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Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

A Tired Teacher-Mom’s 8 Little Luxuries Essential to Summer Survival

Summertime is hard on this Teacher-Mom. All those social media pics of exuberant educators wearing their “Tag, Parents! You’re It!” t-shirts… yeah, they can BITE ME.

Because I’m a teacher AND a mother of five-year-old twins. So I’m ALWAYS it. Always. I leave the frying pan in May and submerge myself in the fire during June and July.

And I’m more than a little burned out.

While other teachers rest, recover, and recharge, I referee. Those twins of mine, they fight. Like every second of every waking hour. (Ok, slight exaggeration. They fight like every alternating second of every waking hour. The remaining seconds, they carpet bomb our living space.)

So while other educators are out there sipping their umbrella drinks with their toes in the water, having assemblies in the sand, I have a list of my own little luxuries I can turn to at home. With kids. Angry, destructive, torrential tornado kids.

#1: wearing a soft, fuzzy robe and sipping coffee out of a hand-turned pottery mug. Sure, the robe’s coffee-stained and the coffee’s cold and the people at the Dollar General give me funny looks when I run in for Uncrustables and wine, but still… it’s the little things.

Or #2: watching hummingbirds at my back deck as they flit around their feeder — and then promptly buzz the “F” off because the nectar is moldy and neglected. Because I ain’t got time to take care of birds AND twin boys. Who (did I mention) fight all the everlovinglivelongmotherflusteredday?

Which means I don’t get to read those awesome British mysteries I ordered from Amazon — my #3 — because ain’t nobody got time for that shit. Even if it is some high-quality, imported, upper-crust, manor house, tea cozy shit. So scratch that.

But I do make time for #4: deadheading my marigolds. Because who can resist that satisfying little POP they make? Like snapping the Achilles’ tendon on that simpering, know-it-all parent who sent you email after condescending email all school year long. It’s that sort of satisfying. So I definitely make time for that. It’s therapy.

And I always make time for #5: Parker’s passionate kisses, complete with exaggerated MUAH! at the end. He loves to latch onto my neck and swing his 52-pound body like a 52-pound wrecking ball, shattering my lumbar region in the process, but never failing to restore my joy.

And you know what DOESN’T spark joy in me right now? Cleaning my house. My twin tornadoes completely upend it in seconds anyway — the seconds they aren’t fighting. So instead, I present #6: Nap Time.

That whole newborn baby advice to “nap when they nap,” I’ve done it religiously every weekend and summer since they were born. It’s a trend that never goes out of fashion. It gives me peace of mind, which is far better than the piece of my mind I would give everybody else if I didn’t. And let’s face it, there’s just not a lot of those endangered pieces left to go around.

Sleep always brings me joy. Particularly when the boys sleep — which they didn’t really do for the first sixteen months of their lives.

Which leads me to #7: Tate’s bedtime, when we dance as he sings along to the Jewel lullabies he’s heard since he was six days old and straight out of the NICU. Hearing him warble his bubbly, half-yodel Jewel-tones while gazing lovingly into my eyes … I can ALWAYS make time for that.

And then, finally #8: my own bedtime, complete with a glass of red wine (or two), a bucket of theatre popcorn purchased that afternoon by my ever-accommodating husband (Did you know you can buy popcorn without buying a ticket???), and Dateline. Because after the sun (and sons) go down, I embody my newest favorite meme:

“Lady in the street, netflix, snacks and murder documentaries in the sheets.”

It ain’t a lie. And it keeps me alive. And semi-sane.

All of these little luxuries keep me alive and semi-sane.

This Girl Was Made for Defeating Cancer

It’s her destiny. From the third grade on, she knew she wanted to be a doctor. From the third year of medical school, she knew she wanted to be a surgeon. From the third year of residency, she knew she wanted to be a surgical oncologist.

Three years ago, Caitlin had some boots made. Special boots. Parkland Hospital and UTSouthwestern have a tradition. Third year surgery residents have boots made in San Angelo during a month-long rotation there. Then, during chief year, the surgeons have a group pic made on the helipad, all wearing their boots. That pic will happen this year, Caitlin’s official chief year.

Today, though, even bigger things happen. Today, my girl finds out where these boots will take her.

