How I Was Indoctrinated Into College Football Culture

When I met my future in-laws eight years ago, I have to confess: I didn’t know who the Kansas State Wildcats were.



I grew up in Massachusetts, where college football isn’t a big deal. Sure, I went to a few Boston College games when I was a kid.  But honestly, I paid more attention to the marching band than the men on the field.

It was Christmas time when I first entered the home of my future in-laws, John and Kaylyn. I immediately noticed they had two Christmas trees. One looked like your average Christmas tree, decorated with multicolored lights, a gold garland, and several Precious Moments ornaments. The other Christmas tree was decorated entirely in purple and silver.


K-State Christmas Tree = Necessary.

What’s with all the purple? I wondered.

I was quickly indoctrinated into K-State culture before I learned who the KU Jayhawks were. The rivalry was explained to me in terms I could understand: the Jayhawks are like the New York Yankees and the Wildcats are like my Boston Red Sox.


In other words, hate the Jayhawks or be shunned.

One of the first gifts John and Kaylyn gave me was a K-State Wildcats t-shirt. One time, before Greg and I were married, I showed up to John and Kaylyn’s house wearing a red sweater on game day. Several family members gasped in horror (red is a KU color). Kaylyn darted to her closet and brought out one of her many purple sweatshirts for me to change into. I learned that anything but purple on game day was unacceptable, even when you weren’t physically at the game.


Lesson learned.

When I moved to Kansas in 2006, I was able to watch the Wildcats play at Bill Snyder Family Stadium for the first time. It was a dreary and damp Fall day, but the parking lots surrounding the stadium were filled with purple people who were grilling, drinking, and having a grand time.


K-State Tailgating:  Serious business.


Game day is the only time Kansas has real traffic.

During the game, I learned the traditional gestures Wildcat fans do- like jingling their keys during each kickoff, responding to the announcer’s “Good for a Wildcat…” with an enthusiastic “FIRST DOWN!” while pointing in the direction the offense is heading, and standing and cheering “K… S… U… Wildcats!” three times, while Willie the Wildcat made the letters K, S, and U with his body.


Good for a Wildcat… FIRST DOWN!


Willie the Wildcat getting the crowd psyched. K… S… UUUU… Wildcats!!!

I’ve collected more purple since my initiation into K-State culture. This year, I’ve had the pleasure of attending almost every home game as the Wildcats made the climb to the #1 team in the nation and Quarterback Collin Klein was a contender for the Heisman Trophy.


There are not many things as exciting as being at a K-State game.

It’s been a privilege watching Coach Bill Snyder, Quarterback Collin Klein, and this team of true winners this season.


Big 12 Champions

Before the last game, where the Wildcats beat Texas and clinched the Big 12 title, I watched as Coach Snyder took the time to shake hands with every single K-State player warming up on the field. Whenever the players leave the field or come on to the field, they link arms and do so as a team. I thought, what an amazing role model these young men have. In a world where ego often supersedes talent, coaches like Bill Snyder are needed.


Coach Bill Snyder fosters true winners ; not egos.

My husband attends K-State Salina, a satellite campus to Manhattan’s main campus, and takes photos for the on-campus magazine On The Record. He covered all of the home games this season.  After the last game, he had the opportunity to personally thank Coach Snyder for a wonderful year. Coach Snyder was very gracious talking with Greg. It seems that, more than anything, Coach loves talking to the students. Greg said when Coach would answer questions in post-game press conferences, he would often turn his eyes to the students in the room, and direct his responses to them, rather than big media.

It’s been an honor watching this team- not just because they know how to win games, but because they don’t let that go to their heads and keep playing with all their hearts. I can’t wait to watch them in the Fiesta Bowl tonight. Go Cats!


Photos in this post are Copyright 2012 Greg Charland and Lisa Charland.


My Mother’s Gift

“Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.” -Henry David Thoreau

This is my Mum.


Today she’s retiring from her position with an elderly services agency in the Greater Boston area. She worked there for 19 years, but has devoted her life to serving the elderly.

Beginning at the age of 10, Mum walked a mile to and from the supermarket, then up a flight of stairs to bring groceries to an elderly neighbor who was not well enough to leave her house.

This is how my Mum stayed this skinny. I have these genes, I just haven’t harnessed their power yet.

My mother’s first job was working as a volunteer at a nursing home in Boston. I call it her first job because what Mum did as a volunteer is what Certified Nurse Aides (CNAs) get paid to do in nursing homes today.

Mum’s on the lower right. In’t she cute?

