I experienced my first school lockdown today. A real one. Not a drill. The adrenaline surge has left me in a puddle of exhaustion.
The announcement came in the middle of sixth period, just after final lunch had been released. We were in journalism class in the computer lab when we heard, “Code Red.”
Students looked up, eyes wide. “Is this real?” they asked.
We had always been warned if there was a drill about to take place. “Turn off your monitors and get in the corner,” I said.
And they did. Twenty-one kids, sitting knees to chest, huddling under a giant window, blinds closed above them, cinder block walls at their back, silent. And there we sat in the dark. Feeling unbelievably vulnerable.
It was the only place out of view from the door — a door with a window and no blinds, no posters, no covering whatsoever.
From our corner, I looked around… noticed backpacks. Took a risk and stepped into the open to slide them out of view. If somebody saw them through that door window, they would know we were there. I contemplated how best to upend tables and block that door… and its bare, vertical window. A window a full-sized person could walk straight through.
Did I mention we felt vulnerable?
But we also felt prepared. We knew what to do. We’d had dry runs before. So we did it.
They stayed calm. I stayed calm.
But of course, my mind flew to the anniversaries of recent history. Visions surged in time with my pulse.
Bloody students tumbling out windows at Columbine.
Twisted concrete and metal and a day care in rubble in Oklahoma City.
A religious zealout, a dusty compound, the dense smoke of Waco.
An April birthday as a target date. Hitler. And unhappily my grandmother’s.
So I never forget.
Yes, I was more than a little terrified. We heard helicopters. Administrators with radios. Each other’s heartbeats.
Until our principal came on and said we would remain in a soft lockdown, and that we should resume teaching.
My kids went silently back to their desks. No one was allowed to leave. There would be no class change. No check outs. No work-release.
For approximately an hour, we sheltered in place. Until we received an all-clear.
I’m mush. I’m exhausted. I’m completely spent.
My students, though — they went right back to their daily lives. They went right back to laughing and completing study guides and making weekend plans. To being kids.
And I’m glad. I’m glad they don’t truly understand the weight of the hostile world that is riding roughshod on my adult heart right now. I’m glad they are still young and ignorant enough to be young and ignorant.
Reality can come later for them. Like it couldn’t for Columbine’s kids. Like it couldn’t for Newtown’s kids. Like it couldn’t for Parkland’s. Like it couldn’t for so many, many, many other kids. Twenty years’ worth of senseless tragedies. Twenty years’ worth of lives and innocence. Lost.
Our students are so, so fortunate to remain young and ignorant. And alive.
As I’ve been combing my recipes searching for something extra special to fix this weekend — just because — I’ve run across certain dishes that remind me of three extraordinary women in my life… women whose love and sacrifice have made me who I am today.
These women creatively acquired me through the bonds of blood and grit and good, old-fashioned love. These women took me in and made me their own. They taught me to know my potential and to believe in it. They taught me that women are strong. That women are powerful. That women are capable. They taught me that women have a voice and that we should use it. These women are my aunts — my three graces, my three fates, my three wise women. And the recipes that remind me of them are as deeply rich and provocative and inspirational as my aunts themselves…
First, there’s my Aunt Jan and her “Mrs. Norris’ Strawberry Pie.” It’s the perfect blend of glistening, syrup-soaked berries steeped in puddles of juice under clouds of whipped cream.
I have no idea who Mrs. Norris is, but I’m here to tell you that this pie is my Aunt Jan in a pastry shell. It perfectly parallels her zany, vibrant nature. She’s sweet and tart and sparkling with pizzazz. She’s never met a stranger and she’s never been ignored.
She taught me to make this pie during what I call “The Summer of Grandma” – a two-month stint during which my cousins and Jan and I built pie after pie in a humid, east Tennessee kitchen trying anything and everything to get my grandmother to eat. She was slipping away from us, but she still had a hankering for sweetness.
And so we built pies. Pecan pie. And Chocolate pie. And Lemon Meringue — so high and coiffed that women in Texas could likely haul pictures to their hairdressers as inspiration. And finally, Mrs. Norris’ Strawberry Pie – the Mother Superior of pies – just like Jan, our family matriarch after my grandmother passed away.