Today, her destiny unfurls in an email. Today, the place where her surgical skills will be honed to near perfection is finally known. Today, cancerous tumors in the bellies of thousands will find themselves inexorably drawn to the precise, take-no-prisoners edge of my daughter’s scalpel.

Today, cancer loses and Caitlin wins.

Three years ago, these chief boots were made for walking straight into the hallowed operating rooms of the greatest surgical oncology training hospital in the world.

MD Anderson, here she comes!!!

Depression Doesn’t Care: Success & Suicide, One Year Later

One year ago this week, there were two prominent suicides in the headlines – prominent because the names attached to them were celebrities. The word prominent means important, so the phrase is problematic to me. Because, it’s their lives that were truly important. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain — and all the other lives that were lost this year, this lifetime to suicide —they have all been truly important. And as a society, we have failed them all.

I have never had a Kate Spade bag – indeed, I’ve never spent more than several dozen dollars on my purses. I’m a schoolteacher. I can’t afford that kind of luxury. I’ve been in one of her shops – an outlet shop at that – precisely one time. I really didn’t know that much about her… just about her bags. (Even in an outlet, those bags were way out of my league.)

Anthony Bourdain, on the other hand… I knew him well. Well enough to call him Tony…  when I saw him… on TV. Which means, I guess I really didn’t know him at all, despite being a devoted follower. I adored his irreverence, his passion for the “F” word, his bawdy, unshaven charisma. He made me laugh; he made me want to try bone marrow (I will. It will still happen.); and he never made me feel out of his league.

Both these celebrities left young daughters behind. And that fact hit me really hard. Because while they are not as young as the Spade and Bourdain girls, I too have daughters And I love them so incredibly much. So much so that I would face demons and slay dragons if I had to in order to protect them.

But Spade and Bourdain faced dragons they couldn’t slay. They could no longer face their demons. And that tells me the darkness they felt was way beyond anything I could ever possibly comprehend. And that terrifies me.

Because one of my beautiful daughters struggles with demons of her own.

She struggles with depression. She struggles valiantly. She struggles openly. Nevertheless, she struggles. And despite the national and international dialogue that has recently opened with regard to mental health, a stigma still exists. And so she struggles with stigma, too.

My oldest daughter is a surgical resident in one of the most competitive, prestigious surgery programs in the nation. She has just finished interviewing for a fellowship in the most prestigious, competitive programs in the nation. Indeed in the world.

She is beautiful. She is bold. She is successful.

She is smart. She is kind. She is important.

And despite all of these things, she struggles… with feelings of inadequacy, of worthlessness, of hopelessness. She feels incapable and unlovable in this harsh, often unforgiving world. Not all the time. But often. And all alone.

And even though I her see brilliance and worth – even though I know how far she is from inadequate and hopeless and incapable and unlovable, I can’t help her see it. Because when she is inside that darkness, when those demons are commanding her mind, she sees nothing else. And that terrifies me.

Being a surgical resident can be isolating and debilitating. These young doctors work themselves to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. The schedules, the expectations, the demands that are put upon them are unforgiving

And the stakes are so high. Life and death rest in their hands – literally. Surgery can be debilitating for both patient and surgeon. It can ruin lives and it can end lives — on both sides of the scalpel.

Surgical residents have one of the highest suicide rates in the nation. Competition within the field isolates individuals. Everyone is jostling for accolades, for fellowships, for attending acknowledgements, and for attending positions.

In no other place in her life has my girl ever felt so very disconnected.

And what makes her situation even more complex is the relationship she has with her occupation. Love-Hate would be an understatement. She loves her job. She feels tremendous pride in her program and her abilities. The operating room is her wheelhouse and her respite. She is cloistered there. Time stops there. Her destiny unfolds there. She feels no pain; only passion. She feels one with her mind and her body and soul. Her hands are trained; her skills are seamless; her mind is taut.

But when she steps away from the cocoon of that OR, all the demons are back at her door. Howling.

It’s comparable to an unhealthy, abusive relationship. It builds her up. It knocks her down. The highs are super high. The lows… indescribably low. And the constant push-pull of it all wreaks havoc on her mental health.

As a mother, this breaks my heart and causes me endless worry.

I know she struggles. But thankfully, her program knows it too. She has not kept it secret. She advocates for herself and for others who may be feeling the same.

