Life on the Colorado Plateau

Yesterday I sat in the bleachers at the home football game wearing jeans, a long underwear top, flannel, wool socks, work boots, wool vest, down vest, sleeping-bag-like down coat, wool scarf, and hat.

The sky was grey. Very grey.

Today, while harvesting pounds of carrots, then playing catch with Elvis Aaron, I stood barefoot in the grass, wearing a tank top.

Green grass.

Orange scrub oak.

Yellow aspen.

White snowy mountains.

Blue sky.

Hot Damn I love it here.

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Reality hits

92
Everett

 

Position
Linebacker
Height
5-11
Weight
195
Class
Fr.
Hometown
Mancos, Colo.
Highschool
Mancos

HIGH SCHOOL: 2016 graduate of Mancos High School … Competed in football, track, wrestling and basketball … Four-year starter … Played linebacker and full back for the Bluejays.

PARENTS: TW and Suzanne Strazza

Fort Lewis College

© 2016 FORT LEWIS COLLEGE ATHLETICS | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

Friday. Third Period. Middle School. PE.

Being the fun teacher that I am, and it being a gorgeous, warm day, I said, “Let’s go outside!”

“Noooooooooooooo.”

“Can’t we just shoot hoops instead?”

I put my foot down. They whined some more. I asked what they wanted to play (besides basketball). Capture the Flag was suggested and my decision was made.

“We’re going to play capture the flag! It’ll be so much fun.”

“Nooooooooo. Everyone always cheats.”

“Can’t we play basketball instead?”

Let me take a minute to describe what they mean by “playing basketball.” Most of the boys run around with the balls taking shots at the basket. One girl participates like a badass. Her sister uses trying to get the ball as an excuse to rub up against the boys. Two boys materialize a football which they throw across the gym, through the crowd. The rest of the girls make volleyballs appear out of nowhere which they hit against the wall, and the backflipper turns on the ball inflater and puts it in his mouth sucking in compressed air until he turns purple. I tried for three days to get them to do the drills that their teacher assigned; four people participated, one girl suddenly had a back problem, one girl told me that she had to practice volleyball for tryouts (it’s an all-inclusive intramural activity) and one girl couldn’t participate because she had to play basketball in two days???? The rest of the class threw balls at each other’s heads.

So, no basketball today.

If class in the gym was a freeforall, class outside was simply, a total shitshow.

To begin with, I don’t even know how to play capture the flag so I had to ask someone to give me the basics.

“H and T are captains – they’ll choose teams.”

“Nooooooooooooo. Can I be captain?

“Can I be captain?”

“Let me be captain?”

“They can’t be captains.”

etcetera.

“Can I go help with the gardening class? I don’t want to play with these guys.”

Honey, I hear ya.

“Go dig in the dirt.”

So they wear these belt-thingies, red or yellow, that opponents grab – it’s like tagging someone. The belts pop off and the person goes to jail.

The boy-crazy girl who was late because she and her mother got called into the principal’s office put hers around her neck so that anyone trying to tag her would have to grab at her boobs.

That wasn’t going to work for me. But apparently, it didn’t work as a fashion accessory around her waist for her because she spent most of the class standing behind the goal line adjusting it, trying to get it to sit low on her hips.

Everyone cheated. The Volleyball girls intentionally got caught so that they could hang out in jail, indefinitely, flipping around their dirty blond, hot ironed hair.

Just about every girl in the school has the exact same hair and they all walk around with their heads tilted slightly to the side to sort of keep it out of their eyes. As a wise old woman, all I can think is, “Doesn’t your neck hurt?”

Somehow or another, after 15 minutes of play, half of the red boys had managed to switch out their colors so that the yellow team almost double in size. Combined with the hair girls in jail, that left just 3 kids on the yellow team.

Whistle.

“Come back. We need to redo the teams.”

“Can I be captain? Can I be captain? Can I be captain? Can I be captain? Can I be captain?”

All from the same kid.

“Dude, if the answer is no on the first try, it’s definitely going to be no on the fifth. Quit asking.”

