Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters


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.

For Teachers, May is the Cruelest Month

T. S. Eliot said it was April, but he would be wrong. For schoolteachersn, it’s most definitely May.

Some would argue I’ve gone completely off the deep end. That May brings summertime and a stress-and-student-free stretch beneath a benevolent sun.

And some of that is true. School years are tough and summer offers a reprieve. But in teaching, we find ourselves anchored to children for a season of their lives and we become invested in them all, those who flourish and those who flounder.

We love watching the stellar students sail like racing vessels, sleek and smart, seamlessly navigating subject matter. They make teaching an easy, breezy ride, and in these instances, May is a celebration.

And we take pride in working with the ones who struggle to learn the ropes, who make waves and challenge us to batten down the hatches and get creative. When they turn the corner and make up leeway, we cheer them on, and May is a momentous and magical month.

But it’s the other students – the ones caught between the devil and the deep blue sea –the distracted, the detached, the loose canons and the ones taking on water, going under, fighting against the current, or worse, not fighting at all– these students are the ones who make May the cruelest month.

Because these kids live in troubled waters and we feel helpless against their storms. They battle bleak circumstances, hungry bellies, haunted pasts, and their futures are so heavy that many will sink. And in May we find ourselves parting ways before finding a way to get them to safety. We’ve tried. And we’ve failed.

We’ve failed them.

So we watch from the pier as the sun sets on the horizon of another year, praying that somehow, somewhere, someone will find them, reach them, get them out of the raging storms before it’s too late.

Yes, we know we can’t save them all, but the ones that we haven’t saved haunt teacher souls so very, very much in May — and forever more.

The Class of 2023

These kids.

These beautiful, incandescent kids

Floating from grad party to grad party 

In bright dresses, pale shirts,

Cowboy boots, and sneakers.

Lightning bugs in their element,

flickering among the tree-lined, sloping lawns.

Fire flies from their mouths

In arcs of energy,

Crackling while they sip soda, crunch crackers and chat

— about fashion, gaming, senior trips, and the beach —

One final, carefree summer,

While on the horizon, shimmering and soon:

Medicine. Engineering. Economics. Design.

A glittering nebulae of promise

drifting in the space between now and later.

Truly the brightest, most beautiful,

Highly-nuanced, and oh-so-noble group

of students I’ve taught in a generation.

They work hard, dream big, take no prisoners

And still play nice. They are Wunderkinds,

These mid-May lanterns

Bobbing, breezy and effortless, and

Soon to scatter the planet as stars. 

Their souls stoked with passion,

Their brains hardwired for change; but also

(thank God for the also),

Hearts breathlessly buoyed in goodness.

And in light.

An Ode to Still Life

Last night it rained, leaving

white blossom shreds clinging to dogwood leaves, blown green in an instant.

Sodden confetti clots choke gutters and grass —

the pink and white remnants of an azalea bacchanalia.

The fringe tree shivers in the cold dawn, 

tender bits dangling naked in the breeze.

Yesterday, brazen. Today, sore ashamed.

Spring has sprung and is already speeding by.

Time flies.

And so do the wasps, building paper condominiums in the downspouts, 

and the birds canoodling in the newly upholstered trees.

And the clouds skirting the sky in vanishing wisps.

Time leaps, like the squirrel getting his nut in the damp underbrush, 

or the froggie gone a courtin’ in the mud.

It sneaks like the snake shifting weight through the sod

One blink – or not, snakes don’t blink — then it’s gone.

One minute intact

Like the five pale shell casings 

In their spun-twig armory in the clutch of the sapling

just waiting to explode 

or turn from a sky blown blue as rhinestones, to a broiling gunmetal grey

The woods, dappled green as moss, spike fevers soon, destined to fall. 

Life is ever-eager, ever-ready, ever-thrusting, 

Till its not

All things

New and raw, soon fecund and fat, all grow, sting, decay and drop

But words the poets know remain

Words, the poets know, retain 

the birdsong, the blue stone, the echoes of youth and the splashing rain,

the paper houses and paper dreams,

in still-lifes — so there’s still life

Long after it’s all blown away

A list of things I love (Susan Sontag style)

Black coffee, green clover, paper white blooms.

Morning writing. Afternoon naps. 

House slippers. Cozy nooks, nubby blankets, and poetry, 

So much poetry.

Football season. Football weather.

Hot baths. Red wine. Soft beds.

And family.

Pancake breakfasts with my girls. Bedtime reading with my boys.

