Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Bruce leaves tomorrow for Montana to play in the NAIA national semi-finals. Young son leaves Friday for Bowling Green to play in the Kentucky 6A State Championship game. Bruce's undefeated season of glory will either end or stretch to one more game, the National Championship. Young son's undefeated season of glory will end either way, hopefully with a state championship ring.

Me? I'm a wreck just thinking about it.

Both of my guys have a significant challenge ahead of them. My son's team is playing powerhouse, Trinity High School out of Louisville. They are the #1 ranked high school football team in the nation. Bruce's team is playing Carroll College in Helena, Montana. They are the defending national champions and have never lost at home.

What am I doing? The only thing I can...cheering from the sidelines and pulling together every positive bit of mojo available to me. I obviously can't be in Bowling Green, Kentucky and Helena, Montana at the same time. Where do I go? Well, let's examine the mojo.

I haven't missed a single one of my son's games all year, and they haven't lost. I have watched Bruce play via live Internet streaming twice this year, once when they played in Kansas and once when they played in Mississippi. They won both games. The only logical conclusion is that I have to be at my son's game and root for Bruce from afar. (yeah, yeah...this was the only conclusion anyway, but it is supported by the mojo)

What will I be wearing on Friday night? The mojo says I need to wear blue jeans, my red Scott County hoodie, and my Georgetown football stadium jacket sized XXL. It's huge, but it's warm, and best of all, it's LUCKY. My only concern with Friday's wardrobe is my gloves. I have worn my black suede gloves with the faux fur trim for every cold weather game. Unfortunately, I lost one of them two weeks ago after the quarter final game in Louisville. Quite frankly, this worries me. I may very well go gloveless regardless of the temperature.

You think I'm kidding? Not even a little bit.

Saturday's wardrobe will include black jeans, a long sleeved Georgetown football t-shirt under either my orange or black Georgetown hoodie. Both have proved equally strong with the mojo as long as the t-shirt is underneath. I will also be wearing black underwear. Again, really not kidding. I would hate to jinx the whole damn thing by wearing the wrong pair of panties.

It could happen.

I will sit with my son's girlfriend at his game. She will sit on my right. I will hold my phone in my hand throughout the game. I might nervously check Facebook or post from time to time, but that's not where the mojo is. The mojo is in the phone itself. At no time during the game will it go into my purse.

Saturday, I will sit or pace nervously in my kitchen with the computer on the island. I will hold my clicker pom-pom from the 1999 National Championship game in my right hand, clicking furiously at pivotal moments in the game. I can't overstate the mojo that resides in that pom-pom. I've held onto it for 12 years, and bad things happen when it doesn't make it to a game with me. I've even withheld it from small children during close games.

I will yell a lot, prompting the dog to hide from me. My son might join me for a bit, but he generally can't be around me when I get like that, and that's okay. He and I never sit together at Bruce's games, and the mojo is good with that.

Bruce and my son have watched hours of film, practiced in every conceivable weather condition, absorbed their respective game plans until they know them better than their own names. Executing their game day responsibilities is as natural to them as breathing. In the end, do I really think that my clothing, what I'm holding, where I eat, what I eat, who I'm sitting with has anything to do with whether we win or lose?

You better believe it.

Go Cards!

Go Tigers!

Monday, November 28, 2011

What I know about your Thanksgiving

Kids are honest, sometimes painfully so. If I have your kid in my class, I may have learned more about your Thanksgiving than you want me to know.

My Monday-after-Thanksgiving journal prompt is always the same. "Write about your Thanksgiving Break." We don't always share journals. It depends on what's going on in class that day and how relevant the prompt is to the lesson. I generally try to make them relevant, but sometimes, like today, the journal is an island unto itself.

The kids were in a sharing mood today...or more accurately, an oversharing mood. This is what I learned.

Alcohol creates interesting holiday situations

Aunt B's sister went Black Friday shopping wasted. She thought having a few drinks with friends before she went out would make the shopping more fun. My student said it was quite entertaining watching her list to the left as she pushed a cart through Walmart at 2am. Concerned, I asked if Aunt B's sister was driving.

"Only the cart in Walmart, but she ran into three people and knocked over a display of Pillow Pets."

There is no TV or laptop cheap enough to make me fight with drunk, crazy people in the middle of the night at Walmart. I don't think I would go if they were giving them away.

Speaking of Black Friday...

Another student and her mother were standing in line at Bath and Body Works when a rude woman pushed ahead of them and cut line. Not wanting to force a confrontation, my student's mother contented herself with taking the chewed gum out of her mouth and tossing it into the offender's purse. Following Mom's lead, the student also added her ABC gum to the lady's purse. That's keeping it classy.

One young man bragged that his grandmother called the salesman at Best Buy an asshole loud enough for everyone close by to hear. Again, keeping it classy. Anyone tempted to apply for a job in retail?