She helps lead a wellness committee for fellow residents, working to promote healthy scheduling and healthy dialogue between administration and her peers.

She tutors adult GED students every Tuesday night at a local library, connecting with people outside the research lab and operating room, spreading love and hope even as she so often feels neither.

She is a member of a book club, connecting with colleagues both socially and cognitively on issues more abstract than tissue and tumor.

Most importantly, she has seen a counselor – a mental health provider who has given her tools and techniques to fight the good fight.

Yes, my daughter works hard to stave off the demons, to grapple the dragon, to defeat the disease. As a mother, I would fight it all for her if I could. But I cannot. It is all hers to slay.

And my daughter is capable. I know that. She is kind and loving and genuine-hearted. She is capable and strong and talented and tender.

I just pray every day that she sees it too. That she can see through the darkness.

Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain could not.

People with everything can find themselves feeling depleted and defeated. Suicide knows no demographic. It knows no bounds.

Talk to your loved ones. Acknowledge your loved ones. Make sure they know you see them and you get them. Love on your loved ones. And then make sure they get the help that they need.

Serendipity and the Swampland: Fishing for Inspiration

There’s this weird feeling I get sometimes. Like someone has hit a tuning fork — but the tuning fork is my body. And it rings and vibrates. Like a silver spoon hitting chilled stainless. Like ice hitting back molars. Like wintergreen hitting veins. And the one hitting the tuning fork is the universe. Is God, if you will.

I feel awake and alive and almost raw.

So I go to my computer and I dive into the current of serendipity’s stream. And I pay really careful attention.

Words swirl around me, boomerang back at me like white water rapids. They carry me, roll me, drive me forward. The universe is in charge, and I am on a wild ride. Where I’m going is out of my hands – but I know I’m on the right track.

So I swim. Hard. And fast. To stay inside that current. Not sink beneath it.

Because the universe has given me a gift — it has given me a path and a process. But it has expectations. It has demands. And those demands are rigorous. They are… well… demanding.

This current will take me to my goal, but only with a whole lot of work.

So work, I do. At first I’m cold and rusty, and my mind misfires. A lot. But I remind myself I’m trained for this. I can do this hard thing. I am prepared. And so I just keep kicking, doing my best to stay afloat and follow directions as the words swirl around me, bump up against me.

Inside the current, my mind warms, loosens — perhaps even unravels a bit – allowing flexibility and vision and a bit of slack to reel in the difficult bits, the hard bits. Of life. Particularly, my life. My past.

Because the hard and difficult bits require a whole lot of slack — lest I get too wound up, too tense, and then break the line and lose the way, the truth, and the life. My way. My truth. My life.

Barbara Kingsolver once stated that “memory is a complicated thing, a relative to truth, but not its twin.” And I totally get it — especially when the memory itself is incredibly complicated, when the truth you are recording — the twisted religion of your formative years — was itself a relative to truth, but not its twin. Maybe not even the same family… or neighborhood. But definitely the same region. My truth fits within the region — the southern region, that is.

The South — where truths become memories, loosely maintained, that become yarns, wildly spun, that become tales, twisty and gnarled.  Where truths become monstrosities.

Here in the land of Faulkner and Flannery, we drill holes in mama’s coffin (and right on through to her face) so she can breathe in the hereafter. We have kinky morticians and corrupt bible salesmen and Presbyterian ax vigilantes. We have deaf mutes and hunchbacks and dwarves – oh my! All so we can safely unearth the darkened roots of our deep-seated insecurities.

Here in the South, we love a little batter on our vegetables and a little gothic on our histories. Sure, maybe raw is better for you – but they taste so much better in a solid bath of debauchery and a heavy dusting of sin. (Minimalist, we are not!)

It’s as much about embellishment as it is about fact here. We hide our tender bits inside hyperbole and the grotesque. The crazier the tale, the deeper the truth.

For me, swimming serendipity’s stream may begin with the exquisite chill of a spoon hitting stainless, but it never fails to dump me where stainless will always fall victim to stain: childhood and the fears and tears that form its fecund swamplands.

The water there is brackish and foul with trash and monsters. Monsters ready to be raised from the near-dead. Demons with watermelon rinds for smiles. Disciples with oily words and cardboard hearts.

I land there each and every time. And after I catch my breath and adjust to the temperature change, I dredge the swamp.