A place to call home,

With money enough for travel and books and to spend a wee bit on décor.

The smell of gardenias reminds me of grandma.

Cardinals in shrubbery remind me of dad.

As does lichen on tree trunks

And moss on an old stump.

Hawks riding thermals,

Bushy-tailed squirrels.

And white tailed deer,

Bounding through underbrush with leaves crackling.

Pine straw underfoot.

The sun on my shoulders

A sliver of moon

The liquid of midnight

The stories of stars

Also the pale pink of dawn,

The mist of drizzle

Dust motes dancing in golden hour currents. 

All hours. All times.

Dandelion fluff, eyelash wishes, butterfly kisses. 

Ladybugs that light on screen doors,

Lightning bugs at dusk

Praying mantis angles,

Black widow curves

The texture of blackberries,

The perfume of raspberries,

The denseness of gingerbread,

An avocado’s flesh.

Vanilla milkshakes.

Salted caramel everything.

And you. I. Love. You.

The Most Interesting Man in the World would be 81 Today


Today, in Heaven, my father turns 81. He was a mountain man from Virginia, reared in Tennessee, and most recently roosted in Georgia with a rambling tomcat, a chocolate lab, and a mare mule named Kate. A born-again bachelor for his last quarter century, he actively sought the perfect woman – one ready to submerge herself in the throes of passion, pontification, and penicillin-prone farmhouse sinks. My dad was not your average septuagenarian (he died just before his 80th birthday. He was a semi-retired Physics professor and ordained minister, and his topics of conversation swung as far-and-wide as the pendulums in his lab or his interpretations of scripture: from the seismic activity in Sri Lanka to the virtues of flip phones; from the state of the secular world to the value of a round bale of hay, he was the most interesting man in the world. And by interesting, I mean… “interesting” was his favorite word.

He maintained a cache of “interesting” topics and tales, which he then served up at mealtimes. His lead-ins of choice, “Let me tell you something interesting…” or “Did I ever tell you the interesting thing that happened…” or that old familiar stand by, “Interestingly enough, I once…” Regardless the build-up, rest assured that whatever he was about to wax poetic over, it was guaranteed to “interest” only fellow astrophysicists, Pentecostal scripture enthusiasts, or mule farmers. He lived vicariously through himself. He was the most interesting man in the world.

He was quite the proud promoter of theoretically appropriate cuss words, as well. Bitch was his all-time favorite – and always used when referencing his dog. He got his subversive jollies off using proper canine terms. He didn’t always talk dirty, but when he did, he used bitch and dam. He was the most interesting man in the world.

And speaking of proud promoter – he’d never shy away from discussing his storied career and numerous patents – from university to industry, from geophysics to astrophysics, from patents pending to patents expired, patents current and yet to be conceived – you name it, he’d done it. And been published. Google him, if you didn’t believe him. He won the lifetime achievement award – twice. He was the most interesting man in the world.


Now, he was a good-looking man, my big-talking, bitch-dropping dad. His hair, once full and dark as coal, grew pale at the temples and sparse at the crown. His joints were arthritic, and his hands spotted, but his mineral blue eyes was still piercing and his long, lanky frame was still imposing. And so was his didactic style. He’s preach till the mules came home on science, politics, and God. For him, the world was black and white, just like the scripture on the page or the hair on his head. He sat tall in the saddle of his moral high horse and his seventeen-hand roan mule. His ten-gallon hat held twenty gallons of opinions… He was the most interesting man in the world.


I’m sure it baffled him beyond all belief that he raised such a liberal-minded daughter. Well, to give him credit, he raised three. Three outspoken, independent women. I was the firstborn. Long and lanky and leaning decidedly to the left. And then my two sisters came tumbling after. Three stair-stepped, progressive daughters sired from the seed of a staunch patriarchal papa. I don’t know how he stayed in his right mind.

Growing up, we girls would hear him commiserate with fellow fellows that he was the only male – besides a neutered tom cat, so he didn’t count — in a house full of females: four women, two bitch dogs and a mare horse. His universe was plagued with Premenstrual syndrome, prone toilet seats, rogue lip gloss and tubs clogged with long, chestnut locks. We caused him endless hours of angst. And then his most fervent prayer was answered: my brother was born. The son of his right hand and heir to the throne.