Thanksgiving dinner can be a minefield.

Getting political during the blessing is just gonna piss everyone off before they take their first bite of turkey.

Says a kid gleefully, "My dad thanked God for Rand Paul during the prayer. He went on so long my aunt slammed her silverware down and left the table. After she was gone, my dad said, Amen!"

The kid was very expressive as he recounted the story, making me think his imitation of his dad is probably spot on. I'm sure his dad would be amused...or not. I was amused.

Another kid, "My mom and her sister both brought corn pudding to my grandma's house. They were mad and yelled at you if you ate the wrong one."

"Whose did you eat?"

"My aunt's. My mom will get over it, and my aunt buys really good Christmas presents."

Mercenary or just good business?

My favorite line of the day..."I'm still sitting at the kid's table. Somebody's gonna have to die before I see the big table on Thanksgiving."

If I was that kid's grandma, I'd be looking over my shoulder.

And now for the good news..

"My aunt found out her cancer is in remission."

"My grandpa was released from the hospital."

"I got to see my cousins."

"I won the guitar I wanted on eBay."

"My mom got me a smartphone for free...well except for the data plan."

"My sister asked me to be the maid of honor in her wedding."

And finally, a cautionary tale

"My stepmom had a meltdown while she was cooking and cussed at everybody in the house. I thought it was hilarious. She apologized later."

Whatever you do or say in front of your kids or your family's kids will make it back to a teacher somewhere. And if I'm that teacher, I'm going to be thinking about it the next time we meet at an open house or a parent/teacher conference. Just saying...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I've Come a Long Way, Baby!

This week marks the two year anniversary of my gall bladder attack. What a lovely thing to celebrate, huh? In fact, there was nothing lovely about the event. I went down on Thanksgiving night. My gall bladder was stone-riddled and so inflamed, I was admitted to the hospital for two days of intraveneous antibiotics. The following week, I was in surgery having it removed. If you're interested, you can read about it here.

I'm not actually celebrating the anniversary of getting sick. I'm celebrating the anniversary of deciding to get healthy.

Spending Thanksgiving break in the hospital and missing the following week and a half of school messed with my psyche in a big way. Compounding my angst was the bout with vertigo I had earlier that same year which caused me to miss the last two days of school. I wasn't even OLD yet, and I felt like I was falling apart.

Yeah, screw that.

Something clearly had to change, starting with my attitude. I was depressed. I had become extremely sedentary over the years, and while not obese by any stretch, I had packed on some extra pounds. I had no outlet for stress beyond chocolate and the occasional night out with friends.

The following January, a friend invited a whole group of us at school to go to Jazzercise with her on their annual One Day Sale. I've waxed lyrical about Jazzercise on several occasions, but I can't overstate how big a difference it has made in my life. I kept going back to class even when I was wheezing, sore, out of breath, out of shape, and just plain pathetic. Why? Because it was fun.

In any given class, you might dance to Britney, J.Lo, Rascal Flatts, an orchestral version of "Kashmir" with Slash on guitar, a Fall Out Boy cover of "Beat It", or "Put the Bass in your Walk" with RuPaul. I dare you to dance to that and not smile!

I did smile...a lot. The mental/emotional results were almost immediate. No matter how out of breath or sore I was, I felt better afterwards. My head was clearer. I slept better. I had more patience, and I pulled myself out of that "I'm falling apart" funk. The physical results weren't far behind the mental. Even without changing my eating habits, I started dropping weight. Burning more calories will do that. When I started dropping weight, I changed my eating habits. Success breeds success.

The strength training component of Jazzercise began to reshape my body and my self image. Feeling physically strong made me feel mentally strong. The rush that came with each milestone has stayed with me. I remember the first time I did a side plank without cheating. I remember the first real push-up I did. I can string together several in a row now. I've increased my hand weights by a total of 10 pounds since I started. Each success makes me want to push harder to get to the next milestone.

Last spring, I started running. The first time, it was because my son asked me to run with him. When my son requests my company with no strings attached, I try to oblige because it doesn't happen very often. Plus, it was cool that my son thought I could hang with him on a run. Honestly, I didn't hang very well, but I finished. I liked that I was in shape enough to finish, so I ran again. And again. And again.

In October, I ran the Race for the Cure in Lexington. It was my first 5K, and I finished under my goal time. Last week, I ran the Southern Lights Stroll, another local 5K. I ran two full minutes faster than my Race for the Cure time, and I did a happy dance in front of God and everybody when I crossed the finish line. I have set two long-term running goals for myself. I'm definitely going to run a 10K in the Spring, and maybe even do the Triple Crown in Louisville. That's a 5K, a 10K, and a 10 mile race each 2 weeks apart. I'd like to do a half marathon within a year.