The baton was passed, and Jan became our pulse and our promise. She’s a talker and she’s a doer. If you want it coordinated and you want it done, call Jan. And she’s a lover. When she hugs you, you find yourself wrapped in clouds of pillow-y bosoms, which she inherited from my grandma (and which, I might add, skipped me in the gene pool). And you find yourself believing in rainbows and unicorns and holy grails.
Because Jan makes the impossible possible. She is quick-witted and confident, and she’s always been my biggest cheerleader. She pushed me and pulled me and pep-talked me into going back to school. Through her, I learned to trust in myself and the God-given gifts that she assured me I had and that I needed to hone.
Without Jan, I never would have trusted my mind or my voice. She taught me that what I think and feel matters. She pushed me to tell it like I see it and to hold strong to my principles. She made the impossible possible in me.
Now, Jan’s twin sister Ann isn’t much of a baker. Instead, she sticks to main dishes, and she’s most famous for her tenderloins stuffed with apples and pecans and fragrant herbs – a savory, nourishing dish indicative of her steady, nurturing soul.
Ann and I have some sort of kindred connection. I felt it from the first time we ever sat down and REALLY talked – on my grandmother’s front steps after I was deposited there by a distant father in a diesel Isuzu and a feverish faith. Ann and I played with kittens and plotted the trajectory of my life on those semicircle steps beneath the crab-apple stone siding and cedar shingles of my grandmother’s house.
Ann embodies most closely who I truly am: intuitive and observant, reserved and resilient, capable and calm. Her eyes are still water on stone, are snow clouds at dusk – and when they meet mine, they see things. Things hidden in shame or for protection.
But with Ann, every trembling, buried burden or bruise is safe. It is better than safe – it is healed. Because she has a ministering nature that soothes and mends. It was her job. Literally. She is a retired ER doc, and I promise you, she did more than heal bodies in her years of service. She calmed hearts and settled souls – mine included. I wouldn’t be where I am today, without her.
And finally, there’s Pat, Ann’s wife, and my aunt by marriage. Pat is our family’s Tupelo honey. Her voice is southern nectar and so is her love. She never has a negative word to say to or about anyone. She sweetens the lives of all of us by spreading her joy and her sweet, sanguine good sense. Any recipe with honey, honey bun to hotty toddy, reminds me of my beloved Pat. Lover of animals and humanitarian causes alike, she is generosity and goodness with a smile carved from moonstone and a heart made of gold.
My fondest memory of Pat is when several of us piled into a car to take a little trek over the mountains and through the woods– in a snow storm– to visit the Biltmore House. The roads grew slushy and slippery, and Pat’s mother, who was ailing at the time, grew car sick.
When we pulled to the side (more like slid to the side) of the interstate, her sweet, ailing mama proceeded to lose her dinner, right along with her upper teeth. Pat sweetly swiveled her back into the backseat and then paddled through drifts of snowy vomit in search of the delinquent dentures.
That is Pat: unflappable, ever capable, and always willing to go the extra mile for family. She is as warm and soothing as Tupelo honey. Her love glows deep and rich, and she moths us all to hearth and home with her warmth. She has always encouraged me to dream big and to reach high, but to never lose touch with my roots – because family feeds the soul.
And thanks to my family — and particularly my three incomparable and beautiful aunts — my heart is full to bursting and my cup runneth over.
Rituals and routines. Teachers understand that these two mainstays set expectations for, and an atmosphere of, success in the classroom.
But as everyday folks, we tend to forget the importance of rituals and routines to relationship success, both in parenthood and partnership.
Our family found ourselves resorting to them out of necessity. When dealing with twin boys and adult daughters in separate cities, we kind of had to, to keep us all connected and emotionally healthy.
Our family keeps and celebrates daily, weekly, and yearly rituals and routines. I’ll start with our daily wake up ones…
Mike and I, we get up early — way too early for mere mortals. But we’re twin parents, so that makes us… EXHAUSTED.
Our alarm sounds at 5:20 AM every weekday. Now, Mike throws his exotic, caramel-macchiato, model good looks together in a matter of minutes. Me, it takes me longer to polish my less-than-model-looks. So while I put on my face, Mike packs our lunches.
Sometimes he brings me coffee, strong and black like my eyebrow hairs — which I must pluck every morning lest they obstruct my line-of-vision. But husband-delivered coffee is not quite a regular morning ritual these days because… well, twins.