She made beds, cleaned rooms, and spent time with the residents playing cards, chatting and smoking cigarettes (smoking was allowed in nursing homes at that time. It was the ’60s- anything went).

Mum once told me a story about giving a cigarette to a patient after he begged her to. He wasn’t supposed to smoke for health reasons, but Mum gave him a cigarette anyway. She felt that it was pointless to deny such a simple request from a man who wanted to live his remaining days on his own terms. And she was right- it didn’t do the man any harm to have one cigarette.

While Mum was able to stay home with my brothers and I, she would have never called herself a “Stay At Home Mom.” Day after day, she carted my brothers and I, neighbor kids, and kids on my Dad’s soccer team to and from all sorts of activities. She also volunteered to assist with our school and extracurricular activities. I think being a Mom was her favorite job.

If Mum is anything, she isn’t lazy. That’s the only diet she ever followed: not being lazy.

In addition to caring for three kids and her several “adopted” kids, Mum also took on the role of caregiver for several of our elderly relatives and neighbors- assisting with groceries, paperwork, and funeral arrangements when they passed.

Most notably, she cared for her mother, who had Alzheimer’s disease. It was brought to Mum’s attention when my Nana paid her rent three times in one month.


Mum balanced caring for her kids and mother with Alzheimer’s with the utmost grace.

I was in grade school when Nana began experiencing Alzheimer’s symptoms. Around this time, Mum taught me an important lesson about treating the elderly with dignity and respect.

“If Nana asks you the same question more than once, just answer it. Don’t tell her that she already asked- she won’t remember you correcting her and it will only make her feel bad,” she said.

Nana and I.

I’ve seen people who become frustrated with loved ones who have Alzheimer’s. It’s an incredibly difficult disease, and it’s sad to watch your loved one go through that.

Mum accepted what was happening with Nana and rolled with the punches. She answered Nana’s repetitive questions like she was being asked for the first time. She casually reminded Nana about things without making her feel forgetful or stupid. Eventually, she stopped by Nana’s apartment each day, making sure she ate lunch, took her pills, and had something to eat for supper (As Nana’s Alzheimer’s progressed, she sometimes forgot to eat).

Nana and Mum.

When Mum reentered the workforce, she ordered Meals on Wheels for Nana. The midday meal was a visual reminder for Nana to eat, and the volunteer driver was a friendly face who could check on Nana during the day while Mum was at work.

A few years later, a job opened up in the nutrition department of the agency that coordinated Meals on Wheels for the area. It was the perfect fit for Mum. For 19 years, she has coordinated Meals on Wheels for a large service area, often delivering meals herself when drivers weren’t available, and making sure people without any food at home received a meal when Nor’Easters hit the Greater Boston area.

Although it took up more time than she would have liked to have spent at the office each day, Mum chatted with elderly clients whom she knew had no one else to talk to. Sometimes that was the only reason they called her office- not to order or cancel meals.

The elderly can be a difficult bunch to deal with. They have less tolerance for fake people or BS. Mum was respected and admired by even the grouchiest of elderly clients because she took the time to listen and genuinely cared. She also lent an ear to stressed caregivers because she understood how it felt to be in their position: balancing work, kids and caring for elderly parents.

Mum taught me to not only be good, but to be good for something. She also taught me compassion and how to treat others- with dignity and respect. That is the greatest gift she could give me. I hope that I can be at least half as giving and caring as she is.


My White Whale


Once, in an effort to impress my speed-reading boyfriend (now husband), I lied about having read Moby Dick. It was going fantastic until he asked me how it ended. With the utmost confidence, I said, “Captain Ahab kills the whale. OBVIOUSLY.” Greg laughed and corrected me. Then he explained what the expression “white whale” means, because I didn’t know that either.

I swear I’m not completely dumb. After I switched majors from English to Journalism in my undergraduate career, I stopped reading as many books. Honestly, I’d grown tired of books and over-analyzing them. From that point on, I opted to read mostly news and magazine articles, along with an occasional tome of literary journalism (true stories written like fiction- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is a primary example). My husband continues to make fun of me for not reading many books, particularly classics such as Moby Dick.

I would just like to state for the record that when I mentioned Scott Brown to him during the 2012 election cycle,  he didn’t know who that was. So good day to you.

But I confess: Moby Dick is my white whale. Not because Melville is hard to read… classics just make me feel as though I’m back in school and there’s a term paper due next week, so I have to obsess over every damn detail instead of just enjoying the work.

I’m compiling a list of books to read in 2013, and Melville’s masterpiece is at the top of my list. I will end my reader’s block, which a fellow blogger recently wrote about, highlighting Moby Dick.