Those goals are lofty, and I will have to work hard to achieve them, but here's the thing. I'm closer to those goals today than I was to where I am now two years ago. I've gone from sedentary, depressed, overweight, out-of-shape, in the hospital having organs removed to training for a half marathon.

The change came because I decided to make it. I'm a bit hard-headed, and it took a Thanksgiving in the hospital to get me there. This Thanksgiving, I will run before I sit down at the table with my family. I will go to Jazzercise on Friday morning and dance with my friends. I'm healthy and in shape, and for that, I am truly thankful.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Behind and Ahead

I'm frustrated because I am behind on my NaNoWriMo word count. Seriously. I should be at 25,000 words tomorrow, and I'm at 17,043. Do the math. It's not pretty.

I'm thrilled because I've written 17,043 words in 13 days. That's 17,043 more new words than I've written in 6 months. AND I'm not stuck. I know what happens next. My characters are alive in my head and talking to me.

So why am I so far behind in my word count?

Let me show you my Monday...

5:20am -- Roll out of bed, throw on my workout clothes and head to 5:45 Jazzercise. Workout time is absolutely non-negotiable. It is my sanity. Sanity is worth losing a little sleep.

7:00am -- Home again. Shower, dress, attempt to wake the living dead, otherwise known as my sleeping son. The living dead is extra grumpy today. Hello Monday. He's congested, hacking up a lung, and dealing with a souvenir from Friday night's game in the form of a strained back muscle.

7:50am -- Leave for school without the living dead. Call doctor in route and make an appointment. This reminds me to call the vet to get Biscuit's insulin refilled. As soon as I hang up, I forget all about the insulin. WalMart's pharmacy will be closed when I remember it again.

8:05am -- Arrive at school where I immediately make arrangements for coverage of my third hour class as I will be taking the living dead to the doctor during that time. Answer emails, make copies, get bellringer and agenda on the board all while mainlining a 32 oz Diet Dr. Pepper.

8:45am -- Teach first hour.

9:45am -- My much needed planning period, but am I planning? No. I'm sprinting out the door to go raise the living dead. Drag him out of bed, yell repeatedly through the bathroom door that we are going to be late.

10:26am -- Arrive 6 min late to the doctor. They graciously get us in asap because they know I'm a teacher who should be teaching. In fact, the doctor's daughter is in my third hour class which is being covered by someone else. Negative strep test is good. Viral crud that can only be toughed out is not as good.

-- Arrive back at school where living dead shuffles off like he's walking the Green Mile. I sprint to the library and ask my colleague covering my class if we're still friends. Thankfully, we are.

11:15am - 3:45pm -- Teach my little heart out. My two sections of regular English were particularly awesome with a poignant reading on Emmett Till as we prepare for TKAM.

4:00pm -- Meet and greet in the library for our new interim principal.

4:30pm - 6:00pm -- Plan tomorrow's lesson because I was dealing with the living dead during my planning period. Didn't mind too much as I am ridiculously excited about starting TKAM.

6:00pm -- Pick up son at football practice. Yes, he is my son again. Nothing raises the dead like knocking the crap out of his teammates. Playoff round 3 is this week, so practice goes long. I catch up on Facebook and blog reading while I wait and wish I had my netbook in the car.

6:30pm -- Drive son from field house to trainer's office to get his back iced.

7:00pm -- Pull into my driveway where son realizes he doesn't have his phone. I call his phone, and one of his teammates answers. He's still in the trainer's office.

7:05pm -- Drive back to school. I know, I know. I should have made him wait until tomorrow to get the damn phone, but some battles aren't worth fighting. There's no glory in victory. Driving back was less hassle than living with a teenager who couldn't text or talk to his girlfriend for 12 hours.

7:06pm -- Call from Bruce who saw me pull into the driveway and then pull back out. He's starting dinner. There is a reason I love that man.

7:30pm -- Finally arrive back home. I actually get out of the car and into the house before I realize I haven't picked up the OTC meds the doctor recommended for the viral crud. I decide I can't face getting back into the car just yet. Help Bruce finish dinner and eat.

8:45pm -- WalMart to get meds. Remember I haven't picked up Biscuit's insulin, and the pharmacy is closed. Sigh.

9:15pm -- Do a load of laundry, read blogs, open my WIP.

10:00pm -- Close my WIP upon realizing my brain is totally fried. In an effort to write something, anything...compose a blog post complaining about being behind on my NaNo novel.

There you have it. I'm behind on my word count. I may or may not make it to 50,000 by November 30. Doesn't matter. I've written 17,043 words in 13 days. I know what comes next. I'm gonna finish this mother.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Victory is sweet indeed!

We are a football family, and this weekend we are celebrating accomplishments worth bragging about.

