Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters



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.



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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I’ve written before about our town. About the love I have for her. About her people and her spirit, her buildings and her backbone. About how I love her church bells chiming happily on Sunday mornings from my back porch and the home crowd cheering heartily on Friday nights from my perch in Weinman Stadium.

Cartersville is not just a great hometown, she’s the best hometown.

And even though she doesn’t have to prove herself as such, week in and week out, she does it anyway. She rises to the top, like cream… like Cane Sugar. Is that even a thing? Well, I say it is because the heart and soul of C’ville rose to the occasion this past week for those of our community in need.

It all began on Sunday night, when announcements were posted in emails and voicemails and on social media: a food drive was underway. And yes, while this happens every year once the leaves and temps start turning in our town, this time, we truly showed out.

This time, Sam Jones Methodist Church’s “It’s Scary to be Hungry” annual campaign, in conjunction with Pritchard Injury Firm and the city schools, collected over 6000 cans in just five days. The fifth day culminated in “Blackout Hunger Day” and the Blackout Game on Friday Night under the lights in Weinman Stadium.

Our schools and our community and our CANES delivered — proving once again that Cartersville is not just a great town it’s the BEST town.

It’s our town — and good gracious, does our town know how to be the BEST!
(Photo cred: Sports Furnace Athletics DrRuss21)

At the center of it all— at a distance

I have an aunt I haven’t seen in years. She and my uncle divorced when my girls were small, before my grandmother died (she died when Bethany was four). So my girls don’t really know her. But me, I do. I love her and I miss her.

She was always the quiet, bookish sort. Sort of like me — or I like to think so.

When things got too crazy with our clan, she’d stir up a cup of tea and head to a back bedroom to read. She was steady and calm as a ship moving through the tumultuous seas of our family gatherings.

Now when I say “tumultuous” I mean in a good way. With kids spinning like water spouts in every direction, high-kicking at doorframes to see who could tap the top with their toes, or swirling in a whirlwind of tufted midcentury armchair mechanics as a pump organ clanged thunderously in a corner.

Where physicists gathered like the male version of Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters, heads touching like storm clouds above a coffee table, posturing this and theorizing that, formulas drawn quick as lightning across fragments of paper, igniting frenzied animation on bearded or bespectacled faces.

As high-tinkling laughter drifted in on warm currents of baked pie crusts from the kitchen where my other three aunts gathered, two at the red formica table, one sipping Tab, the other waxing poetic over Mozart or their 20-pound Maine Coon. The third, apron ties flapping in concert with the sticky percussion of her heels on linoleum both tacky in aesthetic and feel, issuing orders to pour this, wash that, to the older of us cousins. Well, to me. Because the second oldest was the one clanging away on the pump organ while the third and fourth were out there spinning like water spouts with the youngest among us.

Meanwhile, my unflappable aunt sailed in and out of the tribal typhoon, warm as a beam of God-light, regal, composed on her way to a back berth with her tea cup and book.

She’s who I longed to be, but have never quite been able to become. I don’t have her genetics. I don’t have that certain je ne sais quoi. I’ll never know what it is, nor know how to posses it, her well-coiffed confidence; her cool, sweet nature. She’s the crem de la crem.

But I do have her love of reading and her desire to disconnect from the chaos. Well, I do and I don’t. Because I secretly harbor a distinct love of the chaos too. I wish to always be in the center of it all, while also maintaining my distance.

Things have changed drastically in the passing years. We cousins are grown and our children are grown (or mostly). So our kids’ kids (along with my mid-life medical miracle additions) are now spinning like water spouts and kicking at doorframes, but not at family gatherings. We haven’t had an extended one in a while. Not since Covid hit. And when we do finally get back together, two of us won’t be here to gather… my father-physicist and one Tab-sipping aunt.

In spirit, though, they hover about me daily, feeding me love and the language to tell their stories. To tell our stories.

Because life is short and limited. That’s the ugly part – but also what makes life so beautiful and precious.

And the older we get, the faster life spins — kind of like that mid-century armchair from my childhood. Only now it’s a mid-century merry-go-round of time’s making and I’m at the center of it all — and at a distance, thanks to Covid.

