Guest Blogger: Touchdown Tragedy

Dear Readers,

Today I am proud to feature my first guest blogger: Kealohi.  Kealohi is a very talented young woman whom I am honored to have as a student.  She is only in her first-year of high school and is already, I’m sure you’ll agree, a brilliant emerging writer.  I’d like to share with you a short story she wrote about a young man who faces a bitter disappointment.  Will he be able to regain his confidence?  Will he find hope?  You’ll have to read it to find out.

I know you’ll love this piece!  And so, without further ado, I present to you:

Touchdown Tragedy – an original story by Kealohi P

BOOM! BOOM! CLAP! LET’S GO BULLDOGS – LET’S GO! – the call of the fans. As the team gets pumped up for the game in the locker room, getting loud and rowdy, I sit quietly aside and try to  get focused. I can feel the grass under my cleats, I can hear the crowd roar, I can see the score board: nothing else matters but those numbers.

When we step out on the field we raise our helmets high, yelling chants to get the crowd going.  They go crazy: screaming, yelling, stomping and clapping. That, my friend, is truly a great feeling: knowing you have all those people there to cheer you on. We line up on the field for the National Anthem.  The band begins to play as the flag is raised, and our hearts swell with pride. When the band finishes someone yells, “LETS PLAY SOME FOOTBALL!” and we know it’s game time.

Football: it’s the only thing I truly know and love.  It wouldn’t be an over exaggeration to say that it is my life.  Everyone, including my coach, says “I can see it now, Jacobson #58, receiver on an NFL team.” To say football is the only thing I have is no exaggeration, but a true fact.  This is why I remember the night of October 2 so well.  That was the night I lost it all.

The clock was at a minute forty-two seconds left in the 3rd quarter, we were up by one and trying to keep it that way. There I was, standing on the 20 yard line, hoping, praying I would catch this last pass and score before the time ran out. Our quarter back, ball in hand, looked at me.  I was ready. The ball wasn’t even two feet away from my hands when I was hit. When I slammed into the ground I knew I wasn’t coming back up.  There was an almost unbearable stinging pain in my leg. The crowd was silent as I lay on the field unmoving. After that I don’t remember much, only faint memories of the ambulance ride and being rushed around the hospital.  All I could think about was that may have been the last play of my football career. My leg was broken in three places and I had to get pins in the bone.

Dr. James came over to my bedside.   I couldn’t hold my anxiety in any longer.  I had to ask: “Will I be able to play football again?”

                “Well son, we’ll have to wait a few weeks and see how it heals,” Dr. James told be with a sympathetic look, as if to say, “the chances aren’t high”, but in a nice way.

I just nodded in the fear I wouldn’t be able to talk.

The days passed, and I was released from the hospital and back in school. Everyone at school asked me how I felt and if I was ok.  I wanted to tell every single one of them, “Does it look like I’m ok?!”  People were really starting to get on my nerves. But the worst part of all was I had to sit on the sidelines during practice.  I never thought I’d miss the conditioning and up downs as much as I did. I wanted to be out there with my team: running drills, getting tired and sweaty.  But no – I was stuck on the bench; a place I have never been and a place that, well, quite frankly I hate. Home wasn’t any better.  My mom was fussing over my every move and my Dad was giving me the sympathy look all the time.  Seeing all my trophies and season pictures everywhere made me feel even worse.  It felt  the world seemed to hate me.  Even sleep offered no escape.  Every night I had the same dream: the replay of that night, the snap, the pass, the fall, the break. These images haunted me and would not let me forget.

My life had changed so majorly in those two weeks on crutches that I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Without football, I had all this free time that I didn’t know what to do with. Life was so boring.  I felt so useless!  I went to every game, every practice, but it just wasn’t the same.   I had no purpose. I was truly nothing without football.

The day my doctor let me off crutches I wanted to jump for joy, but I kept my cool because I knew it wasn’t then end.

                “Give it another few weeks,” Dr. James informed me.

                “Alright,” was all I could say.

                “Elevate and ice twice a day.”

                “Yes sir.”

It sure felt great to walk into school the following day.  Without crutches, I felt like a happier person. The whole school seemed to be uplifted with me back on my feet, or maybe I was just over excited. I felt like I was getting back to my all-star self, taking little steps at a time. Being off crutches gave me the hope that this nightmare would be over soon.

The final game of the season came and I still couldn’t play, but I put on a smile and my jersey and walked out onto the field with my coaches. The crowd was louder than ever and the team was pumped.  I was still disappointed that I couldn’t play, but I was there to support the rest of the team. Game ended, 22-16 WE WIN! The season went out with a bang.

But my healing journey wasn’t over. From the doc’s approximation I had another two weeks before we would know if I could play again. These were the longest two weeks of my life. All I could think about was, “what am I going to do with myself if I can’t play?”   As I walked into the waiting room of the doctor’s office on the morning I was supposed to get the final news, I couldn’t help but be nervous.