And as the silt and sludge swirls, I bring in my haul — words writhing and thick with hard muscle, slippery sinew, scaly gill. They emerge slowly, but in netfuls, tangled and twisted. Words glinting with a thousand splendid refractions, bending and contorting in the light. Piercing.

I capture them all by capturing my past. Finding the way and the truth from my life.

My biggest and most-tangled of truths thus far — a Pentecostal pastor’s circumcised daughter — flesh faulted and excised amid great ceremony and pain. She emerges from the darkness demanding her reckoning. She flips silver on my screen.

She is forged from the cold steel of serendipity’s stream, humming with the frequency of the tuning fork. The chill of wintergreen hangs in the air… along with the sweetness and rot of the swamp.

I gut her and clean her. I batter-dip her in admonition and intuition and the blood of the Lamb. I sear her on tongues of flame. I lay her on a slaw of shredded scripture. And I serve her up to the world.

+ + +

In the beginning was the word.

And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us — howling to be heard. To be seen. To be known.

Ex nihilo.

Seconds (and second chances) at a swimming pool are way too slippery

It’s a scary thing, seeing your child’s head just below the surface of the pool, there in the deep end, his pudgy hands moving frantically, his feet kicking futilely.

Time ripples and blurs as you struggle to get to him, a table full of appetizers between him and you. And scattered lawn chairs. Party guests. A diving board. Three lifeguards.

Lifeguards who don’t see him. Who continue to scan the surface of the pool. While your son bobs just below their line of sight. (In their defense, these lifeguards are young and there are lots and lots of kids splashing and playing.)

Did reflections hide him? Inexperience?

You hear yourself scream at a friend. A friend already in motion. A friend halfway between you and your boy. A friend half a second ahead of you. And every second matters. Every fraction of a second.

Seconds at a swimming pool are slippery. In a blink, time is up.

The experts say young children can drown in as little as twenty seconds. They panic and inhale water. And their heads are heavy and disproportionate to their bodies, so they don’t splash around and yell for help. They can’t get their mouths above the surface — or their arms.

So everything that happens, happens quickly and out of sight and sound.

Luckily, when my son fell in, there were two sets of eyes who noticed him. My friend’s and mine.

I’ll confess, though. I wasn’t watching him very closely. I have twin boys. Five years old. So, I was scanning from one boy to his brother. But only haphazardly…

Because, I was having drinks and socializing. It was a party, after all. And there were lifeguards on duty… hired by the hostess with the express purpose of allowing her guests to relax and have adult beverages while some fully-trained experts kept an eye on the kiddos.

I did three things wrong.

  • I trusted the licensed teenage lifeguards more than I should have. They are teenagers after all.
  • I trusted my son to not go in the deep end because he knew he couldn’t swim. (He didn’t go in… voluntarily. He slipped. Quickly and silently.)
  • I had drinks and let my guard down. A mother drinking with young children swimming is never a good combination.

He was probably only under for ten seconds. But those ten seconds felt like an eternity. All I could see was water distorting his small frame, a halo of hair drifting below the surface. All I could feel was his panic.

My friend flung herself into the pool ahead of me, her years of life-guarding kicking in, even as I yelled hoarsely for her to get him.

I followed close behind. I didn’t need to jump in, too. She had him. But I NEEDED to jump in. To be there. To feel him close and safe. And he needed me there. To feel close and safe.

We snuggled at the side of the pool for a while. Until his little heart calmed. Until my need to vomit subsided. Then my friend took him from my arms and pulled him back into the water.

When you fall off a bike, you get back on. When you nearly drown, you get back in. She didn’t want him to fear the water.

And he doesn’t. Before twenty minutes were up, he was back splashing with his brother in the shallow end.

Before the weekend was up, we had signed both boys up for swim lessons. At five-years-old, we can’t wait a minute more. We shouldn’t have waited this long.

But life is busy. And time is slippery. It got away from us. And here they are five years old and not knowing how to swim. We were incredibly lucky. Not everyone is so fortunate.

I will not make those same mistakes again. Seconds (and second chances) at a swimming pool are way too slippery.

Getting Real: it’s not pretty, but it’s pretty perfect

I’m on a life-long journey to become my most authentic self. To become Real. To become a Velveteen Woman. If you haven’t read the Velveteen Rabbit story, do it. Now. You’ll cry. You’ll thank me.