Which just goes to show you’ve got to always be careful what you wish for.

My Philosophy

Sippin’ on Summertime

I settled on the screened porch to the honking of geese overhead, a whole gaggle, rowdy in the early morning haze of an August sky.

A reminder that summer is drawing closer to its end.

A rustling of leaves at the tree line joined in, a breeze taking flight, joining the uprising… protesting or promoting the closing of the season?

The ensuing rustle, a bit like rain, a bit like the street sweeper that climbs the hill in front of our house collecting grass clippings on summer mornings, leaf droppings in fall.

Collecting fallen reaped things.

Even in this season of plenty — even now — autumn is drawing nigh.

Nobody says that anymore, have you noticed? 

Not the autumn part, though that too… that beautiful word, losing ground to the curt simplicity of Fall… but the growing nigh part?  

Just poets. Maybe. Rarely. 

Those of us who want to hold onto the nostalgia of old words wheezing their last, along with the weedy wistfulness of summertime.  

Both futile undertakings.
Still. They’re not dead yet. 

Not the words, as long as we’re willing to sit with them a while in their magic, and not the summer, while we’re willing to sit with her a while in her moment. 

Summer’s ripe and blowsy, beautifully overgrown, gorgeous and gone-too-soon moment.

Today, I will seize her like a ripe tomato – bright and round and shining with the taste of sunshine.

Today, I will fill my soul with her,

Much like the hummingbird, flitting about to show me he’s here before perching, iridescent, on the red roost against the blue backdrop of the swimming pool. 

He surveys his domain and drinks himself giddy. 

While directly below, a bee ambles its way from leggy petunia to leggy petunia gathering nectar to make honey while the sun shines warm.

A pool float drifts aimlessly in the remnants of the breeze, gone as fast as it came. Gone as fast as summer.

The Season that Eclipses our Seasons

It’s the first week of August

Heat shimmers off asphalt

Tomatoes wither on the vine

And in fields everywhere —

In small towns and big cities alike —

Players are planting their cleats in the turf 

And sewing reps for the upcoming season

And coaches are planting kernels of wisdom 

Pouring their heads and hearts

Into the storehouses of our future

So that soon

Footballs with hang times 

As high as the mercury

Will tee off and inkblot the sun

In half-second oval eclipses

To kickoff the season that eclipses our seasons.

When Friday Nights light up the sky

Scorching skirmishes 

On lines of scrimmages

Linemen brawling

Helmets flashing

Shoulders clashing

Turf pellets scattering like buckshot

Behind the blazing feet of the skills fleet

While the quarterback searches for split-second targets

and sheets of sweat slick everyone’s neck

and the drumlines roll

and the symbols clash 

and the whistles keen

and the fans all dream

Of cooler nights

As they wait for the relief of


Under velvet twilights;

Where fans collect

To dissect

The first two quarters

Hair and skin draped in soggy blankets of sweat 

While moths bash their bodies in cataclysmic ballets 

beneath blazing stadium lights 

and starlings and swallows 

scoop them like popcorn from the sky

While actual popcorn

clutched in white paper bags

perfumes the air below

Butter dripping off dipping fingers

As the dew point drops to

collected condensation, while the crowd’s conversation

turns to playoff runs, and championship sights

and cooler, so much cooler nights.

And the coaches in the locker rooms

Adjust and turn

And the players in the position groups

Listen and learn

grow and glean kernels of wisdom

in victory and defeat

in the season that eclipses our seasons.

When Teachers “Give” Out

We’re pencil nubs. Burned-out candles. Overdrawn bank accounts.

We’re spent.

We’re teachers… with nigh-on nothing left to give. Out of ideas, resources, energy… everything.

Without those, we can no longer engage or awaken — and without engagement, without awakenings, we can no longer educate and inspire.

Our effectiveness is gone. And we don’t know why… although we have our suspicions.

Is the pandemic to blame — with its ensuing lethargy? Or the parents and their increasing laxity? Or the powers-that-be and their never-ending lists of demands and all-consuming blame?