                “Jacobson?” the nurse called for me.

                “Do you want me to come with?” mom looked at me as if she already knew the answer.

                “Nah, I think I gotta go on my own,” I smiled.

                “OK, I’ll be here.”

                “Thanks.”

The nurse led me to the room where I sat on the table and waited. As I sat there I studied the floral wallpaper and the tree outside the window, trying to keep my mind off football.  It seemed like ages later when Dr. James came in with a blank, unreadable expression on his face. I started to panic.

                “Well, we both know what you are here for, so let’s just get to it, shall we?”

                “Yes sir, please!” I couldn’t help but rush the situation.

He looked down at his clipboard, then back up to me.

 “Well son,” he smiled, “looks like you’ll be packing for football camp next summer.”

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Post 1 of 2: A Real Reader’s Bill Of Rights

I’ve got the best job in the world; I get paid to talk about books and maps and history and philosophy and yes, even grammar and punctuation. Now, lest you write me off as one of those jerks who claim to have found a way to “get paid doing what I love”, let me reveal to you the downside of my job. I have to talk about books and maps and history and philosophy and yes, even grammar and punctuation, with a group of people who divide their time between texting, eating, and being/trying to appear to be bored.

That’s right – I’m a high school English and social studies teacher. As such, I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can share my thoughts, my ideas, and my passion for learning with my students. What can I do to help them in the process of growing as readers and writers and thinkers? HOW DO IGET THEM TO BUY IN? I want my students to read and to write… even just a little. I don’t even ask them to like it: just to do it. How do I show kids what it is to be a real reader?

With this in mind, I’ve developed a Real Reader’s Bill of Rights and I’d like to share it with you here:

Real readers have the right to…

…browse. I can spend an entire afternoon in any bookstore in the world with no pressure to buy anything- ever. Sometimes I even sit down in one of the comfy reading chairs that are tucked among the stacks and read entire volumes if I want to.

…not like everything they read. I think reading a book is like entering into a new relationship – some work out, some don’t. I’ve even been known to stop reading a book if it isn’t any good. I give every book 50 pages – if it hasn’t grabbed me by then, I move on.

… talk about books they didn’t like.

… not find a deeper meaning in everything they read. My dear friend Tammy, who is an avid reader and one of the best writers I know, once had a high school teacher who nearly choked the love of reading out of her by giving an asinine writing assignment requiring students to analyze the meaning behind the daily glass of orange juice that a character’s mother served him. Umm… maybe he just liked OJ?

… re-read favorites.

….re-read books they’ve forgotten they’ve already read.

… read about books. I find myself pouring over book reviews, dust jackets, books about books and the people who collect them: all of it is fascinating. Some of my favorite book finds have come from a passing glance at a review in the back of one of those free magazines on an airplane.

… read books NOT on their reading level. I read everything from young adult novels, children’s literature, cookbooks, how-to manuals, and bestselling mysteries, to biographies, philosophical texts, and scholarly physics journals that make me feel small. IT ALL COUNTS.

… get in a rut. I went through a vampire/sci-fi phase that lasted about 4 years. Okay – so I’m still in it. Back off.

… surprise themselves. I’ve started reading biographies and poetry and I’m completely shocked by this development. For years I’ve been a self-proclaimed skeptic of both genres.

… keep lists of books you want to read, and then ignore them.

… check out more books from the library at one time than you could ever possibly read in 21 days.

… buy books that you’ll never read, or won’t get to for a few years.

… own multiple copies of the same title.

So, dear reader, now it’s your turn: what rights would you add to this list? Leave me a comment. I’ll repost this in 2 weeks with any additions I deem satisfactory (that’s teacher-talk for “comments submitted without gross spelling errors”)

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Hunting and Gathering

Some of the treasures in my Grandma's button collection

 This weekend I tackled a project that I’ve been putting off for a long time: cleaning out my craft supply closet.  “Craft supplies” is a term I’m using loosely here because in reality most of my alleged “supplies” are really just junk that I’ve accumulated under the guise of one day possibly using them for a craft project.  As I sorted through the stacks of expensive papers, jars of German glass glitter, and a puzzlingly large assortment of marbles, I came across an old Russell Stover ribbon taffy tin from the early 1960’s that holds my Grandmother’s button collection.   You know you’ve hit critical mass when your collection has collections. 

