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Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

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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.

To Ball or not to Ball: a coach’s wife’s heartfelt ranking on risk and reward

I am a huge football fan, and we are a huge football family. From my high school ball-coaching husband and pee wee player sons, to my grown daughters (one a Georgia Bulldog, the other a Tennessee Volunteer), we live for Friday nights under the lights and Saturdays out in the sun. But I have to tell you, all this talk of opening up summer practice has me torn.

Right now, my husband’s after-school profession and my family’s biggest passion and beloved pastime is under some serious scrutiny as the Powers-that-Be determine what, when, how (and even whether) to get the preseason conditioning and practices under way.

My heart is so torn. I know the risks and I know the rewards.

The risks can be great. My daughter is a doctor out in Dallas. The most-serious cases in all of North Texas are treated in a COVID-unit in her hospital. She tells me how the virus ravages patients, both with preexisting conditions and without. She knows how impossible it is to predict whose body can handle a coronavirus attack and whose can’t.

But I also know the risk for high school football players is minimal. Only 2% of confirmed COVID-19 cases are children, and of those, only 6% or so are hospitalized. Even with the growing awareness of the dangerous Pediatric Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome that’s been in the news lately, the risk to our players is incredibly small.

So odds are, our boys can huddle up, knock helmets, throw passes, and swap sweat and oxygen without adverse consequences. So what happens on the practice field isn’t what worries me.

No, I am far more worried about what happens in the weight room.

These boys lift A LOT of weight. They huff and puff and pump themselves up before pressing ginormous poundage. They use spotters. And those spotters stand directly behind and/or above the weightlifters’ faces. They exhale and inhale each other’s air. Six-foot social distancing is impossible. Ingestion of respiration droplets is inescapable.

And while the boys themselves are probably going to be just fine, they ARE potential carriers who can share the virus at home with parents and grandparents — some with compromised immune systems, some without. (And again, that doesn’t necessarily predict relative safety or risk.)

Also, a recent study out of South Korea reveals over 1000 COVID cases there were linked to fitness classes, at an attack rate of 26.3%. The exhaled breath of athletes under physical exertion causes more dense transmission of isolated droplets. That, paired with unpredictable air flow, increases the contagion factor dramatically. And facemasks during heavy exercise can cause dizziness and fainting. So… not ideal.

The air in the field house weight room will be steamy and full of exhaled air, recirculating through a multitude of lungs, coaches’ included. And that is what worries me on a selfish and personal level. Coaches fall within age ranges far more susceptible to the virus. And those coaches can likewise inadvertently carry the virus home to wives and family members who may be susceptible.

Yes, there are definite variables and risks involved in starting football back up for the summer. But then, I also understand there are rewards.

The rewards for these coaches and their players are tremendous. Because football is so much more than just a game. It is a commitment and it is a calling, but most importantly, it is a family. And that family has a legacy — a legacy left by hometown heroes to current family members, who will carry and leave that legacy for future generations to come.

The tradition of football is strong: the heart, the commitment, the discipline, the family, the legacy.. these are the rewards. And to miss a season would be a tragedy. But then, so would unnecessary deaths or debilitating lifelong conditions for players, coaches, families, and fans.

I guess there are risks and rewards to be considered with every decision that comes with life. And for this wife of a football coach, teacher of football players, and mother of a physician daughter, the risks and rewards are weighing heavy on my heart. I love my family. I love my football. I love my football family.

For the time being, I’ll wait on the Powers-that-Be. And depending on what they decide, my family and football families around the nation will need to make weighty decisions of our own. May God grant us wisdom as we move into this new season of a pandemic preseason.

(And may He also guide medical science to wipe this virus from the face of the earth so that the only face-masks we have to worry about are of the 15-yard penalty variety.)

My Nature is to Prune and Grow, Bloom and Let Go

God grant me the serenity to stay true to my nature and out of the fray. Help me to avoid getting caught in the snarling hailstorms of blustering blowhards.

