Friday, August 31, 2018
It is that time of year. You know the season. The one where countless hours are spent watching people throw perfect spirals only to be intercepted, miraculously caught, and defenses holding back the line of attack all at the cheers of the crowds. It is the time of year where for twelve hours most Saturdays my husband watches, not just his favorite teams but any team, score touchdowns. It is that season where movie watching is sacrificed, and I have to get used to competing with the other love in my husband’s life- football.
I decided to kick off this year’s football season with birthday tickets for the Atlanta Falcons verses the Miami Dolphins preseason game at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Dave grew up being a Dolphins fan, and I have always watched the Falcons, even back in the Steve Bartkowski days (he was the Atlanta quarterback in the 70’s and 80’s famous for miraculous Hail Mary passes).
Why does football season come in with such anticipation? We have some variety of sports to watch all year long, but the kick off of football season makes fans elated. Just check your social media feeds any weekend to verify. Football fans come in many different varieties. There are the ‘only college fans’ like my uncle Don, a Georgia Tech season ticket holder, and there are even variations of those fans who only follow ‘their team’ and manage to not watch for twelve hours straight every Saturday. There are also those who think of themselves more as ‘purist’ and insist on watching high school talent compete. Then there are the fans who want to watch ‘the big boys’ or professionals play saying that they take the game to a whole new level. Then there are ones like my husband who will watch them all until I scream, “I’ve got to watch something with a plot or I’m gonna die!” That rant usually happens around December when I have grown tired of playing solitaire or reading by a crackling fire while he yells instructions to the players and coaches.
For me, the beginning of football season is sort of like being pregnant with your second child. You have forgotten the bad parts and are actually looking forward to doing this again. The beginning is also a time before hopes are dashed- a time when your team could win it all, after all they have no loses.
Well, I know it was only a pre-season game, but the Falcons put on a disappointing showing against Dave’s Dolphins. I guess those tickets really were a birthday present for him. Happy football to all you fans!
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
I did something yesterday evening that reminded me of my late Grandma Shoemake. At the end of the day my daughter-in-law texted me about me picking up something I had loaned her before it got lost in her vast array of moving boxes. I asked if I could come that evening to pick it up. We got carried away in conversation, and somehow ended up on the subject of how much my sixteen-month-old grandson loves ice cream. I decided to pick up four cups from Chic-Fil-A on my way.
As I gathered the container of ice cream and walked to their door I was reminded of how almost every summer day my Grandma would show up at our house with a watermelon in her arms for us to gather around the picnic table in the backyard and eat. As a little kid I wondered why this was so important to her, and I, like Felix preferred ice cream.
Looking back on it now I see those watermelons as a peace offering of sorts- a physical gift that bought her a precious commodity, our time. Yesterday I bought ice cream for that same reason.
For a grandparent, even a busy grandparent, there is a realization that time slips past you faster than you ever thought possible. You see,in my mind I am just as much that six-year-old girl who complained and said, “Watermelon again?” as I am the Mimi delighting over watching a baby learn to feed himself ice cream. My soon to be thirty-year-old son sitting on the couch watching the spoon hit the baby’s mouth upside down serves as an urgent reminder that time spins by too fast, and every moment is meant to be treasured.
My thinking about myself as the grandma- not the parent or the child also reminded me of how time spent with grandchildren depends on so many things. There are distance factors, other obligation factors, and procrastination factors that all work against getting to really know these special little people. Before long the little people turn into teens with worlds and obligations of their own that take them away.
I wish as a young adult with all my stretched too thin scheduling that I had spent more time with my aging grandmothers. There is something special about the way a grandparent sees you- how they think the world of you- make you feel special. I’d love to have one more conversation with each of mine.
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
My morning had not started the best with my alarm failing to get me up in time for my five am work out. Because of that I left about five minutes early for work. My thirty-minute commute is usually pretty non-eventful, but not today.
As I rolled into the thriving metropolis of Whitesburg, I saw that there was a problem that extended beyond the usual elementary school back up; we were all sitting still. Suspecting there must have been an accident, I and about five fellow commuters were growing weary of our stagnant state.
We were all thinking that we should take a side road and detour around the problem. We should be able to take a left turn, then take a right, drive down a bit, then take another right, and be on our way. It should work.
After a few minutes more, a train of impatient drivers took a left turn. I was on the phone with my mother, hands-free of course (that is a story for another day), and she, being a Whitesburg native, said, “I don’t think you ought to turn there. I think it turns into a dirt road.”
Instead of taking her advice and turning around I decided to follow the crowd. I told her, “I’m sure they have paved the roads since you were young and besides all of these people must know what they are doing.”
A couple of minutes after we ended our call the paved road turned into gravel as promised. Staying optimistic I thought, ‘Gravel is not that bad, and I’m sure we will be back on the main road in a minute.’
The white powder from the gravel road was coating my damp from the morning dew car. Soon I felt that we were going the wrong direction entirely. The road was veering left. Soon after that I saw another warning sign that I should have heeded. No Through Traffic.
The white dust quickly transformed to a cloud of red clay particles from a freshly-scraped road parting two clear-cut logging fields with not another sign of civilization in sight. The road was only wide enough for one car, so turning around wasn’t an option. Our train of five cars was regretfully committed to our erroneous path. The red dirt now covered my windshield impairing my vision. I could only imagine what the rest of my car looked like, and we were no where near the real road. As I hit the windshield-washer a red mud tear ran down the car in front of my eyes- I think my car was sad about my choice.