Russell Stover Tin that holds the button collection

 

It got me thinking about the things we collect – both consciously and by accident.  What is a collection? What do YOU collect?  As a kid I collected rocks and lids from plastic bottles and bones smoothed by the desert winds, polished by its sand and bleached by the sun.  Thigh bones of mice, vertebrae of snakes, sparrow skulls – to me they were things of rare beauty – each a talisman in its own right.  I’d cup them in my hand and close my eyes and feel the dry rattle of my objects d’art as they brushed past each other: the whisper of movement as they jangled in my palm.  I remember the way my hands would feel after holding the treasure – dry, dusty, gritty.  I remember trying to rinse that fine dust from my fingers and watching with fascination as the tiny particles bonded with the droplets of water on the backs of my hand forming these mysterious, murky grey pearls that – if I held perfectly still – would float on the top of my skin like dull mercury balls.  Eventually, they would begin to quiver, then blend into each other, then slide down my arms as rivulets of soap and sand and water until finally they would swirl into the white porcelain sink and be gone forever.  This ritual cleansing always left my hands smelling metallic.  If I close my eyes, I can smell it even now. 

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Sea Sprite

 

She’s running – leaping really – across the wet sand –

sand so saturated that its surface shimmers like glass and

stretches down the shoreline like an antique window pane,

 wavy and inconstant, but beautiful nonetheless.

She is skimming across its surface in a dance of sheer delight –

eyes shining,

lungs filling with the fresh, wet morning sea air and

emptying with puffs of pure pleasure.

She is all light and life and movement

and promise and childhood and joy and

in this moment I want to be Her –

in this moment, I am Her.

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The Gift That Keeps on Giving

I was honored to be a part of my friend C.L.’s 50th birthday celebration this weekend.  I wanted to present her with something special to commemorate this milestone birthday, something that would express my admiration for her thoughtful mind and her love of reading.  I decided I would give C.L. her very own Book book.  What is a Book book?  It’s a book journal, of sorts.  I’ve kept one for years and plan on sharing parts of my Book book here in a later post.  For now, I wanted to share pics of this gift and a “recipe” for creating one of your own. 

Ingredient list:

  • 1 Hard cover 9×12 blank sketchbook with at least 70lb weight paper
  • 1 Fine point Sharpie pen – I prefer one that clicks rather than one with a cap
  • Plain Butcher or Craft paper – I used some from Ikea that comes on a large roll and is sold in the craft section of the Kid’s department
  • Cool Accent Paper – I used a placemat that had a map of Turkey on it.
  • Funky Ribbon

I wrapped the book in the craft paper first, then I made a sleeve out of the placemat and slipped that over the book.  I tied the pen on with the ribbon and voila: the perfect gift for any writer or bibliophile.

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Creepy Dollhouse Photos

My little one spent almost an hour this afternoon happily playing with her dollhouse.  She busied herself with rearranging the tiny furniture and positioning the dolls just so – all the while humming a sweet tune to herself.  I smiled to myself and sighed contentedly, thinking about what a perfect scene of domestic bliss was being played out in miniature.  Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw this:

I'm not sure what finally drove them over the edge.

What, exactly, has happened to the family in the living room...

...does it have something to do with the eerie circle cast by the Disney princesses in the master bedroom?

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Good Girl Goes Bad

I did something naughty today.   To be honest, I am more than a little surprised at my brazenness.  I did it in the full morning sun… at 9 am… on a Tuesday, of all things.   Before I make my full confession, you should also know that as I was committing this act of delicious selfishness I, a) lied to my spouse about my whereabouts, b) committed a non-moving violation, AND c) ignored a phone call from my Mother. 

It all started with an 8am appointment at the BMW dealership.  I had to bring in my sedan for a minor repair and had budgeted a full 2 hours for the drudgery of dropping off the car, filling out paperwork and getting a ride to school via the dealer’s “Courtesy Shuttle”. Happily, it turned out to be a very quick fix and I found myself with an extra hour -and my car- all to myself.  I called Andy and told him that I was going to use the extra time to go to Lewis & Clark and catch up on some reading before class (see a, above). 

Instead, I drove as fast as I could to my favorite bookstore, Annie Bloom’s in Multnomah Village.  As I glided through the Terwilliger curves at the daredevil speed of 60mph, I calculated – to the minute – how much time I could linger among the dusty shelves.  I practically cheered when I spotted an empty parking spot (the only one on the entire street) right in front of the store.    Taking it as a sign that this mid-morning tryst was meant to be, I zipped into the open spot, smugly congratulating myself on finding such rock star parking.  I whisked into the store, not noticing the bright orange fire hydrant that my shiny black car was now blocking (see b, above). 

I spent almost a full hour browsing.  I walked up and down the aisles, looking over the staff recommendations, pawing through the stacks of clearance paperbacks while my eyes eagerly scanned the “New Arrivals” shelves, even pausing to scratch behind Molly’s ears (Molly is the bookstore’s resident cat).  My phone rang while I was skimming a memoir I’d found in the Humor/Essay section.  I glance at the caller id, which displayed “Mom Cell”.    I felt only a little wicked as I hit “ignore” and dropped the phone back into my purse.

Sigh.  It was pure heaven.

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