Anyways… it’s a tough job. Some days I just feel way too torn and tattered to keep going. I just plain feel broken. Like I’ve been steamrolled by the planet. My bones are weary and my mind is pressed flat. But I guess that’s just part of the process.

Because becoming real isn’t pretty. Becoming authentic is a far cry from being perfect.

According to the Skin Horse in the classic tale, “It takes a long time to become real… it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

So, surely I’m getting Real close. I’m fifty plus — and have been for a couple of years now — and far from “carefully kept.”

I’m loved on and jumped on and tackled and tortured on a daily basis by rambunctious twin boys with a lotta Big Love. Every. Single. Day. I also feel every knock and nick my two adult daughters receive out in the world on their own authentic journeys to become Real. Even. More-so than my own. When your babies hurt, you hurt, no matter their age.

Then there’s the fact that I’m an English teacher drowning in the 365 days of May, the 184 students on her rosters, and the endless trials and tribulations of teenaged hearts I bear witness to. Plus I’m a football wife in the midst of Spring Ball. 

So no, not carefully kept.

My joints are definitely loose. My appearance is just-this-side of shabby. My eyes haven’t dropped out yet, but they’re most definitely drooping… And I’m pretty certain this month knocked off any sharp edges I still managed to have left. Since I’ve only had one broken bone so far (knock on wood), I’m fairly certain I don’t break too easily.

Back in the day, when I was a mother fresh off the shelves, I used to have glossy hair and firm skin and stuffing in most of the right places. I had muscles and stamina for days.

But motherhood four times around has done some work on my lovely lady lumps. I wouldn’t go so far as the Bob Segar song and claim my “points were way up firm and high,” but they definitely weren’t stretched and deflated to the point of flapping in a brisk wind if they aren’t strapped in properly.  Four years of breastfeeding takes its toll.

nursing

And so do three pregnancies – especially one with twins.  My skin is puckered and striped and dimpled.  I’ve been pulled and torn and redistributed.  And even stitched back together. My belly bears a nice, six-inch seam where the good doctors scooped out two premature babes in my first and only C-section at age forty-seven. At that age, the elastin in the skin isn’t quite what it used to be.

So my stuffing has fallen and nestled into soft, comfy pooches in inconvenient and unattractive places. Add to that, my saggy hindquarters, and I’m just a soft, comfy lap of lady lumps.

34weeks

Along with my belly seam, I also bear a dog-legged scar across my right paw from when I broke my distal radius while putting away, of all things, laundry.

I had a choice while falling willy-nilly over a twin who found his way underfoot: twist to the side and sacrifice my wrist or stay on course and sacrifice my youngest. Since Tate is a relatively important component of our family unit and my right hand is my dominant and most-used portion of my body, it was quite the quandary.  In the split second decision, Tate won and my wrist lost. Badly. Between fracture and surgery, it was a five-month loss. If I’d chosen Tate, I bet he would’ve bounced back in two, tops.

dogearedscar

So my body has been sacrificed — and often — upon the altar of motherhood. 

But the sacrifice isn’t limited to my body. My mind has paid a tremendous price, too.  I’m not nearly as quick-witted as I once was. It’s a spongey mass of mire, sucking and slurping and slowing me down. I think the majority of decay occurred during the sixteen months of sleeplessness Mike and I endured after the boys’ birth. Regardless, my electrodes just don’t fire as fast as they once did.

And then there’s my nerves… what’s left of them. The boys careen off them like the ropes at WrestleMania, brawling over virtually anything — markers, play doh, DVDs, cayenne pepper (wtf?) — and my nerves are left mangled in the hot, red dust.

And then there’s my marriage.

No, I’m not about to rage against the institution, to lament on the lameness of my mate. Far from it. My marriage is what saves me. My husband… he’s my Wonder Wall. He’s my calm. My eye in the hurricane.  

I don’t know what I would do without him. He picks up my stuffing. He tucks it back in. He shoulders my shortcomings and he shelters my babes — all four of them.

It’s fitting that he’s a Purple Hurricane coach. He knows the ins and outs of my storms and he weathers them with grace. And he keeps me from falling apart at my already weakened seams.