So many obstacles are stacked against us and our backs are against the wall.

And we’re tired.

Tired of juggling classes and assignments and grading and meetings and all the rest of all the things. Tired of doing our jobs and then our colleagues jobs, too, because there aren’t enough subs. Because teachers are sick — or their kids are sick. Or they’re sick to exhaustion and need more than a single night’s sleep to recover.

We aren’t recovering.

We’re doing too much and carrying too much and caring too much.

Because that’s what we do. We care. We’re empaths. It’s the nature of our job.

We feel for our students. We ache for our students, who also are suffering under the weight of all the things. Pandemic and parental struggles. Poverty and violence and loss. So much more than ever before.

And so our students aren’t keeping up — not with assignments or attendance or… anything. And it falls on us to keep up with it all. And it’s impossible.

But we try. We keep smiling. And doing. Carving out kindnesses from our very souls because all the other cupboards are bare… scraping our hearts and sharing the scraps with our depleted, dejected students.

We fake it, trying to make it. But at some point — and soon — nothing will be made… no progress; no achievement; no benchmark of understanding. No eye contact, even.

We already aren’t seen by anyone. Not the students. Not the parents. Not by the public or the politicians. We’re heaped under the avalanche of everyone else’s agendas and told to stay strong.

Stay? That ship sailed a long, long time ago.

So I guess we stay… what? Weak? Exhausted? Underwater. Under-seen. Undervalued. Under pressure.

The pressures of trickledown education.

Where we’re crumbling beneath the weight of doing it all, but are we accomplishing anything?

It doesn’t feel like it.

And something’s gotta give.

And it can’t just keep being us. We’re “give” out.

Christmas Books Our Family Loves

The boys are growing up (fast!) and for the first time, we’re including a chapter book on our list of snuggle-up, read-aloud Christmas books. It’s only been recently published, but it’s already a family favorite.

But first, the annual tried and trues:

Red and Lulu, written and illustrated by Matt Tavares

If you love Christmas trees and love stories — especially the larger-than-life trees and love stories that come with Rockefeller Center during Yuletide, you’ll love Red and Lulu. It’s the picture book equivalent of a Hallmark movie, but with birds. And not just any birds — Cardinals, the most festive and Christmas-y birds of all.

The illustrations are as beautiful as the storyline. Red and Lulu live their best lives in a big, beautiful evergreen… until one day, when the tree is loaded up and transported to NYC, with Lulu still inside its branches. And so begins Red’s quest to find and reunite with his one true love.

Next up…

The Broken Ornament, written and illustrated by Toni DiTerlizzi

The first time we read this book, I thought it was all sentimental fluff and stuff. The second time, though, it won me over. This story matters. When you have twin boys, accidents happen (hopefully not to cherished ornaments, but still).

In this cautionary tale, young Jack wants more and more and more festive decorations to attract Santa’s attention. But when he breaks an ornament he’s not supposed to touch — an ornament passed down from his mother’s grandmother — he learns that Christmas magic can’t mend everything, but it can definitely point you in the right direction.

And finally…

The Christmas Pig, written by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Field

Like I mentioned before, we’ve added our first chapter book to our family’s Christmas book tradition. We’ve been reading quite a few since January: three Harry Potters and the first four Chronicles of Narnia. (Side note, those Chronicles are getting a bit — dare I say it? — weak and boring. Not quite sure why they’re so highly recommended…)

But we are LOVING The Christmas Pig!! We bought a physical copy as well as an Audible download, so we’re listening AND reading along. (By the way, the Audible version comes with sound effects — a BIG PLUS in Parker’s opinion.)

The Christmas Pig features yet another Christmas quest — this one to find and rescue (yet another) Jack’s most-loved stuffed pig from the Land of the Lost and the soul-crushing monster known as Loser. Jack’s new “replacement pig” plays the part of his guide through this dark underworld.

Part Velveteen Rabbit, part Dante’s Inferno, this book is both simple and complex, and the young and old alike will enjoy it. Do yourself a favor and buy it AND the Audible version and enjoy some quality snuggles with your little ones every night between now and Christmas.

We know we will.

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