal vanity lighting on the wall behind it.

After all was said and done, we turned our worst nightmare into a wide-open, light, bright, absolutely dreamy space.

Read, Write, and the Blues

In the last few weeks, I’ve pilgrimaged back to my book. Sitting down and showing up, morning after morning. Forcing my fingers along the familiar keys, like beads on a rosary, like a prayer, making my meditations, tapping out my thoughts — meager though they are — and willing the deeper ones to surface. They’ve been buried since November. Buried with my father.

It’s slow going. My mind aches from the labor of it all. Still, I’m keeping at it. Which is progress in and of itself.

I wrote 300 pages in the six months of quarantine. It was the one clear blessing that came out of Covid for me.

But then, quick as a heart attack — all was lost. Mourning after mourning. I would stare at the screen. I would falter. I would fail. And I couldn’t really say I even cared.

I wanted to. To care. To fight for the writing. To wrestle with the words. But they’d withered all when my father died.

To be a writer, Stephen King says, you must do two things: read a lot and write a lot. And since my words died with my dad, I’ve really only done the first. I’ve read. I wouldn’t say voraciously because with twin boys and a teaching schedule and a coaching husband and the settling of the will and the buying and remodeling of a new house and the selling of the old one… well, voracious was not on the menu.

But I could read in small handfuls. Snack size sittings. So I picked the heartiest fair I could find, and I assembled a charcuterie board of books and nibbled at them whenever I found a smidgeon of a second. The Goldfinch. The Year of Magical Thinking. Priest Daddy.

And I grazed. And I gained sustenance. Slowly. Steadily. And in the last few weeks, I’ve found the strength to go to the altar again and search for a sliver… a finger or toe hold of the book that was buried six feet under six months ago.

And this week, the hard work began to produce. Words, gummed up and clay-clogged though they may be, have emerged. They are far from hardy. They are sluggish, sallow sorts, most decidedly disinterred, blinking and dazed in the hot summer sun. But they are words. And I am feeling hopeful again.

And so I am back at it again this morning. Back on my back porch till my battery fades, then into my library, backed by those who’ve come before, cheering me on from my shelves of inspiration. Among them, those who helped me find the strength to mine for the gold in a year where all the magic died and so did my preacher dad: The Goldfinch, The Year of Magical Thinking, Priest Daddy.

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