As I’ve hinted, I’m nothing like my father. He was a far-right conservative; I’m a far-left liberal. He was a man of science; I’m a woman of the humanities. He loved quantum physics; I love Quantum Leap. He quoted scripture; I quote Shakespeare. Given a chance, he’d shoot doves in the field for dinner, while I’d shower them in symbolism. Me, I’m reserved; my dad, he’s share his life story with the cashier at Walmart. He had inside jokes with perfect strangers. He was the most interesting man in the world.

And while, we were polar-opposites, we’re also exactly alike. I’m stubborn and proud and opinionated and outspoken. I’m faithful and frugal and full of forgiveness. I cry easily, can consume ginormous amounts of popcorn, and am insanely proud of my family. I also got his height, his love of jalapeno peppers, and his passion for the stars.

One of my strongest, best memories involves me trailing after him as a youngster, the dusty clutter to his meteoric majesty, up into one or the other of the two Ole Miss observatories. It was pure perfection to stay up past my bedtime and view the moon and the planets with his astronomy class. I was in awe: of him, of his students, of his galaxy. (Had he hung the moon? Hell, I was fairly certain he’d strung the whole Milky Way.) By the first grade, I’d memorized the planets and their order. When he came to my elementary school to give a demonstration to my peers, I preened like Orion in October – all bright and blustery and bigger than the belt in my britches.

But by the sixth grade, my brother was born, Ole Miss was left behind, and a crazy cult eclipsed our cosmos connection. I don’t remember a lot of interaction with my father in those dark matter days, except for him lecturing and me not listening. Things grew twisty and tortured, and then tanked altogether. Only through the miraculous intervention of a Wise County wise woman, my fairy godmother and paternal grandmother, did we emerge on the other side of the darkness and find our way to a daughter-daddy do-over.

We didn’t always have the best relationship, my dad and I. Our philosophies were polar opposites, and our belief systems were equally rigid. But the older we grew the closer we grew. We met in the middle over family and food, mutual respect and love.

He was fond of acceleration spectral density, discount stores, and long walks on the beach with a metal detector. He was left-handed and right-handed. His conversations lost more people than the Bermuda triangle. He was indeed the most interesting man in the world. Happy Birthday in Heaven, Daddy.



Leading Through Grace

Last night, I watched the young man that we in Cartersville know and love take on the biggest disappointment of his young career. We witnessed the potential for victory build, saw the fight and grit and momentum swell, as play after play came through, carried them closer.

Until, the tide turned, the energy drained, fizzled to foam, and the game was lost.

But what I saw after… what I saw when our hometown guy pulled himself together to pull his teammates close… that was the true test of strength and grit and fight.

ESPN’s footage of Trevor Lawrence standing in the tunnel, grass-stained and weary, still helmeted and stinging from the loss, shaking the hands of his fellow players, hugging them and sharing love in the loss – that goes beyond any measure of strength, grit or fight. That’s pure grace.

Trevor Lawrence knows grace. He was saved by it. And he will lead others to it. That will be his legacy. That and a long line of future NFL victories.

We love you, Trevor. Thank you for sharing the beauty of grace.

one teacher’s thoughts and prayers about school safety

I woke up yesterday and prayed for a good day as I got in my van to head to school. At our moment of silence I prayed for us all to have a safe day. I have the same requests every day.
In the end, I guess it was a good day. We were all safe.
When will we stop getting these calls — real and otherwise — that send schools into lockdown?
I don’t know that my body can take it anymore. My heart either. This might’ve been my fourth or fifth. (We average one a year lately). This was the scariest by far.
At the end of it all, I thought I was fine.
I handled the code red calmly. My kids did too. We sheltered in our two available safe corners in the classroom and prayed and texted our families. As a teacher, the responsibility was intense. To keep them quiet. To keep them safe. To get them all home to their families. All 24. Crammed and vulnerable. The picture above shows the two corners we have to work with and the door right there where the threat could lie…

I terrified my daughters. They were crying on the other end of my texts (one in a Panda Express checkout line and one in a hospital clinic with her fellow attendings) because I was texting them and then I wasn’t. Because the signals jammed. I’m sure there were 1500+ kids and 80+ teachers all reaching out to loved ones because these might be our last words to them. 

But my texts weren’t going. I could see the line at the top of my phone showing them trying to fly off into the Ethernet. I wondered if there were people’s souls out there trying to do the same — students, teachers, admin… Because there were so many sirens. Police cars and ambulances. So many.

Were there students bleeding and worse in the other classrooms?
And teachers too?
I worried about my administrators up front — seemingly the first line of defense.

