Bend Senior High Football: More Than a Game

My daughter Jessica is now a junior in high school, in eighth grade she was kicker for the junior high football team.  Now she kicks for the JV football team with hopes to be the Varsity kicker her senior year. She is 17-17 in extra points and has two touchdown saving tackles.  Her nick name given by the coach is “perfect”. She wrote the following essay for her writing 121 class is allowing me to share it with you.  I love that girl and am so proud of her choices.

Bend Senior High Football: More Than a Game


The bus rolls to a stop in front of the dreary Marist High School in Eugene, Oregon. Behind the cracked and faded paint, worn away by the constant rain, stands a football field. The vibrant, lively green stands out against the white and black buildings, which happen to be the Marist High School colors. I gather my scattered items, displaced after the three-hour bus ride, and file off the bus with the rest of the team. Lacking clear direction, we congregate near the sidewalk, lost sheep without a shepard to guide us

“Boys, follow me.” Coach Brown’s voice reaches us through the fog. There is a rustle of air as all 30 boys, and the other Bend Senior High coaches, start to walk at the same time towards the voice. Silence settles over the players, just like the layer of mist as they march towards the locker room. Dressing and preparing for the game happens in a hurried manner, and when everyone is done, Coach Brown poses one question to the team. “Why do we play football?” Then, he promptly exits the locker room, clearly expecting us to follow in his wake.

As I stumble out, the rest of the team by my side, my mind is preoccupied with the question. I don’t notice the click of cleats on concrete, the mist which instantly soaks deep into the bones of every person, or the small crowd gathered on the rickety visitor bench. My mind is deep in thought, contemplating what my answer would be. For many people who don’t have first hand knowledge of playing football, the answer may be clear based on preconceived ideas about the sport. Football has earned a bad reputation from all different levels, starting at the pro level, and working all the way down through high school. Professional football is often associated with scandals, money, and hard hits. College football can give the appearance of dumb jocks who receive special treatment, for instance, lower standards to be accepted to the college. Collegiate players then receive full ride scholarships, and still complain about not being “paid”. High School Football is often seen as a popularity tool, a team of dumb boys, and a method of entertainment on Friday night. People with these preconceived notions may quickly be able to jump to a conclusion to answer the question, I however cannot. 

“We’ve prepared for this”…“This is our time”… “Hit hard, go hard”. I am brought back to reality by the snippets of conversation I hear. The words ring out, a call for greatness from each and every player. Like a pack of wolves, chasing their prey, the team sprints to the sidelines, ready to play. The mist picks up to a flat-out rain, leaving all on the field as wet as if they were in an actual shower. As we take the field for the first time that night, our crisp white jerseys, and white pants, contrasted with the glinting, gleaming blue helmets, shine bright despite the rain, our armor as we ride into battle. The whistle blows, and I, along with the rest of the team, start running towards the Marist football team, a carefully synchronized and practiced art of kickoff. My foot solidly connects with the ball, letting out a thwack as it sails in the air to the other team. Seemingly in slow motion, a white helmet of the Marist team scoops up the ball, and begins to return the kick. I watch in slow motion as the white helmets makes it past not just one, two, three guys, but the entire team. Suddenly, as if the slow motion clock was turned to fast forward, the white helmet is in front of me; I am the only thing standing between him and a touchdown. 

Now might be a convenient time to mention I am a girl, playing on a high school boy’s junior varsity football team. Like any of the boys would do, I solidly plant my feet, and take the hit. As I stand and dust myself off, my mind registers the roar of the crowd, so loud, one might believe we just won the world championship. The boys, also known as my teammates, stand stunned for a second or two, then proceed to attack me, jumping, hitting, and punching me, in other words, their way of celebrating. I look down at my once white jersey, which is now covered in mud so much so that one would never guess the jersey was originally white, and think to myself, “This is why I play football.” Forgetting what everyone else believes is the culture of football, I realize why I play. The determination, seen in the pre-game cheer, the will power to do what the other team cannot, the desire for greatness, kinship, and empowerment that one receives, this is why I play football.