I’ve been avoiding a lot of news and newsfeeds lately. I’m careful what I watch, who I follow, where I click. There’s too much negativity out in the world. I prefer fresh air, like-minded friends, and diversionary television.

So I take early morning strolls, comment on babies and good books, and watch Peaky Blinders and Dateline — shows where I can revel in my violent hidden tendencies with a giant bowl of popcorn and couple glasses of wine.

My morning walks are my salvation. They center my soul and keep me from losing my shit. I focus on the glory of God’s nature, not the gall of the human variety. There’s goldenrods and Queen Anne’s lace in the empty lots, and often deer — ears and hooves high and tremulous — crossing the stretch of asphalt round the back curve. There’s even a fat butterscotch cat who thinks he’s a lion. He leans into the hillside, stalking me, then bolts out in a daring display of puff and whisker. And then there’s the birds. So many birds. Starlings, maybe, or finches and wrens, weaving good morning ribbons in the air above me, the birdsong and banter restoring poetry and peace.

Nature makes it so much easier to forget the anxiety, stress, and claustrophobia I feel inside my world. Forget the unchecked egos, bitter orange lies, animosity and entitlement I see outside my world — inside television and computer screens. Forget the politicians heaving insults like planks from their podiums at press conferences. Forget the friends sliding insults like splinters beneath their fingers on keyboards. All aiming to injure. To maim. To show they’re better than the other person.

But sticking with my nature makes it easier to handle. Easier to sidestep the bile and settle the rancor stirred up in my soul. Stay true to my nature. I was born a pacifist, a lover, a nurturer. Give me calm, give me quiet, give me family. Give me the mornings with the mist on the river and a sliver of gold on the horizon and I will wait for the sun to climb. I will search for goodness and light.

But I can defend myself if needed. I’ve done it before, I can do it again. If your aim is to dismantle joy, if your aim is disrupt peace and spread poison, I will take action.

I won’t scald you like the midday sun. That’s not my nature. No, in due course, I will slice you away like the poisonous deadwood and self-serving fungus you are. You will not poison me or mine. You will simply find yourself detached — from my heart and my country.

That is my nature — my violent hidden tendencies when push comes to shove. I hack off dangerous, parasitic infections and move forward.

As I sit here on my porch, fresh from my walk, my pruning sheers in hand, a crow caws somewhere off in its own dark wood. It’s what crows do. It’s their nature and they can’t change. The sky layers itself in whisper-gray felt, harbinger of the coming storm.

Follow your nature, and I’ll follow mine. Some things — and people — must be severed and left where they fall.

this virus is a monster and the monster is a zombie

My students’ final assignment for the year was to write a monster/hero essay. They were to personify coronavirus, identify its monstrous traits and then identify the heroes fighting against it. It was a persuasive, creative essay and they did a wonderful job. Now, after witnessing some monstrous behavior last night, I’ve decided to add my own take on this monster/hero assignment.

COVID-19 is indeed a monster. It leaves patients dead on gurneys in hospitals across the world, but it’s also leaving friendships dead on computer screens in houses around the world. There’s a plague’s worth of negativity out there, and the negative cases of coronavirus infection are having far greater death tolls than the confirmed positive ones.

COVID-19 is a monster. And the monster is a zombie, consuming rational people’s brains, turning them into growling, angry predators on attack.

I have been fortunate enough to not have a family member or close friend infected with the physical manifestation of COVID19. But this new strain — this tertiary infection, attacking not lungs or kidneys or circulatory systems, but people’s right minds — that’s another story. It’s even more contagious. Droplets of venom left hanging in cyberspace just waiting to infect new hosts. I’ve born witness to multiple clumsy, violent attacks in recent weeks.

Friendships left in decayed, rotten states.

Something’s gotta give. Don’t fight with a zombie. Don’t let this negative strain infect you too. Steer clear. Stay safe. Be a hero.

Pink Flamingo Lawn Party

In my almost twenty years of teaching, I’ve acquired a small posse of pink flamingos — although some might argue that’s an understatement. Either way, suffice it to say, I’ve got a few flocking flamingos.