The boys didn’t sleep for the first 16 months of their lives, and Mike and I lost a lot of brain cells. Bucket-loads of the little gray things. So now it takes us aeons to do the daily grind, which means the coffee grinds often wait till I wander into the kitchen on my own. But sometimes coffee appears at my vanity while I’m tweezing. And it’s the sweetest surprise.
What Mike does do every day, though, is kiss me good morning and good night. Without fail. And tell me he loves me in a thousand different ways, from words, to actions, to emojis, to even sweet little inspirational notes written on my peanut butter sandwich baggie every single day. Without fail.
But back to our morning routines… every day at 6:30, before leaving the house, both of us are responsible for waking one boy.
Mike is on Parker duty, and my big, burly, teddy-bear-of-a-half-Asian-man climbs into bed with our small, burly, teddy-bear-of-a-quarter-Asian-son and gently nudges him toward daylight — which is no easy task. There’s a reason the sign over Parker’s bed says, “Don’t Wake the Bear.”
Me, I get the easier boy. Tate,’s nickname is Bug, and he crawls into my arms and snuggles into my neck like a little cocooned caterpillar. But then, after about two minutes, he unfurls his shine and rises to meet the day. Easy peasy.
While our morning rituals are essential, our nighttime rituals are essentially sacred.
At dinnertime, the boys often FaceTime their big sisters, a tried-and-true way to keep the love and connection alive long distance.
The girls call and ask about preK or gymnastics, or the boys chat up Bentley and Beau and Bray, their nephews and niece. When you’re a postmodern family with miles and generations between your kiddos — and mere months between your sons and grandsons — you make it work through both technology and trips. And since trips are generally reserved for school holidays, FaceTime, it is.
We are also a multigenerational family who believes strongly in the power of books. (What kind of English teacher would I be if we weren’t?) I read with my girls when they were little — first picture books, then chapter books, then young adult novels — and I’m following the same recipe for success with the boys.
Story time is practically the Candela version of communion, where hugs and cuddles are passed around like daily bread. Where word is made flesh to dwell among us through fairy tales and imagination.
Sometimes it’s Ginny Goblin, sometimes Dr. Seuss, sometimes Marlon Bundo. The books vary, but the ritual rarely does. Daddy reads the stories — since sometimes during football season, those last 30 minutes of the boys’ day is the only time he truly shares with them. And mommy disperses the allergy meds like wine and wafers. Our day is cleansed, decongested, and consecrated through story time.
Which brings me to the sweetest, quietest part of any day: tucking the boys in. The bedtime routines are beyond sacred. They replenish us, which is critical during this whole “the-days-are-long-but-the-years-are-short” twin reality of ours. Because the days ARE so long. So exhausting. But bedtimes, they sustain us.
Mike and I share distinctly different goodnight routines with our boys.
Mike gets quality time with the boys in the bathroom — him sitting tub-side while they hold court on the throne. And hold court, they do, chatting him up about friends, fire trucks, phonics reviews… you name it, he hears it.
And me, I get cuddles and kisses and slow-dancing in the nightlight-illuminated darkness to Jewel lullabies from my iPhone, usually “Forever and a Day.” If you don’t know it, YouTube it. It’s poetic perfection.
Beyond our daily routines, we also have weekly ones: Wednesdays are reserved for gymnastics practice, Friday nights are for Chick fil-A (and football in the fall), and Sunday afternoons are for family baking binges.
And then there’s the holiday rituals: Christmas is for hand-picked, personal ornaments and look-alike jammies for all of the kids, New Year’s is for soul food and Seoul food (southern and Korean fusion at its finest), and July 4th is for fireworks in Dallas.
My family loves itself some rituals and routines.
It’s our way of controlling the chaos. Because Lord knows, twin preschoolers at fifty-something definitely lends itself to chaos. And so does teaching 180-plus high school students essay writing. And being married to a football coach in a successful football program. And having adult daughters living time-zones and lifestyles apart.
Rituals and routines — our family found ourselves resorting to them pretty much out of necessity. They brought this mama and her kin some semblance of connectivity and calm. And in a world full of very little connectivity and calm, I needed it. Desperately.
But now, I think we no longer resort to rituals and routine.
