New Year, New Memories

Written By: Dawn - Jan• 15•13
Big Boy, Little Bug, Dawn Maria & The Better Half outside of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry.

Big Boy, Little Bug, Dawn Maria & The Better Half outside of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry.


It’s been eighteen months since I’ve been on a family trip with The Offspring and The Better Half. We’ve traveled in all combination of pairs during that time, but have shifted away from annual family trip intentionally.

That might sound extreme to some, but I’ve learned that in order to stay steady in the face of family changes (like a child going off to college) you have to move and balance differently than you did before.

We decided to brave togetherness this year and set off on New Year’s Day for Orlando, the land of milk, honey and the Mouse. And now Harry Potter! Five days, four theme parks, three early nights (we were so exhausted) two brave souls who road the Hulk roller coaster and one wand purchased.

All that fun came with a cost however and I don’t just mean the obscene price of entry to these happiest of places. No, in order to to have a good time surrounded by 30,000 (or more) folks you’d never care to see again, you have to forgo spontaneity and be strategic. Think less control freak, micromanager and more truly intentional living.

I can’t think of a better spot for an allegory about the parenting journey than a theme park vacation, especially a Disney centered one. Parents all want the same thing for their kids- that they have opportunities, are happy, healthy and that all of this comes with the least amount of stress and expenses for us. Sounds just like Fantasyland!

What really ends up happening is that reality creates some roadblocks and detours we never expected- like yes, it really is batshit crazy busy in Orlando during school winter break, what were we thinking?

These obstacles to family harmony are a different kind of opportunity however. It takes some time before you realize that though. On our first day in the Magic Kingdom we felt paralyzed by the crowds and amount of strollers. Lines were long and fast passes were in short supply, even at 11 a.m. We could have easily submitted to defeat.

Instead we left and headed over to the Animal Kingdom. On the way in we spotted a family of three leaving. Mom, dad and a three-to-four year old boy. Just as they passed us, the mom violently  pulled herself away from the child  and declared, “No more hold Mama’s hand!” We all looked at each other for a moment and chuckled, then thought that perhaps it wasn’t funny and finally settled on- let’s try to not get to that point ourselves.

Let’s face it, being the adult all the time sucks. Always having to responsible, do the right thing, be the better person because children aren’t equipped yet to do those things themselves. Parenting can break the best of us, we’re only human after all.

The following morning while in the bag check security line we watched a young mom protest as two airplane-size bottles of Jack Daniels were removed from her diaper bag. It was nine in the morning and she had a stroller and boy was she not happy to see Jack go. I looked at The Better Half and said, “Hmm… have we been doing it wrong? Is that the trick for surviving the crowds?”

Taking the easy way out wasn’t an option for us and by this time we all knew what we needed to do to get through the Magic Kingdom literally and figuratively, so we did it.

We planned, we communicated and we executed our intentions with the precision of an MI team. The Better Half grabbed our tickets and went off to nab Fast Passes for Space Mountain. The Offspring and I ran to the Peter Pan ride (my childhood favorite) and got in line. The Better Half visited The Haunted Mansion while he waited for us, we got on Small World while waiting for him and then we all went on Pirates of the Caribbean together. In half a day we managed to do more than the previous entire day.

I’d almost forgotten what we were capable of as a family. These days schedules and varying interests and bedtimes keep us apart more than together. With Big Boy off to college our time as a four-some is rare. For three  days we let the magic of Disney and Harry Potter World conjure up the best in us.

We laughed, we shared, we rode amazing rides and we came away with some priceless memories. Sure, our feet were sore, our wallets emptied and tensions still flared a few times, but this turned out to be one of our best trips ever.

I’ve discovered that for our family, going on vacations less often is working because we have more fun while on them. I don’t know when the next trip will be, but I do know who I’d like to go on it with.

Our adventure was practically perfect in every way except for one thing- I never did find the witch who put that Expecto Frizzious spell on my hair.

Pigskin Princess #3: Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Ball Carrier

Written By: Dawn - Nov• 08•12

When I watch Survivor I always wonder about the women’s beauty habits. Sometimes their hair looks like it’s been combed. I know mine would be a tangled mess of epic proportions. So how exactly do those girls on Survivor do it? The world may never know.

The idea of having a beauty routine for coaching football is futile, but it isn’t so much about beauty as it is about grooming. The male coaches and I all had to make adjustments in our grooming habits during the season, especially during June through mid-September when we practiced in temperatures that ranged from 108 degrees to 90 degrees even with the sun down.

If you know me, you know that I’m a girlie-girl, a fashionista, a Carrie Bradshaw fan. In other words, I’m high maintenance. I’ve always know this about myself, but I also knew I couldn’t bring that girl to the field if I wanted to be taken seriously by the players or my fellow coaches.

