I’m a terrible soccer mom

It has been over a year since my mom died, and after her passing, my brother and I had to clean out her house.  It was horrible, time-consuming work, and we were both saddled with guilt over the truck loads we sent to the landfill or off to various charities.  Surely, we should be more sentimental.  Surely, we should want the dozens of photo albums, her full set of china, her old rosary, but we didn’t.  We both had complete houses, full of all we needed.  We saw how carefully she had kept our high school Lettermans’ jackets, trophies, and ribbons.  In the end, we pitched it all.

This memory was brought to mind lately when I was asked to create a framed memory keepsake for my oldest daughter.  It is a tradition at her high school that the moms each put together a collection of soccer memories and display them at the end-of-the-year banquet.  I can’t help but think this tradition was started by one of those scrap-booking moms with loads of artistic talent and way to much time on her hands.

I told Meg that I planned to compete for worst shadow-box of all time.  In my head I keep fast forwarding forty years and seeing her cleaning out my attic and tossing the shadow box in the dump pile.  And I am OK with that because, frankly, a middle-aged woman who hangs a tribute to high-school soccer in her kitchen is kinda sad.

Still, I have to put together this testament to her years of athleticism, and I am kinda pissy about it.  My current plan is to line the frame with money.  Then, in a year I can mail it to her at college; it will have value, and won’t end up in a landfill.

Meg in the goal, 2006

Meg in the goal, 2006

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my track record is suffering

There have been moments since my oldest child was born that I have felt a bit cocky about my parenting abilities.  You know those events when you simply do or say the exact right thing and walk away feeling like the best mother in the world.  Unfortunately, my track record has suffered lately, as I have made a series of parenting mistakes.  For example, I allowed my four-year-old to walk around with pneumonia for three weeks before taking her to the doctor–not a stellar move on my part.  And last week when my youngest was throwing a tantrum over the fact that our new puppy didn’t want to snuggle with her, I said, “The next time you scream like that you better have a bone sticking out and blood gushing all over the floor.”  Perhaps not the most nurturing of responses.

Last night I went out to dinner with my girlfriends.  My oldest daqughter, Meg, was at soccer practice when I left, and I didn’t see her until I returned home.  When I walked in the door, she asked, “So, what teachers did you meet?”

I looked a bit like this:

deer in the headlights

deer in the headlights

as it dawned on me that while I was chatting, laughing, and eating with my girlfriends, hundreds of mothers and fathers where at the high school parent-teacher night, which I totally and completely forgot about.  The other disturbing information that came out of this exchange is that my son, husband, and youngest daughter all knew I was out to dinner, but no one bothered to pass this key piece of news on to Meg.  Apparently, when I am not home no one in my family talks to each other.

never safety-pin anything to your underwear

Since it is prom season, I thought I would reminisce on the twenty-sixth anniversary of my own prom.

I went with my former boyfriend, Wake.  He was not my former boyfriend at the time.  If I remember correctly, he was my soon-to-be boyfriend at the time.  But, hey, it has been twenty-six years, so I may be a little off with my dates.

Wake’s sister was an amazing seamstress, so she offered to make me a prom dress.  I chose green taffeta; in 1987, green was the new black.  I loved the completed strapless dress, but it was a tiny bit too big around my chest, so my mom safety-pinned the dress to my strapless bra.

We had a great night.  Our limo driver was named Chester (I can’t believe I still remember that), and Wake sent dessert, pie I think, out to the limo half-way through our dinner.

When the dance was over, we headed back to the limo.  As I went to step into the car, my dress got caught on the heel of my shoe. (In case you are wondering, they were  dyed-to-match pumps from Leads).  Since the dress was attached to my bra, my entire ensemble was swiftly jerked down to my waist.  I did an ever-so-clever shift-and-shimmy move and simultaneously slid into my seat while I readjusted my bra/dress combination.

The car was quiet for several moments, and I exhaled with relief.  It appeared no one had seen my unintentional striptease.  Several yards out of the parking lot, John-Eric, a classmate and friend who was sharing the limo, leaned over my shoulder and said, “I totally saw that,” and burst out laughing.

The moral of the story is: strapless dresses, though cute, are generally a bad idea, and also, never safety-pin anything to your underwear.

Obviously, tanning beds were very popular in 1987

Obviously, tanning beds were very popular in 1987

Of course I kept my prom dress.  Didn't you?  Unfortunately my dyed-to-match shoes are MIA

Of course I kept my prom dress. Didn’t you? Unfortunately my dyed-to-match shoes are MIA

fearlessly authentic

Jason Collins is the first NBA player to announce that he is gay.  Jason received a call from President Obama praising his efforts as a role model. It is a little unsettling to realize that in 2013 one’s sexual orientation is still news, but as a former high school teacher, I celebrate Jason’s willingness to be the first in his profession to blaze this trail.

I worked with a handful of openly gay/lesbian teens when I taught English.  They were fearless souls, all of them.  Being fifteen and open is a tremendous act of courage.  I knew many straight teens who spent countless hours concerned with the impression they were leaving on others.  It is hard to be authentic in an environment where the right pair of shoes matters so dearly.  To be fully out of the closet in high school is like walking around with your heart outside your rib cage; one is left so achingly vulnerable without armor.