“Can we just shoot hoops?”

“Do ya see a court out here?”

My attempts to reboot the game failed.

It was so fucked up.

Finally, I snapped.

They found themselves isolated, on their asses, silent, and not allowed to move a finger, spread out over the 50 yards of the field.

“Can I go to the bathroom?”

“No.”

“What, you can’t tell me that I can’t go.”

“No.”

“I really have to go – it’s an emergency.”

“You should have thought of that before you started throwing snowballs at everyone.”

“I’m going to tell the principal.”

“I’M going to tell the principal. Who do you think he’s going to believe?”

“Can we play basketball?”

“Take the cone off your head. Quit slapping your jacket against the fence. Give me your phone.”

Ad Nauseum.

Finally, class was almost over. The garden teacher offered up one solution – she always needs help weeding. Hell yeah.

“Teacher?”

“Yes?”

“You swore at us.”

“Uh, no. I did not.”

“Yes you did and we’re going to tell the principal.”

Right about now I’m wondering why anyone in their right mind would ever chose to be a school principal.

“I didn’t swear and I know that because I really wanted to and consciously refrained. Now for God’s sake, GO.”

Later, after fantasizing about drinking on the job, one of the only slightly squirrely boys, not even a goody-goody, found me to let me know that he had already written up the class and turned in the list.

Thus validating my agony.

 

 

My poor (almost adult) baby

He has to have major surgery day after tomorrow: hamstring repair.

He tore it off his pelvic bone.

Crutches, brace, PT, no driving for 2-3 months, 1 year rehab before he can do any type of athletic activity.

Pain.

They told me yesterday that Lortab isn’t going to cut it.

Blood thinners, pain meds, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories.

They also said, “Plan on being in the hospital ALL day.”

That’s when I got off the phone and cried.

Watching the physical pain is bad.

Watching the emotional pain: unbearable.

Everything he has dreamed of for his future in on the line right now – and honestly, one foot over the line. He may never play football or wrestle again.

So much for D-1.

He was contacted by a college football recruiter the other day. First question after name and position: “Any athletic injuries?”

He is trying to hard to remain hopeful and undefeated. He is determined that this will not stop him from fulfilling his ambitions and dreams.

He is also very aware that no matter how determined he is, it might not do him any good. He just may never play again.

He did something stupid and reckless the other night. When I called him out on it, he fell apart, “Mom, my life is ruined.”

You and I know that it’s not, but when you are the star of the football team and the most physical kid in town, it feels that way.

My heart broke for this sweeter-than-sugar young man.

I’m trying to just hold space for all of his pain – to be able to hear him and help him remember that he is loved and will, no matter what he thinks, be okay.

“We will get through this. It’s going to be hard, and, we will do it. Together.”

I’m calling in the forces: friends, teammates, coaches, grandparents, cousins.

He’s the toughest kid I’ve ever met – plays football with multiple broken ribs.

And he is the most sensitive kid I know.

Watching this huge, muscle-bound, tough-guy cry is simply and horribly sad.

So, as I prepare and he prepares, I find myself praying – something I am not prone to doing.

But we are going to need all the help we can get to make this boy continue to smile that glorious, infectious smile of his.

 

 

Selfish Selfish Selfish

One child lost his Social Security benefits (but didn’t lose his disability) and the appeal has been going on for 6 months. We need to plan his future and get him a driver’s license and teach him how to balance a checkbook.

The next one, the off-the-charts brilliant one, is putting in minimal effort, getting mediocre grades and now his teachers are calling me in to discuss behavioral problems in the classroom.  I got word this morning that he threw up in his friend’s bunk bed after too much to drink at the Homecoming party.

The third is apparently not having the football season that he needs to have if he’s going to get recruited and can’t afford college without some scholarship money. He’s got a mom flirting with him and potentially sending him boobie-photos.

Get me the fuck out of here.

I want to think about me. I want to read my book, write my memoir, get a massage, and run away to the desert, ALL. BY. MYSELF.