Our Arizona heat eliminates the need and ability to look good on the field. The unspoken dress code for football is that you wear Husky Football gear. Thankfully the booster club gave us plenty of T-shirt options. Obviously as a woman, I had an additional need in the garment department and I soon discovered  how thankful I was for the Under part of Under Armor.

My rule of thumb for practice attire went like this- can I sweat like a pig in it? Some garments are easier to sweat in than others it turns out. Part of the football wardrobe included a Husky baseball cap. I figured out that my best option for my long hair was a pony tail or bun on top of my head. Function, not glamor was my rule of thumb.

There are no shortcuts in football. Coaching, while not as physically demanding as playing, is hard on your body. In the heat your body works on overdrive to stay cool and hydrated. Sweat would drip down my back after about three minutes on the field and it didn’t stop until I got in my air-conditioned car to drive home.

I’m not sure there’s enough room here to list all the adjectives that describe how we, coaches and players alike, smelled. Just take my word for it- nasty beyond belief.

During summer we practiced two evenings a week, very manageable since I was off work. When school began and practice shifted to six days a week, looking good became a challenge. Being clean and showered was a challenge. The energy it took to be clean and showered was non-existent.

Presentable became the new standard for grooming. I stayed on top of brushing my teeth and wearing clean underwear, but other things I let go because they didn’t matter.

One of the nice aspects about spending twenty hours a week on a football field is that what you look like is not part of the agenda. As a woman this concept felt unfamiliar at first, but I quickly adapted. The less I thought about how awful I looked and smelled, the less it bothered me. No one else cared, why should I?

It’s not that I enjoyed being a stinky mess. My favorite shower of the week happened on Saturday, after our morning practice.  I’d go all out- hair wash, shave my legs, even use a floral scented body scrub to make feel like a girl again because I had an entire forty-eight hours before I decomposed back into a stinky mess.

I won’t lie and tell you I have a new personal paradigm about beauty expectations. High maintenance is a life long condition. I did enjoy the break from feeling like I had to look good and the freedom that brought. Women are hard on ourselves and each other. My male colleagues gave me a gift they weren’t aware of- they looked past my face value.

The truth is that what I looked (or smelled) like had no relationship to my duties on the field. We were busy during practice. Beauty has no place on the football field unless you’re talking about a perfectly executed slip screen.



Pigskin Princess # 2: When Mom Goes to Football Practice

Written By: Dawn - Oct• 16•12


When I interviewed for my position on the coaching staff for Freshmen Football the biggest point I stressed was how I didn’t want the presence of a woman to change any aspect of the program, most especially for the players. As a mother of sons I felt strongly that boys need male-centered environments where they can act like boys. (In other words, farting out loud is always acceptable.)

I can safely say my gender hasn’t amounted to much in terms of change. There have been a few additions, like the word ma’am, and blinds for the coaches’ office inside the locker room. (Unfortunately the blinds don’t block out the smell.) On the field I am not much different from my male colleagues; I yell, I wear a whistle and I carry the play book.  Like them, I sweat, get tired and lose my voice. I’ve spent the better part of the season believing we were almost the same, except for one key difference- what happens at home.

It’s fair to say that my male colleagues don’t start laundry when they get home from Saturday morning practice. Nor are they responsible for meal planning for the people who remain at home while they’re coaching.  They’re not worrying about buying gifts for assorted relatives, signing school forms (for their own children) and packing school lunches. I doubt they’ll stress over holiday planning (it will be here before you know it) finding time for a mani/pedi or the affect of all that sun and sweat on their complexions.

Sometimes I look at my fellow coaches and I feel a bit envious because I suspect their wives have released them from a myriad of household responsibilities. That may or may not be true. While their responsibilities at home may differ from mine (let’s face it, I don’t do yard work) they, like me, have left a trail of undone, need-to-do and want-to-do tasks in their wake during football.

One area where I know the guys and I suffer equally is in family-life balance. There really is none during football season. We coach five evenings a week and on Saturday mornings. We arrive home exhausted, smelly and sometimes cranky, depending on what went down at practice. For me Game Day is a fourteen hour affair- eight hours of work , followed by the team meal, the production of players getting dressed in game attire, warm-ups, a possible bus ride, more warm-ups, the pre-game pep talk, the game, half time, the mid-game pep talk, the second half, the post-game talk and finally a bus ride back to school. I get home about 9:00 p.m. having left the house at 6:45 a.m.

Two weeks ago The Better Half was out of town on Game Day. I saw Little Bug for a total of ten minutes, five in the morning and five when I arrived home. His dinner was whatever the $8 cash I had in my wallet could buy him that night, since I had neither the time or energy to prepare something. In truth, he was likely thrilled to go grab fast food, he’s sixteen after all, but that’s not the point.

