I faced one of my worst nightmares today.
It was like a scene out of an anxiety-induced dream, where I knew I had the power to wake up and make it end, but just couldn't.
I'm the only female on a team of all male teachers. My team makes me laugh and they don't get insulted when I take out bad days on them or make fun of them because their eyebrows are overgrown. We work well together. I don't know how, or why, but for some reason, we do.
Except when they make decisions without me.
My Grandpa passed away this week and I missed our weekly team meeting so I could go be with my family. During that fateful meeting, someone on my team decided that it would be a great bonding experience for the 9th grade to play a dodgeball tournament with one another. Just to be clear - I hated dodgeball when I was in school. It always just seemed like an excuse for the kids with anger issues to take out their resentment on poor, unsuspecting, bi-focal-wearing, short, chubby girls. I may or may not have fit all of those descriptors and therefore been a likely target during games.
After the dodgeball tournament, my lovely team of male teachers decided that it would extend the bonding experience if we played a game of teacher vs. student dodgeball. As in, 120 high school freshmen vs. the Science teacher, the Math teacher, the Social Studies teacher, the P.E. teacher, and me.
I survived the dodgeball tournament, mainly because I cheered my team on from the sidelines. My team ended up taking 3rd in the 9th grade, out of 5 teams. I was actually pretty thrilled. I may or may not have jumped up and down, fist pumped, and chanted my own last name when the final standings were announced, despite the fact that I had nothing at all to do with our good standing.
But then, the teacher vs. student dodgeball game was on. It turns out I've learned a few new skills since my schooldays - I am a decent dodger, a pitiful catcher, and a miserable thrower. I give myself an F+ when it comes to my dodgeball skills. I was the 2nd teacher out. I got in line, behind Mr. P.E., and cheered my other teammates on to victory. Then, Mr. Science got out. Then, Mr. Social Studies caught a ball, so Mr. P.E. was back in the game. Mr. Math and Mr. Social Studies were quickly out, leaving only one teacher still in. He caught a ball, then was promptly out.
Because he caught that ball, I was in.
I wanted to run away, to hide behind the big kids, to stand quietly in the back and hope I wouldn't be noticed.
But it was way too late. They had already seen me.
It was maybe down to 100 snarling freshmen by that point, all staring me down. They had balls and years of dodgeball experience and months of resentment because I make them sit in assigned seats and don't accept late work and only allow them to "go to the bathroom" once per class period.
I dodged. I jumped. I deflected. My throws were weak and they knew it. I was afraid to catch and I'm pretty sure they knew that, too. I lasted for a while - it felt like 30 minutes, but it was probably no more than a minute or two, and then I was out with a graze of the ball on my shoulder. I lost it for us.
The students were happy they won. My team thought that seeing me out there alone was great entertainment. I was thankful that it was over. I was also positive in that moment that I need to do everything possible to never miss a team meeting again.
Today's recipe is a meal for those kinds of days - when you feel like you're up against impossible odds, when you feel worn out from being the only one fighting the good fight, when you need a little steamy comfort in a bowl.
It's a fairly basic meal, but it'll do wonders to erase nightmare days. It's quick, hearty, and satisfying. Your family will think you're a champ! As long as they don't throw any balls at you, I'd say you're good to go.
4 cups cooked white rice
2 cans red beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb. kielbasa, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 bunch parsley, washed and chopped
Begin by heating a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tbs. olive oil; heat, then add onions. Cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes, then add garlic to pan. Cook another minute, then add kielbasa to pan. Saute until kielbasa is lightly browned. Add beans to pan, and a few splashes of hot sauce, then stir to combine and continue to cook, another 5 minutes. Taste and salt as needed. Serve in a bowl atop a cup of cooked white rice.