At age 72, my father has come out of retirement for the 17th time. This is his first venture back into the working world that the rest of us didn’t see coming.
My dad leads an active lifestyle. He follows a healthy diet, but even so, he has diabetes and has been unable to get his blood sugar down from a near crisis number recently, despite the insulin. No matter how much he exercised, his blood sugar number recently has been topping 200.
Until three weeks ago.
That’s when he stepped back onto the sidelines.
Albeit on a somewhat familiar field.
The faces of the coaches and players are all new, but he will stand on a sideline from his past, and in doing so he will fulfill one of his dreams. He is beginning a coaching job at his junior college alma mater, East Central Community College.
The sidelines must have some sort of curative powers for him, because in the process of coaching again, he has also lowered his blood sugar. Apparently, coaching is the best thing he can do for his diabetes. The day after he started football coaching again, his blood sugar dropped to 97. He’s not getting any more exercise. He’s not eating any differently. He’s simply coaching again.
Football coaching is so deep in his blood that he missed it down to a cellular level.
Until three years ago, except for a few years here and there, my dad has coached football. For nearly 50 years, he has coached mostly high schoolers, with an occasional junior high team thrown in for good measure. I estimate that he’s coached at least 2,000 football players — but this fall is the first time he’s trying his hand coaching at a junior college.
East Central is in a tiny town called Decatur. Since the day he stepped foot on that campus when he was 18, he says he believes that place to be as close to heaven as one gets on this planet. In the fall of his second year as a student there, he and some friends were watching girls play intramural volleyball. He watched for a while, then leaned over and whispered, “You see, that girl right there?” When his friends said they did, my dad said, “I’m going to marry her.”
At that point he had never spoken to her, but in less than two years, he did, in fact, marry my mom — that girl playing volleyball. He has been grateful ever since. For that reason and more, East Central’s campus is hallowed ground to him.
To be clear, junior colleges, or community colleges as they’re called now, in Mississippi are set up differently than they are in many other states. Fifteen community colleges throughout the state serve different geographic regions, and 14 of them play football — hardcore, rugged stuff.
My dad played football at East Central more than 50 years ago. According to all sources, he was a good player, but not a great one. I don’t know what he was like back then, but I can’t imagine that anyone then or now could love the game much more than he does.
The growing success of Lafayette’s Horse Farm’s farmers’ market makes my heart sing. People are hungry for the fruit (and vegetables) of the region.
Serving fresh and locally grown food makes me feel hopeful. The more we can find locally, the better. I’m sometimes surprised at the variety of foods locally grown, but I’ve wondered for a long time about the possibility of growing one food, in particular, that I’ve never seen available locally.
In fact, every time we’re out for sushi and that bowl of salted green deliciousness arrives at our table, I ponder aloud about the whys of the lack of locally grown edamame. “With all the soybeans grown in Louisiana, why don’t we do edamame?” I ask my family, who sits and stares and keeps eating the edamame.
Finally, I decided to ask the expert.
Dr. Ronnie Levy, Louisiana’s state soybean specialist with the LSU AgCenter, was just the person to answer my question. Like most agricultural experts, he was happy to share his knowledge. I learned that the variety of soybeans grown over most of Louisiana and restaurant-quality edamame are, in fact, the same genus species.
“The real difference is that they’re harvested differently. Edamame has to be hand harvested at the perfect stage,” Levy told me.
He explained that edamame pods are harvested about a month earlier than soybeans, depending on weather conditions. Edamame has to be hand picked when the bean is still immature and the moisture content is at a higher level than traditionally harvested soybeans which are harvested later, once the pod has turned brown and the moisture level is down to about 15 percent, Levy said.
“You could harvest the ones we’re growing and eat them like edamame — if you picked them at the right time,” Levy said. “The size would be different, but I haven’t found much difference in taste in the ones we grow from Louisiana farmers’ fields.”
After my botany lesson for the day, Levy and I got down to business and discussed the math of soybeans and edamame.
Levy told me that soybeans currently sell for around $13.50 a bushel – that’s about 60 pounds of soybeans, dry weight (dry beans only, no pods).
“If you looked at the moisture content (of the beans that would be harvested as edamame), that would even offset the cost even more — those little bags of 12 oz. edamame sell for $3 or $4,” he said.
Handpicked could create jobs, but finding people to take those seasonal jobs is tricky — and expensive. The next biggest drawback is simply that soybeans have never been grown as edamame in Louisiana on any scale before. Even still, I am fascinated by the possibilities. After all, other states have successfully launched edamame crops, especially Ohio and Kentucky. Somebody there had to be the first to take that chance.
To be fair though, even if the math seems encouraging, handpicked green pods are delicate and must be dealt with carefully to avoid spoiling. A farmer willing to take a chance on edamame would have to work out the logistics of what to do with the hand picked pods.
“It’s a specialty market, and you’d have to work out the shelf life. Once you pick them, they start losing quality,” Levy said. “But there’s growing interest in it.”
Louisiana edamame may or may not be a thing of the future, but starting the conversation seems like a good thing.