Was it the bible or the bard who said there’s nothing new under the sun? Either way, it’s gospel truth. Beautifully original is impossible. Especially living in today’s world. The world of social media, where I realize every day that even if I think I’ve gone and done something worthwhile — baked something bodacious and beautiful; written something poetically profound; experienced some sort of mommy enlightenment – I’m knocked back down to my rickety reality with a single swipe of my Instagram. I’m barely hanging on, and I definitely can’t compete.
Take, for example, Joanna Gaines’ perfectly appointed farm house sink, tiny bean sprouts perched prettily all in a row on the ledge behind it. Planted by her daughter. My girls, they planted seedlings once. They mildewed and drowned in their own Dixie cups. The seedlings. Not my daughters. I did manage to keep them alive. So there’s that. And they are currently beautiful and independent and flourishing, even if their little bean sprouts never made it. So, yeah — there’s that.
In another swipe, I spy with my little eye…Matthew Stafford’s lake house, complete with soaring eagle and cute little size zero cheerleader wife. A wife who is two months (nay not so much, not two) months postpartum with twins. Twins. Me, I have twins. And a lake in my backyard — a muddy, shitty one (they’re dredging our septic tank). And I am my coaching husband’s greatest cheerleader… But as far as being a size zero… try multiplying that times … wait, it doesn’t work that way. Or… YES, yes it does. Do that! And then, lookie there: I AM a size zero cheerleader wife who’s three years (yea, quite so much, quite three) YEARS postpartum with twins. And with a (muddy, shitty) backyard lake. No eagle, though. Although we do have crows nesting in our gas-powered grill. So there’s that.
And then I swipe again, straight into an Anne Lamott essay or a Mary Oliver poem. And holy shit. They are profound and powerful and absolutely perfect. And I am far from that. And so are my words. Some days I think I am profound and powerful and perfect. I think I’ve written something I can feel good about. But then I see Anne Lamott on my newsfeed, her careening pinball prose depicting the messiness of life and the tender mercies we can find within all that mess…
It reminds me, believe it or not, of the teratoma my eldest daughter removed a few weeks back – a tumor full of tissue and organ components, and even teeth and hair. The excision of something profoundly messy and twisted and ugly – and the healing that came after. That’s how Annie Lamott writes. I want to write like that. I want to excise teratomas. I want to tackle the hairy and the messy, the stuff with the teeth and the brains. But I don’t know that I’m skilled enough to do that.
So I scroll some more. And there I see Mary Oliver’s handiwork. And I realize her poems are the exact opposite of Annie Lamott’s prose –they are quiet and they are calculated. They are hushed. But then again, they are exactly the same, too. Because beneath her pen, nature’s truths are untangled, separated — carefully and deftly — into thin slices of ink and placed under a microscope. Where she leaves them for me to analyze, to interpret, to explore. Her teratomas are cut down to size. But they’re still full of the messy stuff. And the hairy stuff with teeth. They bubble and swim beneath the scrutiny.
She has a poem called “Sometimes.” It is beautiful. And still. And liquid. And hairy and wet and tangled. And one of the stanzas gives me hope. Helps cure my cancerous self-doubt.
Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.
No, it’s NOT possible to be original. Not in anything. Not in motherhood, not in life, not in writing… not even in teratoma surgery. Those suckers may be weird, but they aren’t that uncommon.
No you can’t be original. But you can be authentic. You can be true to yourself. It’s true, I’m no Fixer Upper goddess, or a size zero NFL wife with twin daughters. Nor am I a progressive and unorthodox, recovering addict writer with self-deprecating humor and dreadlocks. Or a hushed and reverent nature poet with a Pulitzer Prize in my back pocket.
But I am me. I am Heather Candela — décor-loving, size 8 writer and teacher and coach’s wife with twin sons and adult daughters. And I WILL untangle the complexities of life in my writing. I will tackle the beautiful and the shiny and silver, but I will also tackle the hairy, the stuff with teeth and brains. I will excise teratomas. At least the metaphorical ones. I’ll leave the real ones to my daughter.
I will pay attention. Be astonished. And tell about it.
I’m no wine connoisseur. I’m certainly no wine snob. When I crack open a bottle of wine, I’m lucky if it costs more than $12.99 and isn’t a weekly special on the Publix end cap. I currently have a cheap fascination with blends. Give me an Apothic Dark or Crush, or — if I’m really feeling sexy and want to walk on the wild side — an Inferno, and I’m good to go. I don’t have the salary or the nose for much else. Plus, I tend to judge wine by its cover. I’m a sucker for a silly, satiric, or twisted label.
