My back hurts! I have a kink in my groin, and my baby finger does not bend like it did two days ago. My heart, however, is bursting with pride.
Yesterday morning began like any other day. Fun lessons were set to go. I knew from history, it was not a sit down and write quietly day. The junior high team had a football game planned. On football days they are a little more “enthusiastic” than normal.
Case in point. The old way: I start my explanation of the lesson saying something like, “Every group needs a set of highlighters….”
Five to seven boys would jump out of their chairs and launch into an all out race to the back of the room. Imagine with me: Chairs toppling from the momentum. But that doesn’t stop them. They simply hurtle the obstacle and heaven help the individual that is between them and the well organized supplies in the back of the room. In a matter of thirty seconds, we have witnessed the opening scene to the actual Hunger Games. Oblivious of the girl wincing because a toppled chair hit her in the knee, the victor while brandishing five brightly colored markers declares, “I took care of it for us.”
Nope, I don’t make that mistake anymore. We have vocab battles set up on Classcraft. They have alliances and are battling against a big purple animal thingy to gain 500xp and 75 gold coins. This battle will be a mental one.
In a further show of support, I spent the morning decorating myself in fanfare also known as the Jamberry wraps with the school mascot, logo, and colors. I had my new school shirt, and my headband and shoes to finish the theme. Win or lose, our junior high football team was going to know they had a die-hard fan. I could feel it in my gut, the kids were going to have a great day.
Except, it didn’t happen the way we planned. When we arrived, we all learned that the other team forfeited the game. The boys were sad, mad, disappointed and did not care one bit that I thought they were the best team ever. Then a follow-up announcement came over the PA system. The junior high team was playing at the end of the day. Their competition was the alumni. “What is alumni?” they asked. I named off a couple of the kids they’d remember. “Jackson, Tyler, Sam.”
Their eyes grew wider with each name drop. “Jackson cannot be tackled. He hurdles people.”
In my finite wisdom, my response was in line with the gladiators. “Then grab his leg as he jumps over you and pull him down.”
Kids were scared. Hindsight told me that I shouldn’t have been quite that encouraging. But I digress. Back to the story.
Then came the unexpected call. “Hey, how do you feel about playing in the game against the junior high kids?”
Before I share my answer I’d like to interject that I do not know how to throw, catch or handle a football. The shape confuses my senses. My helpful side did not seem to care. It said, “sure.” The helpful side inferred that they had to have asked me for show. You know have the peppy teacher on the sidelines. That’s my gig and I’m good at it.
Just in case, the study hall lesson hour was in the gym with the kids teaching me how to throw a and catch a football. With every drop of the ball, they had a pointer. With every wobble, there was a comment on how to improve it. At the end of the hour, I was a little more confident and they got 500xp points to fight against the purple thingy because they experienced life from the teacher/coach perspective. That in itself was priceless. Right? This is where life was chuckling at what was soon to happen.
It turned out that the “alumni” team was a motley crew of people pulled together in the two hours between the announcement and the end of the school day. The history teacher was the quarterback. He graduated from the high school in 1985. The business teacher, and a dad of one of the players, were receivers. The older brother of one of the players and the current Student Council president played receiver and linemen. I was on the field because I knew how the flags worked.
The looks on the boys’ faces probably matched the look on mine the first time I felt the strong shove on my bad shoulder as one of my little darlings blocked me. I did not know pushing was permitted in flag football. When the stars faded and I remembered where I was, I yelled, “You did not teach me how to do that!”
And their response of, “You didn’t ask,” floored me. That was it. Game on. I still couldn’t catch a ball. They didn’t need me to throw a ball. It got real. I snatched at and caught a couple flags. The older brother full on tackled his younger brother for the ball. The kids got all strategic and tricked us into going offsides. Twice. I had to throw out a couple bags of Skittles mid-play to keep a couple of them away from my flag. One of my affable ten-year-old who loves the Dork Diaries books growled at me… He gave me a full snarly faced grr.
Then it happened. The people who read Piece of Cake know what I am talking about. When I am not teaching, I am the school librarian. Those lessons from earlier in the day proved useful and the school librarian crossed the goal line with a football in her hands.
Kids were shocked. I danced. And the game went on. Until twenty minutes later when the “Alumni” team limped with exhaustion.