To his credit The Better Half has recalibrated  his expectations during football season. I don’t cook during the week anymore, but I am expected to supply the food needed so others can. I also don’t do dishes at night when I come home from practice. Sometimes The Better Half forgets my schedule and asks me out to Happy Hour on Friday night. There is no Happy Hour on Friday night because after my team’s practice, I head to the varsity game. (Friday Night Lights baby!)

I didn’t become a female football coach to make a statement about gender roles. I did it because I love the game and working with kids.  My male colleagues and I have equally sacrificed to be on the field with our players. They may not be worried about the laundry, but I’ve learned they do worry about what’s suffering in their personal lives while they’re on the field.

Exhaustion, it seems, is an equal opportunity condition.

Is it all worth it? If you need to ask  you haven’t been paying attention.

Go Huskies!


Beating the Book Blahs

Written By: Dawn - Sep• 18•12


Have you ever looked inside your closet and thought you had nothing to wear even though the closet was full of items? You start trying on clothes and putting together outfits but nothing fits, looks right, feels right or makes you appear 10 lbs. lighter? At this point your body temperature begins to rise, signaling an imminent meltdown. Shouting occurs, perhaps a throwing of the offending garments across the room and most certainly the gnashing of teeth. It isn’t pretty.

It might surprise you to know that the same thing happens to book lovers. While there’s no official name for this malady, I like to call it Transition Trouble.

Transition Trouble is a dangerous affliction that affects your ability to dive into a new book after recently finishing an engaging one. In my case, I read new novels from my favorite authors all summer and then became stuck in the middle of a second book in a trilogy that seemed to be limping along. I decided to take a break from it (something I rarely do) and discovered two new fiction titles that I had trouble putting down.

It’s been about ten days since I finished that last book and now I’m the one limping along. Everything I pick up feels wrong. I even requested two books with Jane Austen themes from the public library, but unfortunately they both centered on Mansfield Park, my least favorite of her work.

I’ve discussed this problem with other book lovers and found that it happens to everyone at some point. And we all appear to have the same fix- the palette cleanser. This is a favorite book, reread many times, that serves to clear your head and settle anxiety (because now you’re worried you’ll never find another new book you want to read). My palette cleanser is Pride & Prejudice. I can open it to any page and immediately begin to relax. After two or three days I’ve calmed down enough to pick up something new.

So last night I grabbed my worn copy of P&P (I own several) and waited for it to work its magic on me.

And I waited.


I’m now in four-alarm crisis mode. I HAVE NO BOOKS!

Yes I realize this is a gross exaggeration considering I work in a library and own at least 1,500 books but believe me, I have no books right now. Nothing is appealing to me and I’m getting worried.

The first thing I did this morning was log into Amazon and look up the titles I’d read recently and loved. Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought____ Also Bought ______” feature is a fabulous way to discover new authors.  I searched and searched, then opened a new tab for the Scottsdale Public Library. As I found potential good reads, I requested them from the library or, if they weren’t available, added them to my Amazon cart. In the end I requested 8 titles, ordered 3 and will stop by the library on my way home from work today to pick up one book that was on shelf and waiting to go home with an avid reader.

I’d like to think that between 14 books coming my way in the next week, at least one of them can rescue me from this malaise.

Has this ever happened to you? What’s your favorite palette cleanser? I might need some suggestions!

Pigskin Princess: On Any Given Wenesday

Written By: Dawn - Sep• 05•12

When I joined the coaching staff of the Freshmen football team last spring (no that’s not a typo) my mind immediately set to visions of the multitude of blogs such an experience would produce. I dreamed up a clever moniker (see above) and planned for a great photo of myself with a football and rhinestones for props.

Fast forward to today- Game Day #2 of the season.

I have not-

Blogged one sentence about coaching football.

Taken my fancy Pigskin Princess head shot.

Completely memorized the playbook. (So close!)

Avoided catching the Pigskin Plague- the cold bug that travels through the team in batches of four people.

Figured out how to make my hair last past two practices without needing to be washed again.

Regretted my decision to ask (I asked) to be part of Husky Football.

I have-

A lot to learn about football.

And coaching. They are separate skills sets.

Wonderful coaching colleagues whose experience and talent amazes me every day.

Fantastic (and aromatic) players.

Fun watching the reaction from people when they learn I’m coaching boys’ football.

Sweated through twice a week summer evening practices and now six days-a-week regular season practice without whining (even at home where it’s safe to whine).

Learned that my gender is not a handicap at all, but my lack of experience  is.

So why? Why do this crazy, very ungirly, unwriterly, unlibrarian-like activity that takes up about twenty hours a week (without pay!)? Two words-


Wednesday is Game Day for Freshmen Football. Game Day is what we live for, work for and sweat for. It’s our reward and, as we know, anything can happen on Game Day.

And in my case it already has- I’m part of the team. The players  probably aren’t going to learn a lot about football from me this year. What I hope they do learn from me is this- believe in that crazy thing you’ve always wanted to do and seize the opportunity  to become part of it.

Because anything can happen.