My youngest son is a junior in high school. He plays guard on the offensive line and does all the short snapping for PAT's and field goals. He also long snaps on occasion. You don't think about the short or long snapper very often. His name doesn't get called. In fact, he's invisible unless he messes up. Then, everyone in the stadium knows who he is. I can say with pride, my son doesn't mess up very often.

Like any good football mom, I beam with pride every Friday night. However, my game day pride goes much deeper than my son's accomplishments on the gridiron. His success on the field every week is a visible, tangible marker of how far he's come in the last six months.

Suffice it to say, young son created some very big problems for himself last school year. Teenagers are wont to do that. Mothers of teenagers are wont to gray hair and bouts of stomach-turning anxiety. Up until the first practice in July, I didn't think I'd ever see him in a football uniform again, and honestly, that would have been okay if that's what he had wanted and not the mess he had made for himself.

To my son's credit, he accepted the consequences of his actions and cleaned up his mess. Things aren't perfect, but he's so far from where he was that I can only be thankful. Every Friday night when he runs out of that tunnel, my heart soars. The cherry on this wonderful cake is that his team is 12-0 and heading into the third round of the playoffs for the state championship. Regardless of whether the team reaches that goal, my family has already won.

An undefeated regular season is a rare, rare thing. I've been married to a football coach for 22 years, so I can say that with some authority. We have been blessed in that the losing seasons have come less often than the winning ones, but we went 2-9 four years straight and suffered the humiliation of losing a job over it. And yes, I do mean "we." Losing a job happens to the whole family.

I'm not complaining. Bruce chose to be a coach, and I chose to marry him. As our son learned this year, we live with the choices we make. And truly, being a football family has brought so much more joy than pain.

And an undefeated season is a rare, rare thing. Not only did my son get to experience that joy this year, but so did my husband. It's almost scary how long the odds are on that happening. I've been afraid to say it out loud up to this point out of fear that I might jinx something. Football families are a superstitious lot for sure.

I can say it now though, because tonight my husband's team won their final regular season game. 10-0.
You want to hear something even scarier?? My son played on the JV team all season as he earned his place in the rotation on the Varsity team. The JV team went 10-0.

My family has not experienced the sting of a loss on the football field since 2010.

It could come next week. After 22 years, I know that. There are only 16 6A teams still playing high school football in the state of Kentucky, so every game gets tougher, every win harder to come by.

Likewise, there are only 16 NAIA teams still playing football nationwide. Georgetown is ranked #3, but at this level of competition, everyone is good.

Tonight, I'm thankful for my football family. I'm thankful for what seeing my son in Cardinal red and white represents. I'm thankful for the blessing of winning, and the chance to play at least one more week.

Go Cards!

Go Tigers!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Oh, the humiliation...and other interesting stuff

I'm cheating a little bit. I've pledged to post at least once a week, but instead of a full blown blog post, I'm mostly just giving you some links to follow. As expected, football on Friday night and Saturday pulled me out of writing mode. I'm behind on my NaNo word count, so I have some ground to make up today.

I did spend some time yesterday catching up on the 200+ blog posts and articles sitting in my Google Reader. I skimmed over a bunch of posts I might have read with more time on my hands, but in my NaNo frenzy, mostly just deleted. Two blogs are noteworthy, however, and if they aren't already in your daily blog roll, I highly recommend them.

For writers: Janice Hardy's "The Other Side of the Story" blog is amazingly helpful and instructive. Janice is the best kind of teacher. She takes difficult subject matter and makes it easy to understand. She discusses the nuts and bolts of writing, and I used her pre-NaNo series to plan my NaNo novel.

For everyone: John Scalzi's "Whatever" always entertains. He is a science fiction writer, but his blog is exactly what the title would imply, whatever is on his mind. He is a tremendously talented writer. I frequently laugh out loud while reading his posts, and when he wrote about the death of a beloved dog, wept unabashedly. I read a piece he wrote about September 11 to a couple of my classes who were getting ready to write personal narratives, and almost couldn't get through it because I choked up. In November, he has a series of Thanksgiving Advent posts where he blogs each day about what he's thankful for. He has written about air-conditioning, his ukulele, people who are good at what they do, and being a goofball, among other topics. He's worth a stop on your daily Internet wandering.

Last, but not least, is a link to article that actually made me stop, read closely, and think. The Rumpus solicited readers to send in short vignettes on the subject of humiliation. This article is a compilation of the best submissions. The pieces are in turn, funny, poignant and downright painful.

I considered writing my own companion vignette, but changed my mind. My excuse is that I need the time and writing energy for my NaNo book, but the true reason is I'm not willing to be as real as the writers who submitted were. Strangely, the compilation is not depressing. The editors were intentional in the way they ordered the pieces, and there is humor sprinkled liberally with the pain. The last piece is almost triumphant in that the author realizes she is only humiliated if she chooses to be.

Enjoy the links, and enjoy your Sunday!