I worked with one student, Chris, who was particularly stunning in his courage.

Chris spent the beginning of his life as a little girl.  He went to grade school with most of his classmates and was known by a different name during those years.  By the time middle school rolled around, Chris had made some serious decisions in his life.  The most notable being that he did not actually consider himself a girl.

As his peers looked on, Chris slowly peeled away his feminine exterior.  By the time he landed in high school, he had a crew cut.  He had bound down his breasts, camouflaged his female curves with massively baggy clothes, pierced one ear, and  changed his name.

He was a bright, quiet kid.  He did his work; he faded into the background.  Chris wasn’t on the receiving end of constant outward violence.  He didn’t get beat up daily, or to my knowledge, threatened.  Chris was quite simply ignored.  Kids thought he was weird; they talked about him behind his back; they referred to him by his old female name; they disrespected him with their cold-shoulder treatment and feelings of superiority.

I often wonder what happened to Chris.  He would be in his mid-twenties now.  I hope he lives in a great community; I hope he is involved in a career he loves.  Most of all, I hope the world has stopped ignoring him.  I hope everyday he is seen and heard.  And someday soon I hope one’s sexual orientation is no longer news.  It shouldn’t warrant a phone call from the president because it shouldn’t matter to any of us.

 

go ahead, laugh at my expense

In 1986, I swam on my high school’s varsity swim team.  That year, a HORRIFIC photo was taken of me in my swim suit and published in the yearbook.  This event happened over twenty-five years ago, but it remains the fourth most embarrassing moment of my life (embarrassing moments two and three involve spontaneous crying in public.  Embarrassing moment number one involves milk and vomit; perhaps I will blog about them someday) The photo itself is supremely humiliating, but two events followed that increased my shame tenfold.  First, my friend wrote, “USDA approved” across my bare, pasty thigh in every single yearbook he could get his hands on (note here, I ended up dating that boy for over two years, and he is a follower of my blog.  Hi, Wake!).  Second, while I was sitting at lunch the day after the photo was published, the Spanish teacher, Mrs. Navarro, walked up to the table and addressed me in front of twenty of my classmates and friends. 

“I loved the photo,” she said.  “There are countries in South America that revere women with thick thighs.”

The table burst into laughter, and I went home and cried.

Because I am deeply committed to my blog followers I am going to allow you to laugh at my expense by publishing, again, the dreaded photo. (Oh God, I just vomited a little in my mouth).

1986 yearbook photo. Why didn’t someone tell me that haircut only worked for Annie Lennox?

The swim suit photo was brought to mind recently when I was downloading pictures off my camera.  My three-year-old loves to take photos and she took one of me a few weeks ago.  It is, without doubt, the worst photo I have ever seen of myself and because I want to spread love and make you feel better about your own lives, I am going to share the photo.  Enjoy!  But remember, the photo was taken at 6:00 AM, and I only look like this until I get my cup of coffee.

The very fact that I am letting you see this shows how much I value your readership

After my morning coffee, I look like this

lucky

Years ago I had a student named Stacy.  Stacy was a quirky loaner who had trouble navigating the high school social system.  One day she came to me and said, “I’ve decided to change my name.  From now on, I would like you to call me Lucky.”

I hesitated to do as she asked.  After all, if I called her Lucky in front of the class, students would make fun of her.  Then again, kids were making fun of Stacy long before she proclaimed herself Lucky, so I granted her request for the rest of the year.

Months later she approached me.  “I asked all my teachers to change my name,” she said.  “But you were the only one who actually did.”

“Well,” I said.  “I think each of us has the right to define ourselves however we want, and you helped remind me of that.”

Perhaps defining and redefining ourselves as we see fit is what makes us all lucky!

not at a school-sponsored event

I am not currently teaching, but I taught high school Speech and English classes for nine years.  As a senior, Charlie was handsome, funny, and athletic, the high school trifecta for popularity.  On the last day of school he swung by my classroom to say goodbye.

“Do you remember me as a freshman?” he asked.

“No,” I said.   “I don’t think I had you as a student until your sophomore year.”

“Right, but we had a conversation at a dance my freshman year.”

I ran the leadership program and chaperoned many dances.  Freak Dancing, otherwise known as grinding, was, and I am sure still is, the dance of choice for Generation Next.

“I was dancing with Sara B.,” he continued with a smile.  “You came around and threatened to kick us off the dance floor.”

“Hmm,” I nodded.  Frankly, I kicked a lot of kids off the dance floor; it was one of the fun perks of the job.

“When you came around a second time, we were still dancing.  You approached us and in your booming, teacher voice you yelled, ‘you cannot rub your penis on a girl at a school-sponsored event!’”

I inhaled loudly, feigning shock and surprise.  “I saaaaaid that?”

Charlie nodded.

“Well, did you stop?” I asked.

“Yes,” he laughed.  “It was totally embarrassing.”

“Well then I have taught you life’s three most important lessons:  how to use a semi-colon, how to prepare a speech, and not to rub your penis on a girl in public.  I believe you are ready to graduate, Grasshopper!”