My collection began serendipitously, like all truly great collections do. I was in my first year of teaching, and while driving to work, I would pause at a stop sign in the dip of a hill on a back country road. And there, on a corner lot of the four-way, sat a yellow clapboard house with white trim. Average enough. But what this house had like no other house I’d ever seen before was a passel of pink flamingos throwing a party.

Shit you not.

Now this was way before smart phones with cameras, but gosh, I wish I’d had one. Still, picture it if you will…

Ten or twelve pink plastic flamingos arranged in an artistic display of garden-party fun. Some wore hats, some wore beads. There was one in a Hawaiian shirt, another in a frothy green boa. There were umbrella drinks staked in front of them, and they were clustered in groups, mixing and flamingling. A couple were even making out in the back (which made for a whole lotta necking). It was a technicolor tableau of tacky plastic yard art.

The first time I saw them, I stopped the car, enthralled. I couldn’t wait to get to school and tell my kids about them.

Then, when the following Monday rolled around — Heavens to Birdsy, there was a new scene arranged! A fishing expedition this time, complete with rods and reels and a couple canoes. The flamingos wore miniature vests and fishermen hats. There was a cooler of beer on a bench and a trawl line with silver plastic fish hanging off the back.

I knew flamingos ate fish, but with such skill! such accoutrement!

Every Monday of that school year, a new tableau was unveiled, leaving me smiling ear to ear. There were barbecues, pool parties, trick or treat costumes, even a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer and a red-foam clown-nosed Rudolf in the lead. I don’t think Christmas as a kid ever got me as excited as those Monday mornings my first year teaching.

My students were as obsessed as I was and never failed to ask about the flamingos’ latest exploits. The last week of school, as my seventh-graders wrapped up their year, they also wrapped up flamingos in tissue paper and gave them to me as gifts. Book marks, magnets and tchotchkes and homemade art.

In nearly twenty years, my desk and bookshelf behind it have become littered with flamingo fare, which eventually spilled over into my home and my friends and family. I’ve been gifted with stuffed ones, resin ones, painted ones, glow-in-the-dark ones. I’ve got bags and hats and earrings and even a gaudaciously-sparkly Vegas-style bracelet my sister discovered for me. In Vegas.

My husband found me a phone cover, my girls gifted me an apron. My mother got me kitchen towels, friends give me coasters and cups, throw pillows and blankets. An artist friend painted some on canvas and wind chimes. Kids get them for me as ornaments every Christmas.

For my fiftieth birthday, Mike surprised me with a lawn-full of the yard birds wishing me the happiest of “Flocking Birthdays.” After that, I obtained a pair of classic ones perched on metal sticks in pots for my deck — the kind your great Aunt Pearline had grazing in her blue hydrangeas in front of her trailer in Euharlee in the 70s. Heck, she still has them to this day. And now, so do I. Plus a zombie skeleton one just for Halloween.

That distant flamingo house party at the four-way stop fizzled out long, long ago, but it started a trend. A collection. An obsession.

I for-sure wouldn’t say my collection’s complete. I mean, sure…

I’ve got tumblers and coasters aplenty. I’ve got whirligigs, wind chimes galore. You want flamingo shirts? Not quite twenty. But who cares? No big deal, I want more…

I want to do what those people did. I want to make, want to make some parties, put all my birds out on display, kick up their bills…

Out where you walk, out where you run, out where you’ll drive by them just for fun,

… partying free, please let them be part of your world.

Corny, I know… but still. All those years ago, in perhaps my hardest teaching year of all, with seventh-grade students battling hormones and each other on the daily — flamingos brought me (and them) great joy.

And now, in the midst of all this coronavirus craziness, with all of us battling depression and each other, why not plant a little pink flamingo joy on a patch of lawn at our own pale yellow house?

So to my husband, if you’re reading this — I may have just ordered a 50-pack of powder pink flamingos on Amazon. We’re officially flocked.

And neighbors — please don’t call the cops or the HOA on me. As far as I’ve heard, there’s no social distancing restrictions on pink plastic yard art.

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