I do have elitist tendencies, though, when it comes to books. I freely admit it. I am a book snob.
I would never judge a book by its cover – not even the blurbs on the back. I trust only the complexities of the prose. I crack open a spine and inspect the contents – something that will land you in jail at the wine aisles of Ingles or a Kroger, but is perfectly acceptable in a book store or library. So I crack it open, and I sip. Complexities of the grape – aromas, structure, tannins — mean nothing to me. But complexities of the prose – irony, structure, tone – those speak volumes to me.
There’s nothing like a nice, classic tome, creamy and dense with a velvety finish. And there’s so much variety! The rustic flavor of a Faulkner, the sharp-edged opulence of a Wilde. A tart, zesty Austen, cutting and fresh with ample high notes; or a seedy Flannery O’Connor, with ample grit and texture and intellectually satisfying end.
I don’t always go for what would be considered the high-end variety. I have my equivalent of a table wine (the sort that’s not pretentious and still has grip and plenty of body — or bodies as the case may be…): a nice murder mystery — manor house or hard boiled, either will do in a pinch. Mysteries are my guilty pleasure.
Yes, I am a book snob, but I would never judge you or anyone else on their choices. People who read books must stick together. Because, let’s face it, we are a dying breed.
I may wax poetic for days about the oily, oaked innards or the rich, buttery finish of a fine piece of fiction. But I also will listen to you go on and on about your selection, as well. You see, no matter the year the book was bottled or the soil from which it sprung, books don’t cost you an arm and a leg (or a liver) – unless you buy in quantity – case upon case in an addiction- spun haze like I tend to do. They are far cheaper than good wine and they are ALWAYS good for you, especially in large quantities…
Give me a book store – preferably a nice, independently owned, aesthetically pleasing shop like Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi or a used one in the crook and cranny of a downtown street in Chattanooga, and I’ll wind up pleasantly pickled in prose. Alas, my hometown has neither. If I had the money and the time — and the ability to not cling Gollum-style to every novel I purchase — I would open one up. But I have this unhealthy weakness for words. I would readily spend my life savings on hard covers and literary paperbacks, just ask my husband.
I know that lending libraries are a far cheaper way to get my fix, but I prefer to maintain my own personal library the way some folks maintain their wine cellars. I’ve got shelves upon shelves lining dusky interior walls, free from damaging light and moisture and full to the brim with tantalizing, well-seasoned works. Each time I take one down, blowing the dust off its jacket with gusto, it is with tremors of lusty anticipation.
Addictions run in families. It is documented fact. And I’ve been honing the boys’ palettes since they were born. The girls are already hearty addicts…. Lately, my eldest daughter has even become my supplier. (Is it bad that I passed my habit on to my firstborn and now she contributes readily to both our dependencies?) In the last year, she has pointed me toward two of my most recent and favorite finds: the 700-plus page epic, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, and the novella-length, The Vegetarian by Han Kang. I highly recommend them to anyone who loves crisp, dry prose with an undercurrent of darkness and debauchery. There’s plenty of texture and intensity, with smooth finishes that range from sweet to tart to bitter. Both present honest, no-nonsense portraits of the cruel and beautiful nature of life.
I have refined taste in literature, it’s true. I stock my shelves with rich, bold, slightly hedonistic pairings that never disappoint: Wolfe & Conrad, Morrison & Atwood, Garcia-Marquez and Katherine Dunn. And unlike fine wines, fine literature — or popular fiction, whatever your taste may be — can be uncorked over and over and over again. So whether you’re into James Patterson or James Joyce, raise a cheap glass of wine to good books everywhere:
Coal towns and college towns and asphalt-paved-metropolis towns: they’ve all been my hometown at one point or another in my life. I’ve run through sprinklers in them all. I’ve collected fireflies and friendships in them all.
But Cartersville, she’s special. She’s the town I raised my girls in. She’s the town I’m raising my boys in.
She’s more than just a hometown. She’s a bodacious grand dame, with personality for days.
She’s got train tracks whipstitched across her landscape.
She’s got deep front porches and old oak trees, wax leaf magnolias and homespun hospitality.
She’s got a bridge straddling a waistband full of historic buildings and an underbelly freckled in trendy boutiques.