These days, I shed hair and tears and sleep and health and sanity until I’m as limp and floppy as the Velveteen Rabbit. But it’s all good. 

Because I’m becoming Real. And it’s not pretty. My boobs aren’t pert. My ass hangs low and it wobbles to and fro.

But I am truly loved. By five of the most amazing humans in this amazing world. 

And I’m loved by the Creator of our Universe. I am snuggled and sheltered, and sometimes weathered and wizened — all in the name wisdom and growth.

And while that may knock me about a bit, by golly, I’m becoming authentic. And that’s a beautiful thing.

So all of you struggling women out there… getting your edges knocked off and your stuffing pulled out. Keep on keeping on. You’re exhausted. I know. I get it.

But I see you. I feel you. You are velveteen. And as Barbara Kingsolver says, “We can do this hard thing.”

We can do this hard and beautiful, and oh-so-very Real thing.

Moving Mountains and Stringing Pearls

I was listening to a country song yesterday (Yes, country. I’m that far gone.) — and I heard a lyric that resonated with me. “If I need a mountain moved, I move it myself.”

That’s me to a Grand Teton.

And it’s not because I’m afraid people will think I’m weak. Nor is it that I think I can do everything all by myself… far from it. I am definitely not the sharpest shovel in the shed, or the most diverse and multi-purposed, either.

It’s just I don’t want to be a bother. It’s how I was raised.

Chalk it up to Puritan work ethic… or cult indoctrination… but I feel like if I can’t get it all done, then I’m inadequate and unworthy of help. So most days, I just feel it all crumbling around me. Nevertheless, I carry on.

But I am in absolute awe of — and even a little bit alarmed for — people who actually do ask for help. They’re far braver than me. And have a much stronger sense of self-worth.

Because they expect people to help carry the load. They expect people to care.

And it’s not like I’m surrounded by people who DON’T care. I’m not. Far from it. As a matter of fact, I have the most amazing friends and family. I am unbelievably blessed. They would be more-than-willing to help me move my Himalayan hurdles, if they only knew about my Himalayan hurdles.

But I tend not to tell them. Because I was also raised to be invisible.

And asking for help puts you right out there in the spotlight.

So I don’t.

But I watch the ones who are out there in the spotlight, bathed in self-confidence, and I long to be more like them.

They’re all so warm and golden, so on-fire with self-love. Like they really believe the world is their oyster and that people will stumble all over themselves to help them string up its pearl and lay it ’round their neck.

And the world is. And the people do.

Meanwhile I carry on, flattened by Everest crumbling over the top me.

Anybody else struggle with that? And is it primarily a female thing? Or a Heather Candela thing?

Or are there men out there who have trouble asking for help, too?

Because my husband doesn’t have trouble. He knows his limits and he knows his worth. And he compromises neither when he asks for help. (I mean, who wouldn’t go above and beyond for such a tall mug of salted caramel macchiato? He’s delicious.)

I admire him so much, and I want to be like him so much — but I’m distinctly lacking in both salt and caramel. (Although I am tall. So I do have that.)

I have tried my best to raise my daughters to be more like those warm and golden souls of this world and NOT like their mother.

I’ve tried to raise them to have a strong sense of self. To be empowered and intelligent. To be willing and willful. To have servants’ hearts — ready to give assistance when needed — but also to have a queen’s spirit and know their value. I want them to never settle for less than they deserve and to know they are always worthy of somebody else’s effort and attention. Always.

I’m trying to do the same with my sons. And maybe it’ll be easier with them. Maybe girls struggle more with the mountains they haul. I don’t know. This is unchartered terrain for me.

What I do know is that I want all my children to be able to move mountains AND string pearls.

It must be the most amazing feeling.

Thoughts and Prayers: Same Song, Millionth Verse

Help me, Lord, to find what I am supposed to write today… A day after yet another school tragedy. More headlines. More pics of moms in panic. In mourning.  Of dads in agony. More stories of teachers and students feeling abject horror. More stories of students who made it talking about students who didn’t. More stories.

But not stories. All true. I wish they weren’t. I wish they were made up. I wish I were merely watching a Shakespearean tragedy. But alas, I’m not.