The book, Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West by Hampton Sides, describes Kit Carson as a man of action.
“To an unusual extent, Kit Carson was a person who lived not in words but in action, responding to situations with a preternatural swiftness. Nearly everyone who knew him mentioned this quality,” Sides writes.
Sides continues that a physician who knew Carson commented on Carson’s “shrewdness of perception” and “promptitude in execution.” Apparently, Carson’s favorite phrase was “done so.” Stanley Vestal, one of Carson’s early biographers “observed that Carson constantly used the construction “Concluded to charge them, done so,” noting that he often rendered it in a single sentence, ‘To Kit,’ Vestal said, ‘decision and action were but two steps in the same process,’” Sides writes.
I respect Carson’s take on action. Though I enjoy a lazy afternoon as much as anyone (and I love sleeping late), when it comes time to get something done, I would rather just get it done as opposed to waiting for a better time or until everything is in exactly the right way or whatever the reason is for delaying action.
My perspective on getting stuff done is in direct and obvious contrast to my husband’s. Nonetheless, we’ve found our kabuki dance around our differences and have come upon a way that makes our relationship work. He is the yin to my yang, so to speak. After nearly 20 years of marriage, for the most part our different natures have grown to complement each other as opposed to aggravate. We make it work, and for that I am grateful.
However, for all the years it took my husband and me to adjust to our contradictory paces of life, I have yet to find a resolution to the snail-like approach and reflexes my 16-year-old daughter uses to meet each day.
She is the anti-Kit Carson.
To an unusual extent, she is a person who lives life in words not action, responding to situations with preternatural sluggishness.
It makes me crazy. As she approaches adulthood, we have yet to come upon the yin and yang of our relationship. She is a good girl, a smart girl. She has a kind and generous heart, but her tendency to stall and procrastinate is pushing me over the edge.
Lately, I’ve tried differing tactics to instill some sort of sense of urgency within her, but speed and urgency go against who she is to such a degree that, at times, doing the task myself would be easier.
But that’s not going to happen. After months (who am I kidding?)…after years, of trial and error, I have found her Achilles heel. It is her telephone. These days when I ask her to do something and she responds with her go-to reply, “I will. Just a minute.”
I say, “Do it now or I take your phone.”
I feel a degree of remorse that sometimes things might be more convenient to do if she waits a bit, but I have learned that, “Now is a great time.” I’ve also learned the hard way the betterment of having the task completed on the spot. Otherwise, it generally doesn’t happen.
Granted, part of her listlessness may be a function of being 16, but a function of being a 16-old’s mother is to guide her toward a better life. And in our case, that responsibility seems to require that I figure out what can light the fire beneath her so she gets the stuff done than has to get done.
Kit Carson, smile upon us.
Like me, you’ve probably experienced learning a new word or phrase you’ve only to hear it often or in surprising places in the days that followed. This week instead of a new word or phrase, I was constantly referred to what I could best describe as a theme. It wasn’t new, but it kept popping up in unexpected places. The theme of my week can best be summed up in a passage I read in my book club’s selection: The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro.
One character said to another, “Come to your senses.”
The characters then discussed the meaning of that sentence.
One of them said, “It means to be reasonable, sensible.”
After some discussion, the other said, “Maybe it’s an invitation. Maybe we need to literally come to our senses, to return to a sense of taste, touch, sight, smell, hearing and find sustenance in them, inspiration. Life is, after all, a sensual experience. Our senses have the power to truly transport us but also to ground us. Make us human.”
That beauty of that passage took my breath away and culminated a week when one experience after another led me to consider our five senses.
For example, I heard a short story on KRVS about a blind man who traveled across the country to visit a friend. The friend’s husband narrated the story, constantly referring to their guest as “the blind man.” The story posed a series of questions about the character’s considerations on the protocol of entertaining a guest who happens to be sight impaired.
The story made me wonder, “As much as I love to travel and see the sights of the world, if I was blind, would I still like to travel?” How much of my experiences in a new place are based on the sights I see? Do I over-emphasize that sense, in comparison to my others? Would I travel, say to San Francisco, just to eat the food or feel the air or listen to streetcars clang up and down its hills? How much of my experience would be affected without the view?
In another sense-related scenario this week, I read about a study that concluded that the aroma of freshly baked bread makes people kinder toward strangers. The researchers said that their results, published in the Journal of Social Psychology, “show that, in general, spontaneous help is offered more in areas where pleasant ambient smells are spread.” After I read of the research, I began to wonder how I could use scents to encourage my children to be nicer toward each other. I also wondered if it’s possible to promote more benevolent behavior among co-workers by using certain pleasant odors.
If you’re a Project Runway fan, maybe you caught last week’s episode that largely focused on the designer who is deaf. His efforts gave the audience a chance to consider how his unique perception of the world affected his fashion sense and his sweet spirit was inspiring.
All in all, this week’s emphasis on taste, touch, smell, sound and sight has made be consider that perhaps I would do well to take the advice of the character in the book and find sustenance in my senses — and do my part to help others do the same. In doing so, maybe we do focus on our common humanity as opposed to the differences between us all.