She’s got bakeries, bistros and bars.
Her skirts are a checkered hodgepodge of farmland and fields: soy beans and corn fields, cotton and sunflower, and don’t forget the baseball and football fields. She has all the fields.
A river runs through her, mountains ruffle her petticoats, and she’s got steeples sitting way up firm and high.
I love her so much. And I’m not the only one. New residents spill in from other cities, from other states, drawn to her charisma and charm. Growth is every which way you look…
Neighborhoods are blooming in former cow pastures and sod farms. School systems overflow their classrooms. Streets burst at their white-lined, yellow-dotted seams. True to her river roots, she collects rich new sediment daily.
Yes, she’s a big-boned, bodacious grand dame grown a bit blowsy in the infrastructure department, but oh, that personality!
She is my absolute favorite place. But she’s more than that. This little place… she’s my Home Place.
Home Place — a term used by my grandmother when speaking fondly of her childhood home in Appalachia — a place full of warmth and nostalgia, mists and mountains, kith and kin.
Whether a physical home or home town, the term seemed to be interchangeable for her. And since I never had a static childhood house or hometown of my own (my papa was a rolling stone), I’ve adopted Cartersville as my Home Place.
Like I had any choice in the matter… she’s magnetic. She pulled me in long ago and held me tight, anchoring my roots deep inside her silty soil. Her salt-of-the-earth people with their hearty smiles and ready hugs made me one of their own and never looked back. And neither did I.
Her people became my people.
And so did her transplants.
I owe the love of my life to an exotic hybrid set down within her fields of the carefully maintained, gridiron variety.
And I owe my Boy Mom status to a full season of careful and precise tending inside her field houses (I feel the need to clarify here… I’m talking painful IVF injections at halftime every Friday night for an entire fall, just so there’s no confusion :b)
Yes, this place is my home place.
And no matter how far and wide I wander, when I round the top of that hill on East Main, and that steepled skyline swings into view, I get a peaceful easy feeling.
I am back at my Home Place. And she is the best place I know.
This year, the doubters were many, the believers, few.
This year, our iconic program was supposed to find itself in transition. It was supposed to be our year to regroup and rebuild.
This year, while our five-star phenom would be launching his meteoric rise into the ranks of college football legends, our home team would just have to relegate itself to mediocrity…
That was the talk. Those were the predictions.
And thank Heaven, the football prophets only got it half right.
Trevor has done it. Through skill, dedication, humility and faith, he has taken his rightful place in the football firmament. He is an inspiration and absolutely worthy of celebrating, this hometown hero who cut his teeth on our home team’s gridiron. Trevor has done it, and we couldn’t be prouder!
And then there are our current Canes. They have done it, too! And we couldn’t be prouder of the football team everybody discounted. The feisty little engine that could, full of pluck and conviction, that nobody saw. That nobody had faith in.
No, the nobodies didn’t… but the Somebodies did. The Somebodies saw. The Somebodies had faith.
Those Somebodies are the young players, full of scrap and vinegar, iron and might, willing to put it all on the scrimmage line and battle for their vision.
They saw. They had the faith. Faith enough to run roughshod over the limits others tried to put on them. And they answered the naysayers and killjoys with action, not words:
With laser beams, pancake blocks, stiff arms, and jukes. With forced fumbles, pick sixes, blitzes, and sacks. With return yards and field position, field goals and PATs.
And the Somebodies are the coaches, full of wisdom and know-how, discipline and drive, who put their minds on overdrive and their loyalty into overtime for their vision.
They saw. They had the faith. Faith enough to scheme circles around the limits others tried to put on them, answering the naysayers and killjoys with actions, not words:
With spread formations, read options, slant routs, and screens. With zones, crossers, fakes, pulls, and grind-it-out ball. With run defense, pass defense, zone defense too (Good Heavens, this DEFENSE!)
And those Somebodies are the coaches' families, full of passion for the game, love for their coach, and grit enough to handle the grind of daily life without a huge member of the family at home for a huge portion of the year -- all for the vision. They saw. They had the faith.
Faith enough to balance the insanity that is the football wife’s way of life far beyond the traditional limits most mortals could endure, answering the naysayers and killjoys with actions, not words:
With hurry-up dinners, game-time decisions, some stiff arms and jukes. With bath zones and screen zones and quick bedtime reads. With run defense, pass defense, zone defense, too. (Good Heavens, the DEFENSE!)