I am sorry the original team forfeited, but I am not. There was a larger lesson here. Our community is here for the kids always. Four of the six people on our team had bad knees, hips or backs. Without hesitation, we went out there to let those boys prove how tough they were. And, Wow! They embraced the opportunity. Parents cheered on the sideline and the high school football team coached those boys throughout the game. Those boys can say a lot of things about our small town and at the top of the list is we are there for them as much as possible. And we are. We do it with the hope that when they have a problem or deal with a character lesson in the absence of adult influence, they’ll remember they have a community of people who are rooting for them to come out of the problem a winner.
P.S. they won the game by one point.
Until the next post.
The first book in the Small Town Stories is scheduled for release on Amazon. They are shorter reads intended to deliver a happily ever after in less than two hours.
Piece of Cake, the first book in the series, was inspired when I was handing out cake at a high school graduation and two people reached for the same fork. I don’t know about the people in the experience, but for a moment I was transported to a time and a place that eventually became this story. Here is a link to the Instagram post where I decided to share the world in my head. Four months later, the story is real.
And this is the part where I introduce you to the characters: When Lacey reached for a piece of cake, she accidentally picked up the hand of Mr. Golden Eyes, Colton Hughes. He captured her heart and disappeared into the crowd of people leaving her to think it was a momentary crush. The next time they met she ended up on her back under a shower of fruit. And thus began her introduction to life in small-town Montana.
From one misunderstanding to the next she wonders if perhaps life would be easier if she moved to Arizona with her parents. Who cares that the state is so hot people can fry an egg on the ground.
Colton sets out to prove that not only does she fit in perfectly in the small community, but Lacey also belongs by his side.
In this quick read, Lacey will learn that love and laughter are only one step behind the obstacles, and if she will let him, Colton is more than happy to catch her every time.
The book will be available on October 20th.
This is an excerpt from the fourth book in the Ashbrook, Montana series. The book is free for this weekend only. If you like what you’ve read so far, click the link at the bottom of the story and get yourself a copy. It goes back to regular price on July 24th.
Kate overheard someone whisper, “I think it’s Sam and Kate from the airplane. Maybe they’re making up.”
“You and I have a history. We have a common bond. You just met pretty boy this morning, and here you are almost kissing him.”
This was not Sam talking. Kate knew it. The Sam she knew talked about engines, fishing, and stunts he pulled with his friends. The Sam she knew pined for his wife that left him twelve years ago. The painful truth slapped her. The Sam she knew ignored her until another man showed interest. She was just a toy he was at risk of losing. To keep her resolve, Kate reminded herself of these things.
“And stop thinking,” he yelled. “You do that when you’re in a situation and you want to say the right thing. You’re not a mother right now. You don’t have to be logical. I’ll tell you the right thing to say. Say something like Sam you’re right, or what the hell let’s give it a go.”
She tried to think of something that would hurt him to make him go away. “Sam, you go outside to pee sometimes.”
“That’s your best argument? I hunt Kate. Pretty boy may know the right thing to say, but I know what to do.”
The intensity of his demeanor declined and brightened with revelation. “You’re playing hard to get. Why didn’t I think of that sooner?”
“Where do you get these things from?” she asked. “I’m not playing anything.”
Satisfied with his conclusion, Sam said, “Well, kissy, kissy, huggy, huggy time with Luke is over. I will block every attempt he makes at taking you from me.”
“Sam!” Kate scolded, “That’s what dolphins do.”
The eagerness in his voice changed to that of a driven man. He pointed at her. “And, that is the Kate I want. The one who knows how to keep up with me.”
Streams of sunlight streamed through the branches of the tree behind the gravestone. One ray seemed to be pointing at the name: Jesse Duncan March 4,1978-July 11, 2015. Annie Duncan offered a sad smile in response. Nature was sending some sort of a sign. She wished she knew what it was.
One of the flowers in the vase was turned in the wrong direction. Annie bent down to readjust it to align with the others. It shouldn’t have mattered, but it for some reason unknown to her it did. She stepped away from the flowers to assess how they’d look from a distance. Pleased with the slight alteration, Annie gave them a nod of approval.