I want to not think about anyone else.  I want to paint my nails and think about having another cup of coffee and where I will run.

I don’t want to worry about anyone else. I don’t want to be constantly trying to fix, help, or encourage. I don’t want to brainstorm for another.

Sick of teacher meetings, coach meetings, guidance counselor meetings.

Last night I had to make the choice: Write another letter to the Federal Government, rage against my oh so underachieving child, or find out if there is a sexual predator pursuing my handsome child.

Child being the operative word here.

I chose that one – seemed like the most urgent.

Looks like it was nothing.

So relieved that I completely blew off the others. Figured there was so much shit going on that one more day wouldn’t matter.

Especially when I have no interest in dealing with any of it.

Is there anyone out there who wants to take over for a little while?

There is a Guardian Angel

“Mom, you’re not Christian or Mexican, why are you so into Jesus candles?”

“You know Buddy, just in case.”

Who knows if it does me any good, but I figure it can’t do us any harm, and last night felt like a Guardian Angel was looking over my family so, I’m going to keep on lighting them…

…just in case.

It was the night of the Homecoming Dance, and hand in hand, the Homecoming after-party.

Back story here:

My boys are teenagers. We live in a small redneck town where kids drink Coors Light, chew Copenhagen, and go mudding in the mountains in their big trucks. I was a teenager once and made a LOT of really stupid choices. My children have made a lot of stupid choices. So have their friends. Their father, a recovering alcoholic, thinks that a “talk” here and there about the dangers of drinking, especially with their genetics, is keeping them from imbibing in said alcohol.

So the way I look at parenting them during these years, given the above factors, I have 3 choices; tell them not to drink and think that they won’t, thus having them lying and sneaking all over the county with a beer in hand; cruelly forbid them to ever leave the house just so I feel safe; or be totally realistic and hope that a policy of transparency will keep them honest and maybe a bit more careful if they’re not having to lurk around behind my back.

Since Dad has gone for number 1, and number 2 just isn’t fair since they haven’t done enough to warrant its implementation, I’ve opted for number 3.

Number 3 is great when sitting around the dining room table, me being the cool mom.  It’s a whole other story on a Saturday night when they are making plans to go to the mountains with 235 of their closest stupid friends to drink beer and Fireball, at two o’clock in the morning.

Which was last night’s post-homecoming plan.

So many things were freaking me out about it, yet I chose to let them go: with stipulations.

No drinking to vomiting status.

No taking advantage of drunken girls.

No drinking and driving.

Curfew.

First one, I just had to keep my fingers crossed that they too believe that Vomiting Isn’t Fun.

Second – I just trust them. Should I? I certainly hope so.

Third – I offered, as I always do, to do the driving for them. I always agree to drive up to the mountains at extremely-early-in-the-morning (like 2) to pick them up to guarantee that they won’t get in a car with a “sober” driver.

I remember one night that I was the “sober” driver – I was chosen because I was the one in the group who’d only eaten one hit of acid instead of two.

Curfew – Of course they don’t want one. Of course they’re going to get one.

“Can we just spend the night up there?”

Fuck. No.

So they asked if they could spend the night at a friends’.

“Is this your way of getting out of having a curfew?”

“Yes.”

Remember, I have asked for total transparency.

And, I said “Sure.”

Crazy, right? It just seemed so much easier having another parent involved, even if it was one who was going to let them stay out all night.  It gave me the opportunity to turn a blind eye.

And I took it.

God I love denial.

It didn’t mean that I wouldn’t stress, freak out, lose sleep, etc. But in saying “yes” I hoped that they would be able to say “no” if necessary.

Another part of the equation was this:

Friend wouldn’t be drinking or driving like an idiot because he’ on probation and has to take a pee test tomorrow and the truck is his dad’s and if he messed it up, we’d all be running for the hills to avoid the wrath.

“I wish I felt okay about this because I trust Friend to make smart choices, not because he’s made so many dumb choices that he can longer afford to make more. But I’ll take what I can get.”

And then, I received this text: No one wants to go to the mountains, it’s too cold and too much driving. So just a few of us are going to go to Friend’s to hang out.