I turned on google maps to see if we were on a real road that would eventually lead to anywhere. The road widened a bit and one of our members of the train decided to turn back. Blindly following the leader is what got us in this mess, and I understood the regret that driver felt, but we had gone too far. Sometimes you can go so far down a wrong path that turning back is not the best answer- instead you just have to press through another way.
After another five minutes of eating the dust, we began to see signs of civilization. There was a farm house and around the curve there were three teens waiting on the corner of the dirt road for a school bus. They all, including their yellow lab, looked at our unit with wondering eyes. It was not often that four cars filed down this back-road one right after the other.
Finally, we turned right and hit the pavement again! As we crossed the railroad tracks, I knew where we were- just across from my aunt’s house.
My impatience had caused me to be late, plus my car was embarrassingly dirty. I don’t know that I will follow the leader so easily in the future, and maybemy mother had been right. Shhhh, don’t tell her because I will never hear the end of it! Patience really is a virtue.
Thursday, August 9, 2018
Have you ever felt like your life is segmented into pieces, like you have the work part, the spouse part, and the family part? Sometimes you find a few minutes to devote to the you part and do something you want or need to do. All of these pieces of me require me to change hats, so to speak, and become a different version of me to fit the occasion.
There are many days that I feel, as I’m sure you do, that the pieces of me are pulling against each other threatening to pull me apart at the seams. If life is a tapestry, sort of like the quilt-top that my Great-grandma Pate constructed, then the purpose of my life is to put all those pieces of me together in some sort of pattern, utilizing my past and my current relationships, my thoughts, my dreams, and my beliefs to make up the quilt of my life.
In my book, Leave Him?, I talk about how I would have never put the patterns and colors together in the way that my great-grandmother did years ago. Anyone who knows me knows that I want things to be matchy- who would dream of wearing navy blue shoes with a black outfit. It even bothers me when my nail polish clashes, after all things must be perfect. My striving for perfection doesn’t stop with my outer appearance- I naturally hold that standard (one I can never measure up to) for all of the things in my life and have to consciously fight to allow myself the grace to be less than perfect. A half-century of failed attempts at perfection helps to push through to an adjustment of standards.
I struggled with a way to end my memoir last year, because I have not come close to figuring life out and summing it up in a ‘they lived happily ever after’ sort of way. The quilt of my life contains many pieces of fabric that I have had to learn to love and embrace, and there are still days when I feel it is coming apart at the seams. If you decide to read my book you will not find a tidy, how to live manual, but instead you will find stories that illustrate a journey, sometimes sloppy, that is both distinctive and universal. Most of all my desire when reading my book is that you would feel that it is okay to not be okay as one of my favorite Christian music singers, Plumb says. If you struggle with matchy perfectionism or feeling like you have blown it maybe this is the book for you.
You can read my book for free with Kindle Unlimited or purchase it at Amazon.com
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Thursday, August 2, 2018
Back to school… As a kid it meant getting new shoes, picking out a few cute outfits, and a book satchel (for those younger than me that is the equivalent of a backpack). Back in the old days the event came much later in the year- closer to September. I remember summers that seemed to never end, with plenty of days of boredom after the library’s reading program and tennis lessons had come to an end.
This summer vacation consisted of sixty-three days, including weekends, and I know this because I am now on the other end of the back to school spectrum- I’m a teacher. Both teachers and students feel the freshness that comes with a new start. Teachers come up with ways to improve their instruction, and even the most reluctant learner is encouraged by the clean slate at the beginning of the year. I used to tell my students that on day one everyone has a 100, they just need to maintain it by working hard.
As we all adjust to setting an alarm clock again, teachers and students alike long for a little more sleep. I have become a firm believer that my body functions much better when I get up with the sun and pretty much go to bed when it does. I especially felt that this morning when I was already at the gym working out a few minutes after 5 am.
I can hear you haters out there grumbling about how you always have to have an alarm clock and how you would love to get out of the habit and have to adjust back after sixty-three days. It wasn’t that long ago that I was among you. I haven’t always been a teacher.
Entering the teaching profession at the age of forty-eight was a little unusual to say the least. After working for years on my degrees and teaching certification, I was finally ready to get a job, and at that time there were not very many to go around. I knew the competition would be tough. Those cute, twenty-something blondes bursting with ideas and charisma and young coaches that the athletic program had to have got most of the jobs I interviewed for. The school year had already started and I thought I was going to have to take a job as a paraprofessional making a tiny salary just to get my foot in the door somewhere when I got called for an interview at the end of August.
Because I had done almost every kind of job and was more mature (code word for old), I was selected to step into a classroom at Douglas County High School by Tim Scott, Vicki Burnett, and Amanda Thornton to which I will always be grateful. I needed my maturity and the perseverance I had developed over the years to survive my first year. You see teaching is not for the faint of heart. High school students can be very intimidating, and as a high school teacher you have to design your lessons to get your class to learn the expected standards. Countless hours went into creating lessons, activities, and tests, then grading all of their work. By the end of the year I understood what summer vacation was for! Without that sixty-three day break to forget how hard the job is, nobody would continue to teach.
So as you find yourself stuck behind a school bus making stops, remember to appreciate all those involved in the education process. It is often a thankless job that is virtually impossible, but it can be the most rewarding thing in the world to think that you helped prepare a young person for their next step. Even if you are years beyond going back to school, you should pretend and get yourself a new outfit and a shiny new pair of shoes. It is that time of year, and we never stop learning!
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