“Noah’s working at the clinic. They really needed another doctor. So everyone was happy about him coming back to town. But I suppose you knew that was going to happen.” She pressed her lips together. “You always told me that he wanted what we had. People say that sort of a thing all the time.” Annie threw a furtive glance at the car parked on the gravel path and took a deep breath. “Then again, you said you’d be back in time for supper.” Her frown was so deep she felt the dark cloud loom over her head. “I sold that four-wheeler as soon I saw Jesse eyeing it the way you used to. Like father like son.” Her chuckle was more from sadness than appreciation of the similarity. There was no way I was letting it take both of you from me.” Her anger dissipated as quickly as it appeared, “We’re using the money for a down payment on a pickup for him. You know he’s excited about that.”
She pulled a slip of paper out of her pocket. “Anyway, I came to tell you that once again you won. I should have known you’d argue with me even after you left. I didn’t believe it at first. But when Jesse and Noah started taking your side it took all the steam out of my boat.” It was as though her world was on mute and the sound had returned. Some birds in the tree above her chirped loudly. Maybe they were arguing with her. Annie’s eyes searched through the branches to find where exactly they were. The last thing she wanted was a present from above. Just in case she stepped out of the shadow into the sunlight.
When she heard the car door shutting she knew her time with Jesse was coming to a close. “I will love you always, Jesse Duncan. Nothing will ever change that.” The crunch of the grass beneath the footsteps counted down the time she had remaining. Annie took one last breath. “I’ll be by again soon. I promise.”
“Hey, Jesse.” Noah’s eyes clouded and cleared. He slipped his hand into Annie’s and fiddled with the diamond ring on her finger. “I’m sorry to have to cut this short. If we don’t leave soon we’ll be late for Jesse’s graduation.”
Annie nodded and pulled the slip of paper out of her pocket. She released her hold on Noah’s hand and noted how quickly the coolness from its absence discomforted her. “I’m bringing this back to you. To let you know you won.” She looked into Noah’s almond brown eyes. “And, I’m not mad about it anymore.”
A small smile formed at the corner of his lips. It was the same smile he gave her when he showed her the note the first time. Annie folded the note until it fit in the palm of her hand. It fit perfectly in the gap between the flowers and the vase.
With her task completed, she returned to Noah’s side and took his hand. They headed toward the car in reverent silence.
Noah stopped for one last looked at the grave. He whispered, “Thank you, Jesse. I’ll make sure to do right by her.” This time Annie gave his hand a gentle tug.
Her heart wasn’t as broken as she thought it was after all.
The season for student stories is beginning. By now, they are comfortable with their new personalities and things a child wouldn’t have said last week let alone six months ago pop out of their mouth….
Today I helped a student work through an argument he blew out of proportion. As we talked through it I told him that a sincere statement of making peace with the other student was necessary. So, as we walk the halls to the classroom I ask him if he knows what he’s going to say. He shrugs and grumbled something incoherent.
I can tell he needs encouragement. So I say, “It’s easy you just say something like ‘Yo about what happened earlier. I could have handled it differently. I’m sorry.”
He stopped in the hall and adamantly said, “I would never say ‘Yo.'”
That makes sense. I said, “Of course you wouldn’t I’m 50. You’re nine.”
That was the icing on the cake.
I pulled the other student out of class and before I had time to explain the kid apologizes. The friend expressed understanding and apologized. (This is all done without any coaching from me) They walk arm in arm to class and the first kid says, “You are not going to believe how old she is.”
And in that moment I learned the power of being old. It shocks kids into forgetting their grievances. If it wasn’t so funny my feelings might have been a little hurt.
I’ve created a survey for my next book title in Typeform. If you have a minute could you help me decide between one of three titles?
Last month when it snowed, my I unceremoniously got my vehicle stuck in a snowdrift. It wasn’t one of those driving down the freeway at a high speed and slide into the mountain of snow situations. That would be edgy, cool and a great story to tell the grandkids to show grandma had some chops back in the day.
No, I was driving maybe two miles an hour and failed to maintain control of my vehicle. Slowly, my Jeep Grand Cherokee lodged itself (with my help) into a knee deep snowdrift. Walking away from the five-minute ordeal in absolute frustration, I vowed to buy snowshoes and walk the six miles to work the next time my white flaky nemesis made an appearance.
Guess what. My anger subsided with the snow melt, I never made that Amazon purchase, and we are expecting a 12-hour snowfall. This is where an actual image of my impression of snow comes into the picture.
Put a cute, red and white, crocheted hat on Mr. Snow and you have a pretty good idea of the Merri Maywether people were seeing today .