And then we were good.

Or okay, at least… or at least of sound body. But my mind… It was traumatized. I just didn’t know how badly. Until last night… but still couldn’t crash from my mom and coach’s wife responsibilities.
I had football players to feed and dress rehearsals to drive a son to and home chores to handle.  

But after all was done, I hit a wall. My body gave out and my mind toppled. Rage and frustration and tears and feeling like I was overreacting and then feeling like nobody else was reacting enough.

And I don’t mean law enforcement or administration or my students— they did exactly what was demanded of them. They were amazing. 

No, I mean society. I mean America. We keep seeing the same stories — the horror-filled variations — but nothing changes.
I told you yesterday what one of my students said about not living in a perfect world. But what I didn’t say was that he said, “In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need guns, but we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in America.”

Everything is different here. We have freedoms here. And that’s all well and good. But we also have bad people with guns who threaten innocent children and something’s gotta give. And it doesn’t need to be more student and teachers lives.

There are no easy answers. Everything is so hard.

But if we teachers and students can do hard things like getting up today and going to school after a hard day like yesterday (and like so many far, far harder yesterdays) this country can do hard things too.

Like come up with some solutions to fix this.

Thanksgiving is My Favorite

This week I celebrate my favorite holiday — the one that gets lost between the one that fills buckets with candy and the one that fills stockings with gifts.

Thanksgiving is my favorite because it’s not flashy or fever-pitched. It’s quiet and warm – like a favorite sweater, a cozy fire, the whisper of socked feet on hardwood.

It’s having all my kids under one roof again. It’s hugs and hot toddies, pies in the oven, turkey in the deep fryer, and a heart overflowing with gratitude. It’s being present with all my greatest gifts.

I don’t put my Christmas decorations up until afterwards. (I don’t fault you if you do – if you have a hankering for the twinkly lights and shiny ornaments and stockings all hung by the fireplace with care – I love those too.)

But as this world cranks into hustlier and bustlier gear, I try to slow it down and idle in gratitude for just a bit longer. To celebrate the leaves gathered “round the welcome mat, the feet propped ‘round the coffee table, the throws wrapped ‘round shoulders on the sectional as we sip sherbet punch and coffee and wine.

My girls will be here, and my grandsons too. And their presence is greater than any presents that will soon gather beneath the tree not-yet-up. So I’ll cuddle up with the boys, play sordid board games with the girls, and laugh myself silly while I soak in the sweetness. So much sweetness.

And then… when our hearts and bellies are full to bursting with blessings… then the Christmas Kickoff boxes come out. The ones full to bursting with holiday pajamas and handpicked ornaments and picture books and special treats.

Because then, when the leftovers are lounging in their Tupperware and the lights are low and the candles are lit, then and only then will Christmas be officially underway at the Candela household


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Post-Season Football and Family: So Hard, So Worth It

Post season: it’s the toughest season of all. If done right, it’s the equivalent of an extra half-a-season: 5 games, culminating in a trophy and rings.
Again, if done right.
And let’s face it, we want it done right.
And doing it right is far from easy, but always worth it. I have to remind myself of that.

Especially because post season is wrapped up in the most wonderful season of all – the holiday season —and that complicates matters. A lot. It adds about a gazillion stressors to players’ and coaches’ lives alike.

If all goes according to plan, family gatherings will be cut short or missed… family pictures, too. Along with basketball games, wrestling matches, Nutcracker performances, school plays, chorus concerts, bedtimes, holiday movie nights.

So many missed family times… but also, so much family time gained, too.
Because for us, football is family.
And oh, how we love this game.
It’s not the touchdowns and tackles that make our hearts sing with joy and our lungs ache with love (although it certainly doesn’t hurt)…

It’s the players and men out on that field. It’s the knowing them, the loving them, the watching them accomplish tasks they never dreamed they could accomplish.

It’s seeing them forge bonds of brotherhood. Watching them face challenges with passion and confidence. Witnessing them relying on others as much as themselves. Embracing family. Understanding that family is strength and family is love and family is a powerful, moving force.It’s never easy. But it’s also always worth it.

Nobody moves mountain alone. Nobody wins at football or at life, alone. That takes commitment and common ground, and hard work, and family.

Over the next few weeks and for the rest of their lives, these players and coaches can accomplish great things because they know and understand the importance of family. Because they are members of the best family of all: the Canes Football Family.

Come on, Fam!! Let’s do this hard thing!!

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