Once in a Blue Moon: Cubs Win!

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IMG_2615  Scott Todnem
“It’s been said that in Chicago there are two seasons, winter and construction. For Cubs fans, there is only one, and it always comes next year.” – Rick Talley

Tonight, I attend the first World Series game at Wrigley Field in 71 years.

I’ll be sitting next to my father, who has lived his entire life without seeing the Cubs make it to the World Series, and I’ll be filled with the memories of grandparents and other family members who lived through the last century but never saw a Series win.

I’ve written on the topic before, reflecting on the time I attended the first Cubs night game with my dad. I am fortunate to have witnessed a few historic moments at the park. Most recently, I watched in person as the Northsiders clinched their first berth as National League Champions since 1945, making tonight a possibility for my dad— his decade-plus of season tickets has led to this point, and I am proud to share in the experience. Actually, pride is just one of many internal emotions; others include excitement, relief, and maybe even some trepidation.

Lovable losers? No more. Next year is here.

I’m unsure how often this will occur in future years, what with the youth in the ballclub and the talent from the players on up to management. But I will revel in the Wrigleyville atmosphere, no matter what the national coverage may say about the team, its fans, the outrageous fees around the park, and of course any bandwagon jumping involved.

See, no matter what the team, no matter what the city, there’s something in passing down traditions, in grooming young sports fans, that connects friends and family. And in just seven short years, my oldest son has grown into a sports fan just like the younger version of his dad. He’s able to rattle off names and numbers and enjoys the excitement of this season’s ups and downs and all the TV coverage. He is too young to have paid his dues in watching gut-wrenchingly horrible teams struggle through Chicago summers. He never met his great-grandfather who eventually referred to the Cubs, simply, as the Pinheads. The Flubs was apparently too kind.

Obviously my son never witnessed the disappointment of ’84, ’89, or the heartbreaking crash of 2003. But when I put my arm around him and he snuggled in close on the couch to watch game one of the 2016 World Series, I think he could sense the mix of nostalgia and disbelief and hope stirring there under my fitted wool hat. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a lump in my throat.

This is what unites family. This is the stuff of future recollection. These are the moments that stand out while recounting household memories. It’s more than just a game, it’s a chance to celebrate with friends, a time to highfive strangers, and an opportunity to share in the reverie with family.

And if that only happens as a rare occurrence, a once in a lifetime event, at least we can be thankful that it happened under a Cubbie-blue moon.

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Worth a Thousand Words

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IMG_2615  Scott Todnem
“Smile; it’s free therapy.” – Douglas Horton

Back to school. And back to the drawing board.

This marks the beginning of the 16th school year for me, teaching Health Education to today’s youth.

Some major life events have occurred in that time, the most recent of which is the birth of my youngest son, who is two weeks old today. Starting back up in the classroom is a definite change from time at home with family through the last few summer months. I always have my fitness business going, where I coach and plan workouts year round, but the break from full-time teaching allows a bit of a reset before each fall term.

It is during this time of return when I feel the rejuvenating energy from students, back and alive in the hallways and classrooms, and, somewhat surprisingly, hungry for new life lessons. Each “Hi!” and “Morning!” and “What are we doing today?” brings adolescent zeal that is sometimes exhausting, but I take this energy, this nervous and sometimes boisterous energy that spills in the door each period, to be a reflection of a genuine interest in learning.

Sure, much of middle school involves a social component as well as the mental balance of stress and self-esteem— but that’s why I teach Health. These are the very life lessons that pique my interest and it’s what I take pride in teaching. In reality, at this point I really don’t see myself taking a liking to any other subject area. Health allows me to use anything and everything that is pertinent throughout history and current events and weave it into the ever-evolving curriculum of life. You can’t put a limit on topics that carry potential impact, and that’s one of the best parts of teaching Health class. There is no one way to teach the topics of physical, mental, and social well-being, just like there is no one way to live life.

• • •

About a year ago I made a conscience effort to smile more.

I’m not talking about a creepy “Why is this guy smiling so much?” type of smile, but a genuine expression to show friendliness in conversation. Something simple, really, and it came about as I was reflecting on professional goals and personal life. I felt like a part of myself had gone missing. See, if I look back on the last decade, I’ve gone through a couple of tough times of stress and negativity. I realized that, particularly in recent teaching, I wasn’t smiling as much as I once had. I wanted that to change. I wanted to create and portray a better, more positive aura surrounding myself.

“Back to the drawing board,” I thought. “Time to whip up some smiles.”

Even if I didn’t feel especially upbeat at certain times throughout the week or throughout the day, I thought if I could still project happiness then I might be able to make someone else comfortable. I might be able to help a student feel encouragement through an otherwise dreadful day. Because, like my own life, ups and downs are inevitable. Adolescence certainly brings laughter, but it can also be a time of stress and struggle and even inexplicable withdrawal.

Now, it’s not like I’ve taken research data on the topic of smiling or the outcome of the last year. But I have to say, I think it’s made me feel better. I think it has honestly made a difference in my style of addressing a classroom of students, in speaking to a crowd of parents during curriculum night, or in presenting to a room full of fellow professionals. If I ever felt nervous or unsure of myself in the past, I would often rush to finish; I would speed up in order to “just get through it.”  Lately, I try to pause, take a breath, and give a smile before carrying on. Cliché? Yes, perhaps. But true.

In a world of haste and uncertainty, I have found that I can make a positive impact… starting with myself.

In the meantime, something happened that I didn’t necessarily foresee. Something that wasn’t on the radar until I looked back to reflect. There was a cause and effect that occurred: eventually, I didn’t need to force a smile. In fact, the smiles were occurring quite naturally in every day interactions. If I felt humor in what I was talking about, if I felt a connection occurring, if I felt happy or impressed in any way, I let myself express it.

In other words, I was just being human.

And I’ve noticed something else. I’ve noticed that, as a result, I’m receiving more smiles in return. More people immediately follow my expression with a smile of their own. I then experience more comfort, more human connection within myself.

Funny what a simple, conscious effort to project happiness can do.

Now, all of this might seem super cheesy, but I don’t care. What I am experiencing is positivity, so I don’t have time for anyone who might think that’s stupid or corny.

We create our own reality, and I want mine to be full of positive people.

I think I can do better, though. I think I can continue. And I challenge you all to do the same. Hit a rut? Back to the drawing board: add some smiles and see what results come around.

Let’s put out an expression that reflects the image we want to see in the world.