And those Somebodies are the players' families, full of fire for their sons and their abilities, and full of trust in their sons' coaches and their abilities. They saw. They had faith, answering naysayers and killjoys with actions, not words.
With transportation to and from practices and games. With reinforcement, not doubt, about play calls and techniques. With love and encouragement to all members of the team.
These are the bodies — the Somebodies — who saw, who believed, who had the faith to find the magic to make the miracles of this season thus far.
And now we have one more hurdle to overcome, one more limit to surpass — and however many naysayers to prove wrong — through ACTIONS.
Let’s DO this hard thing, Canes! We have the faith!
This time of year – this week in particular – is my favorite time of all. When the warm hues of Thanksgiving, the ambers and pumpkins and wines of the fall, begin to fuse with the rubies and emeralds and bright whites of winter. This week, my two favorite holidays meet and marry. This week, everywhere I look, whether store front or home front or big screen TV, I see Thanksgiving and Christmas mixing and mingling in wild, jovial abandon. It’s a riotous party of flavors and jingles, snow men and smoked turkeys.
And amidst all the colorful, flavorful, frantic confusion, amidst planning for the sweet potato soufflé and shrimp and grits dressing, the pomegranate punch and cranberry bliss bars, my feverish excitement grinds quickly to a stop as I catch my newsfeed…
There are so many sad songs, near and far, both local and global, all incredibly personal and profoundly painful. And the holidays make the pain that much greater, the suffering that much stronger. There are so many lonely and broken souls.
I want to wrap up the world in a great big mama hug and serve it shrimp and grits dressing and warm pecan pie. I want to give slippers and smooches and soft flannel sheets. I want to soothe the suffering and swaddle the sad.
But I can’t. I’m not big enough. And it wouldn’t be enough.
And I want to fight the world’s evils with a wooden paddle and some feisty written word. Take aim at the evils with spirit and spunk and a good dose of mama rage. I want to call out the injustices and eradicate intolerance. I want to convert the callous and shame the shameless.
But I can’t. I’m not big enough. And it wouldn’t be enough.
I feel like the grouchy ladybug. None of us is ever big enough. We are never big enough to end the world’s suffering. To take away the pain and the loneliness and the fear and the sadness.
But I can love. I can love on those closest to me.
I can pour love and prayer into them — into my family, my friends, my students, my husband’s players. I can love them, and I can pray for them.
And I know sending love and prayers has become much maligned in recent years…
But I believe in the power of love and prayer. They are gifts that can move mountains, mend fences, heal heartbreak and soothe souls. They are the tender mercies that speak to and comfort the weary.
And those, plus food, they are my gifts. They are my gold, my frankincense, and my myrrh.
I’m so far from perfect it’s scary. I do so many things so wrong. So many. All the time. But I try. I try so hard.
And you know what? Life doesn’t care. It doesn’t care if I try hard. It doesn’t.
It doesn’t care if I work impossibly hard on lesson plans and engaging students and smiling through frustration and praising through pain. It doesn’t care.
And it doesn’t care if I cough through a fortnight of dinnertimes and bath times and bedtimes and more, all while feeling like something a Hurricane dragged home. It doesn’t care.
And it doesn’t care if I try to plan for every possible scenario and every possible outcome, trying my utmost to please those I love most in the world. It doesn’t.
And it doesn’t care if I pen emotional blogs from my soul’s tender soft spot, crossing every heartstring and dotting every tear. It doesn’t.
Life doesn’t care if I work so hard and so fast my world spins out of control… and my coffee gets spilled and my eggs gets broken and my suede boots get rained on and my debit card gets lost and my signals get crossed and my calm gets shattered and my nerves get frazzled and my sanity goes missing.
Life doesn’t care if I work my axis plum off. It. Just. Doesn’t.
Life doesn’t give a damn if I try my absolute hardest because my try’s just not good enough. And my exhausted’s not good enough. And my sick and tired’s not good enough. But then, my well and wonderful’s not good enough either.
Nothing is ever good enough. So I’ve decided I will quit trying. Because life doesn’t give a damn anyway.
But I do.
And since Yoda says there is no try, only do… I will do. I will do my best every single day. And if I do that, I will feel secure, knowing there was nothing more I could have done.