And this is why I love small town life. Someone who lives nowhere near us said, “We can always ride home together.” There was no mockery of my fear, or poo pooing of my poor driving skills. She offered the same solution for every problem I’ve encountered in the far, far north. Many variations of the phrase, “Let me help you.”
What I loved about the moment was the understanding of how I’ve accomplished more in three years than the first 30 years of my adult life. Up here, fear is something to be conquered–and it will happen whether or not you’ll like it.
Life gives us snow, and slick roads, and extreme weather conditions. The way we handle those conditions determine the outcome. I have been lucky enough to be placed in a situation where conflict is resolved pragmatically.
And my wish for you is this: May people who understand your problems be there to patiently guide you to a solution. I’m adding to this wish, that their guidance gives you the ability to recognize the courage hiding behind the cranky face that comes with the initial reaction to those unpleasant experiences.
It happened for me. I drove myself home.
Until the next blog
Lately, the news has been weighing on my heart. It seems everyone in our country has lost their ever loving minds. When I finally muster the courage to deal with the world where do I go? Yes, the local coffee shop.
Bear in mind coffee shops in small towns are not a place to go for quiet. If we could get anyone to listen to us, the world would be a better place, because we have solved all its problems.
Except this time, the world didn’t need help. I did. And, after one hour with some good friends, all the axises realigned and everything was as close to normal as we could hope for. They helped me realize that in the darkness, my little birthday cake sized candle of love needs to shine. It may not be much, but it’s what the good Lord gave me and I need to be a good steward with it.
Every romantic person has a friend that is a realist. It’s how we keep balance in the world. Invigorated by our conversation the day prior, today, I told my coffee klatch my new vision. For every token of negativity, I will try to put something positive out there.
With a straight face, the friend asked, “What are you going to do, break into people’s houses and hug them?”
I said, “No, but I might dust and vacuum a bit for them.” All of us around that table about died laughing.
Neither solution was viable, but isn’t that what good friends do–they help with creative problem solving.
And, so you have yet another reason why I love our small town in the far, far north. Our elixir for fear is a cup of coffee sweetened with some healthy banter.
With that being said, my wish for you reader is that you have people that can look you in the eye when you’re having a bad day, and tell you that love is larger than the monsters, and then prove it to you.
Until the next post….
Every Friday my afternoon involves reading and teaching library skills to Kindergarten, first, and second grade students. Today the same child cried when another girl got The Lion King book before her, and subsequently declared this the best day ever when she was able to check out Kittens First Full Moon.
Today I taught the kids about cliff hangers within Chris Van Allsburg’s
The Widow’s Broom.
The kids oohed and ahhed and bit their nails.
At the end of the book two very sweet girls rushed to talk to me. This is a familiar Friday routine. They want to be the first to get another book by the author. I am pleased and prepared to answer their question.
Except they didn’t have the question I expected. Cute little girl with the bright eyes said, “The best thing happened today. There was a wedding on the playground today.”
Going along with the conversation I asked, “Who got married?”
Beaming she answered, “I’m married to a boy in our class.”
I said, “We really shouldn’t marry boys until we’re 25.”
It was like I was talking to air. Her friend added, “I’m trying to figure out how to get (a very sweet and wisely oblivious boy) to marry me.”
These are the same kids that I have to seat boy girl when I want them to be quiet. I had to laugh.
Thankfully, the next girl that approached me wanted to check out Jumanji.
I close this blog wishing you days of refreshingly amusing conversations, and introductions to books that will brighten your reading experiences.
I prayed for a snow day. Like a kid promising a parent they’d eat their broccoli, I made bargains. And, the good Lord said something to the effect of, “You’re going to face this challenge.”
With a face grim with determination, and knuckles white from gripping the steering wheel, I set out on the four-mile journey that may as well have been a cross country trip.
Words of encouragement like “I’m a big girl, I can handle it.” And, “You drive as slow as you need to. It doesn’t matter what people think,” got me into town and as the distance between where I was and the final destination decreased, my elation increased. Whooo, go positive self talk.
Things were going so well, I rebuked myself for being scared in the first place. Then, without warning, this happened.
I can teach the most reluctant person how to read and write well. I can write novels that entertain and delight. My nemesis skill is driving in the snow.
What does that mean? Prepare yourself for the blogs. The season for hunkering down to write has begun.
I close this one with warm wishes and hopes that there are people in your life to help you the way the people in our small town work with me through my weaknesses.