The Trenches

Because he couldn’t open ALL the bags of popcorn in the store. PC: Instagram @kirstmccall

There was this one time many years ago, I was unloading groceries from the car, plastic bags dangling from both arms as I tried to backwards-kick the passenger side door shut. My toddler sprawled out in front of me right there in the grass, draped across my feet, and began to wail because he couldn’t have a popsicle out of the grocery bag at that precise moment. I took my dominant leg and scooped him up with it like an excavator at a demolition site, moved him expertly to the side and dumped him right back in the grass where he kept on wailing. I glided past him and into the house, catching the eye of my judgmental neighborlady in the process, who I’m sure thought she was sure she just saw me kick my kid. Read more

The Puzzle

Photo Credit: A. McKnight Insta @adam_mcknite.

If you sit down in front of the television at dinnertime you might happen upon that icon of the American living room: Wheel of Fortune. It’s harmless fun, and I can totally see why fourth graders and grandparents nationwide enjoy solving the simple, catchy phrases over a plate of mac and cheese, although I wonder how the producers can still put together new puzzles after they’ve been on the air for, what, forty years now?

Stay with me. This post isn’t actually about Wheel of Fortune. I promise I will get to my point.

I never enjoyed the game because it feels silly to play something so easy. Still, while I fry my chicken and open my mail, it always feels a little annoying to hack out “THREE-CHEESE LASAGNA” when we’ve already been given all the Es and As. And often (too often) these hapless players miss it, seeing something completely ridiculous and incorrect. I watch them slack-jawed. What are they looking at? How can they NOT know the answer? It’s so obvious to EVERYBODY!

That’s my error.  I have to remind myself daily that people don’t see things the way I do.

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bad day

Photo Credit: Instagram Princess and Empire Builder Extraordinaire J. Burch. Instagram: @jm_burch @theburchhouse.

Sometimes my students grow up to be my friends. Sometimes, strangely, my students even grow up to be extraordinarily special to me in ways I never would have expected, like when they turn out to be hugely successful and I actually seek them out for help or advice.

Under strange and special circumstances, a student even grows up to be the kind of person I deeply admire and envy. Now, that doesn’t happen as often as you might guess, because age and wisdom usually only flow in a single direction, in the way the influence of mentors is supposed to trickle uniquely downward. It happened here though, with this young scribe I once graded and critiqued. She has grown into a mammoth talent, a lifestyle photographer with crazy skillz-with-a-z behind the lens. She is becoming her own Southern wedding empire with three small children in tow, and her #dearjason tributes to her husband belong in Taylor Swift song lyrics.

But that’s not what draws me to her — it’s her writing. Read more

Mother Knows Best

My hat goes off and I dutifully kneel in worshipful submission to the doctors who treat our kids every day. American medicine is the best in the world and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Is there anybody a mama loves more than that savior with the stethoscope in the moments when we are handed a prescription to soothe our baby’s earache pain or clear up a humiliating case of teenage acne? I can think of no one. He who has the answers to what worries us most, our children, is at the same time our oracle and our healer. Doctors are accused of having a God-complex, but they earn it because they can get our kids feeling better a whole lot faster than a prayer can. Read more