No stupid driving on stupid mountain roads with stupid drunk teenagers. No wondering if the cops (who always know when there is party in the mountains) will show up and issue my children MIP’s (minor in possession).

They go one place, where they will stay, with parental supervision, right in town.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Have fun. Have a great night.

And there is proof that a Guardian Angel does exist and thank the heavens above that I lit that Jesus candle yesterday.

TBI

Stands for Traumatic Brain Injury.

Translation: Concussion.

Cause: Helmet to Helmet hit on the football field.

Necessary Action: Go to the Doctor.

Treatment: Time off the Line.

Reaction: “It’s all your fault, Mom.”

Yep. I’m the one who insisted on him playing football, even though he begged to sing in the choir instead.  I am also the one who told him he was a puss and needed to hit a whole lot harder. I refused to listen to his complaints about having a headache for over a week. Oh wait, he didn’t complain because I told him to lie about the headache and deny that he had one. I also stubbornly didn’t agree with him that he knows more than the ER Doc and doesn’t have a concussion. And I am definitely the driving force behind the national movement to save athletes from long-term brain damage by implementing more rigid protocols for allowing those athletes back on the field after a hard knock.

Obviously, All. My. Fault.

After yesterday’s second doctor appointment for the head, the appointment wherein the doctor said, “Yes, it is a concussion. No, you shouldn’t have been playing last week. Yes, you should have told your mother and coach about the headaches. No, you’re not going back in this week. And, yes, TBIs are very serious,” we walked out to the car in a torrential rainstorm, the silence between us thickening with each falling drop.

I unlocked my door and got in the car.  He pressed his face against the window saying “Are you serious?” as I decided if I would let him in or not.

I begrudgingly did.

As we drove home I said, “Now is the time to say, thank you, Mom, for caring so much about my well-being. I am sorry, Mom, that I yelled at you and accused you of ruining everything for me…”

Then, “…repeat after me, ‘I. Was. Wrong.'”

“I can’t say those words, Mom. Not in my lexicon.”

‘Wrong’ isn’t, but ‘lexicon’ is?

I rolled down the window on his side (Love power windows.  Also love the child-lock.) I figured a good dousing would at least make me feel better.

It did.

He laughed.

He still can’t utter the word ‘wrong’, but I think he gets the message.

joyous

Last night, dinner was completely chaotic.  Greg, Peter, and Bobby came home battered and bruised from football, wearing their new jerseys, which prompted lots of conversation, which led to a lot of talk about tonight’s game, and which was then somehow connected to how much they hate their new Spanish teacher. Bobby needed to purchase some (expensive) items online for his college class, my cute boyfriend (MCB) was preparing to leave at 3:00 am for a fishing trip and we are still living out of boxes.

Usually whomever doesn’t cook, does the dishes, but I did both last night so that the big strong boys could move some furniture, so that I can try to finish unpacking and settling in while MCB is out of town. I also hit Amazon.com hard.

And we could all smell cat pee, but we couldn’t locate it.

At one point, while moving from the stove to the fridge, I completely stalled out in one of those “I have no idea what I was doing” moments and I just stood there observing the chaos of my life, my home, my family…

And I was overjoyed with love and contentment.

I never would have imagined this would be my life.  When I married, I thought it was forever, so I pictured myself at almost-fifty with that man and our two sons, who would be long distance runners and kayakers or artists. I envisioned calm, quiet, and settled for years in the house we built ourselves out in the country.

NOT having just moved into a new rental right in town, that we chose because it was convenient for all of the friends. NOT with 3 teenage boys, including the little scrapper that turned up on my doorstep a year ago. NOT with 3 football players. NOT with a loving, kind, and generous (in heart and soul) man who is considerably younger than I.

Certainly, NOT enjoying noise, confusion, and a million things swirling around all at the same time.

I went to sleep watching MCB pack. We woke up together at 3. As I lay there watching him dress and zip up his duffel, I sighed in total peace and thought, “I am the luckiest gal in the world.”