And how do I find the words to make sense of these real-world tragedies? To find words? To unearth them? To polish them and use them? To help myself through these dark times, these hellish realities?  To help me make some sort of sense of it all? To make sense of a world that steals sons? And daughters? And hearts? And grinds them into mincemeat to serve up on little slices of computer screens and news headlines…

And now snaps. On Snapchat. Snap-shots of horror and fear. Screaming and gunshots. Panic and pain. All of these things are too horrible to fathom. To absorb. To digest. I am… overwhelmed. And inept. Is there anything that can be done? Anything?

Quesions. More questions. And no answers. Only words. And words are not answers. Words don’t do much. Words are those old standbys. They are hashtags. #ThoughtsandPrayers. Affections, not action. I can polish them up all I want, they ultimately do nothing.

It is Action we need, not Words. Not Thoughts. We have active shooters in our schools killing kids. Many, many kids. And educators. And the wrong sorts of people are the only ones acting.

No, I take that back. The rest of us are acting, too.

We are all playing a role. We have taken on the role of Hamlet — the great procrastinator. The tragic hero who unpacks his heart with words. Who delays and delays and delays until it is way too late. Until there is so much death and destruction that the entire kingdom has tumbled into the hands of the enemy.

Apparently, that is the role we are all willing to play –the politicians and public alike.

And there are so many ghosts telling us to do something. So many. In hallways and classrooms and media centers and cafeterias and restrooms. Begging us to avenge their murders most foul with action.

But still, we wait… while noble hearts crack. And cease. While tragedy becomes commonplace.

So, no. I don’t need to find the words to make sense of this anymore. None of us do. Instead, we need to DO SOMETHING. We need to stop the bleeding.  And stop the madness. And stop the death…

To do or not to do.  That is the question.

And I don’t want to hear that now is not the time…  that the wounds are too fresh.

But in this, at least, Shakespeare’s words are right… It needs to happen now “while men’s minds are wild, lest more mischance on plots and errors should happen.

Take up the bodies. Such a sight as this becomes the [battle]field, but here shows much amiss.”

Let’s find a way to be the change.

#DoSomethingAboutAllTheTragedyAlready

Spring Ball: Football and its Families Prepare for The Grind

It is May in Georgia. The days lean toward summer, growing warm and husky with the promise of rain. Clouds stack on the horizon and flit fast across fields, green and fresh and striped with the first mow of the season – along with the first paint. Spring Ball has arrived.

It’s a time of anticipation and adjustment – for a team and its coaches and their families, as well. The melanin and muscle and mercury are rising — the summer’s preparing to grind. And so are the coaches’ wives.

Spring ball is a time to stretch out those long-dormant football legs. To remember the rigor, to shift and rebalance the weight, to recondition the brain and the body for the upcoming football season.

As the coaches tweak their playbooks, the wives tweak their mindsets. As the depth charts take shape on their husband’s clipboards, the duty rosters get shifted at home. Laundry loads double with work clothes, plus practice gear. The cooking and dishes all rest upon her. Then there’s bath time and story time and bedtime and more.

The job of a coach’s wife is demanding. She one platoons their home life: scrambling and blocking and taking heat in the pocket; rushing and tackling and offering up pass protection where needed. Running offense AND defense is a fine balance. Maintaining that balance requires strength and focus, and passion and love – not just for her husband and family, but also for the game. Without passion and love of the game, resentment can take hold. Not everyone’s cut out for the job.

And the job of a coach is demanding. It brings long hours, low pay, and high turnover. The weight of responsibility brings bags to his eyes and weights to his shoulders. He juggles politics from parents, school systems and fans. He demands excellence from his players, and in return the fans demand excellence from him. Stress levels rise. Maintaining the balance requires strength and focus, and also passion and love – not just for the game, but for his wife and family. Without passion and love for his family, resentment can take hold. Not everyone’s cut out for the job.

Strength and Focus; Passion and Love. Without them, football will defeat you. When things get heavy (which they always do) the weight can get one-sided. It can topple you. You have to find balance. Strength and focus on one side, passion and love on the other. And then you have to maintain it.

Football families redistribute their balance in the spring. We put our bodies and our minds through the paces. We tweak our playbooks and our attitudes. As the mercury rises, our muscle memory takes over and we find ourselves ready.  Ready for the grind.

It is May in Georgia. The days lean toward summer, growing warm and husky with the promise of a football reign. Spring Ball is here.

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