After that, I plan to read the true story Moby Dick is based on, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick.


Do you have any other recommendations for my 2013 reading list? I’m a fan of nonfiction, but also enjoy fiction books that are based in reality (like The Help by Kathryn Stockett).


What a somber week it’s been. I feel like anything I write will be trivial in light of last Friday’s events.

Many of us are now wrestling with the ever-burning question: Why?

This year, I read the book Columbine by Dave Cullen. I highly recommend it to anyone seeking a better understanding of tragic events like those that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut. Mr. Cullen is a journalist who covered the Columbine tragedy from day one. For a decade, he researched why the tragedy happened and debunked the main scapegoats, including: access to weapons, bad parenting, angry music, violent video games, bullying, and lack of access to mental health services.

The real reason the Columbine tragedy happened, Cullen contends, was because of the warped mind chemistry of two individuals. Using evidence such as journals, school papers and personal websites, leading experts diagnosed Dylan Klebold as clinically depressed and Eric Harris as a psychopath.

At this time, there is no cure for psychopathy outside of a miracle of God. There are limited treatment options, which have shown some success in contained environments, such as prison.

We don’t know much about Adam Lanza yet, but if he was a psychopath (which is a considerable possibility given the number of people he killed indiscriminately), there would have been no stopping him. It’s incredibly sad and it’s not an easy answer. However, psychopaths are professional manipulators. In Eric Harris’s case, he had everyone (including his own parents, friends and therapist) completely fooled.

None of us can pick up on warning signs that don’t exist.

If you don’t have time to pick up Columbine, check out this Slate article by the author, written five years after the tragedy, which summarizes the points he made in his book: “The Depressive and the Psychopath: At Last We Know Why The Columbine Killers Did It.

More recently, The New York Times Magazine published an article titled, “Can You Call A 9-Year-Old a Psychopath?” which discusses studies being done with “callous and unemotional” (or CU) children who exhibit signs of psychopathy. There may be some hope for treating psychopaths, but treatment must begin early.

We may never know why this happened. And, Lord knows, it will happen again. We can only pray for the people of Newtown and hope that researchers will make important strides to help prevent these tragedies.

Kansas Moments: Best Traffic Stop Ever

kansasroadI’m making a category on my blog called “Kansas Moments.” I grew up in the Boston area and have lived in Kansas for the past six years. I spent most of my life in a somewhat crotchety culture, so the kindheartedness of Kansans often impresses me.

Tuesday night, my husband Greg and I were driving home from a high school basketball game. On our way out of town, a car passed us, turned around, and then there were red and blue lights flashing in our rear view.


“You weren’t speeding, were you?” I asked Greg.

“No- I was going under 65,” Greg said.


“Yeah, I don’t know what they’re pulling us over for.”

“Maybe we have a busted headlight… or it’s just a small town cop with nothing better to do.”

I rolled my eyes and sighed. Greg may have clocked 66 mph and this small town cop had a quota to meet. We pulled over and Greg rolled down the window as a cop approached the driver’s side.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” he asked.

“No sir… I don’t,” Greg replied respectfully.

“Because this guy told me to,” the cop said.

There was a tap, tap, tap, on the passenger side window. I rolled down the window and there was Greg’s cousin, Cole, smiling at us.

We both breathed a sigh of relief and laughed. Cole recently started working for the local sheriff’s department, and simply wanted to say hi and ask us who won the game.

There’s a Kansas experience I can cross of my list: getting pulled over by someone you know just because he wanted to mess with you.

The stop wasn’t completely without merit. We need to get our low lights fixed and were kindly reminded to watch for deer.

Surprise Yourself

I’ve considered starting a blog for months. Here are the things that have held me back:

  • Perfectionism
  • Technical difficulties
  • Obsessing over the blog’s topic(s)
  • Thinking no one will read it
  • Paranoia
  • “Busyness”

I just participated in National Novel Writing Month and wrote 1,667 words a day for 30 days. On November 30, I reached the goal of writing 50,000 words in a month.

I was surprised, not because I finished, but because of how easy it was for me to finish. I followed Nanowrimo’s directions to just write and not look back (editing is a big no-no). Sure, I wrote some junk that will never see the light of day… but I also wrote some decent stuff that may become the foundation of a future writing project.

You have to start somewhere. And to start, sometimes you have to force yourself and not look back. You may end up surprising yourself.

Have you ever done something you thought you couldn’t do?

A Lot of Soul With a Little Baggage