A shrill whistle cuts across the field, signaling halftime. Soaking wet, and cold, yet totally excited from the first half results of the game, the boys and I stride into the locker room. As we sprawl out, draping ourselves across various benches and seats, Coach Brown walks up to some of the players talking and checking in with them. A few of the other coaches are talking to players, giving valuable advice, and others still are in a corner talking to each other. Brown walks by every player, sometimes commenting, giving a compliment, or just a touch on the shoulder. When done with this, Brown once again poses the question, “Why do we play football?” I glance around the room, and every single eye is on him. No one talks, whispers, or moves. He has captured our attention. In this moment, I see Coach Brown in a new light, no longer Coach Brown, but Father Brown. He is a dad to each and every player in the Bend High football program. He talks, comforts, teaches, helps, and also poses the difficult questions. Continuing with this thinking, the boys on the team are all brothers, they sweat together, change together, win together, lose together. The other coaches are uncles, providing good tidbits of information, and supporting the role of Father Brown in raising us into a proper football program. In the middle of this family analogy is me, the single sister. While I am off in space thinking about the question of why, and the new realization I just came to, Coach Brown has moved on, and is talking about the game. “We need to protect Jessie, she is our kicker, we need her, she should not have to save the touchdown with a tackle.” This plays right into the idea of me being the sister, protected by the brothers and dad. As Brown wraps up his halftime talk, and we once again prepare to take the field, I find another answer to the question of why. I play for family, the family I found in the team. 

As one pack, we storm the field, ready to play for 2 more quarters. The second half of the game rushes by, filled with pouring rain, clashing helmets, and the occasional touchdown on our part. The final whistle is blown, and the game is over. Tired, yet excited about the win, the boys and I pile onto the bus, dripping with rain water, and sweat from a job well done. As we sit on the bus, patiently preparing for the long drive home, Coach Brown comes on the bus, and says proudly, “I think you have figured out why we play football, for the feeling that each of you feel right now.” Despite the cold, wet, miserable temperature, I feel a warm glow deep inside my body. The feeling of hope, determination, tenacity, discipline, and self-empowerment provide this fire inside me. Football gives life light, warmth, meaning, in other words, football provides a reason to live. 

The bus slowly begins to pull away from the droopy, worn down buildings that make up Marist  high school. A boy on the team, leans over to me and says, “Feels pretty good, right?” I only nod my head, but in my mind, there is so much I want to say. I think about the culture, family and personal gain that comes from football, and believe that every person should have the opportunity to experience something like this. I turn my head back to the boy, and say, “Football really is more than just a game.”


Soul restoration

I come to the sea to breathe. I come to the island, my island to restore my soul. It has always been this way. My life off the island is filled with good things, four kids, an incredible husband, friends, work, and a color coded calendar. It is crazy, busy, chaotic, stressful, satisfying and non stop. My island is my oasis, it my gift to me, it is the one place I completely relax. A favorite theologian of my husbands, Dietrich Bonehoeffer once said “My time with others prepares me for my time alone, and my time alone prepares me for my time with others.” The Island gives me the strength, courage and restoration that allows the life that I lead off island to be possible.

I have never come to the island alone, various amounts of family, friends and pets accompany me here. It is a small cabin, one bathroom, two bedrooms and a large deck. It is enough and I never feel crowded or claustrophobic. Island time is slower. Island life is a step back in time from all the communication breakthroughs, the social media, the constant background noise of a tv or computer or PS3. It is life unplugged by choice.

I have heard experts say you need time for yourself everyday, and though I know this is true to an extent, my life does not lend itself to this. My non island life is a whirlwind from the moment I get up to the time I hit the pillow once more. It is filled with teenagers, sporting events that need team dinners, stinky laundry washed, meal after meal made, a quick walk with the dog and then off to other wonderful, very necessary appointments and so the days go. It is a very fulfilling life, I really like my life, but I could not manage this pace, this frenzied atmosphere of 110 miles per hour if I did not get my island break.

Escape is not easy. Juggling the kids summer camp schedules, work, time with family and other obligations try to claw and plead and work on my sense of responsibility and prey on my need to please others. This year was especially hard. Two of my sons have full time jobs for the summer. They would not be coming with me to the island for the first time in 12 years. My best friend’s oldest son is getting married in Bend with lots of drama and the pull to stay and help and support Jen was strong. The hardest part by far this year, was leaving my husband who after eighteen months of living away from us during the week was finally home with a new job that started the week I left for the island.

A younger me, would have changed her plans. She would have given in to the belief that she was so important she must stay. A younger me would push herself to be everything for everyone and do it with a smile. A younger me would need the ego stroking accolades that would come from sacrificing my plans to serve others. It’s not like a summer in Bend, Oregon is a hardship, spending time with my husband and best friend is not difficult, or a burden. It would have been fine, but the older me is wiser now.

I chose me, I chose from a menu of good things, the best one for me. My understanding of this need is ultimately my gift to others for it allows me to have a reservoir of mental health and strength to give the rest of the year. I come to the sea to breathe. I come to the island to restore my soul.


Managing Monday’s: Parent/Teacher communication

Managing Monday’s: Parent/Teacher communication

Tonight is open house for my four high schoolers. It is a time where you are invited to follow your child’s schedule, hear expectations and meet the teachers. It is an important opportunity because it is often very difficult to have any personal interaction with your kids teachers as they get into Jr. and Sr. high school. The only problem with this system is if you have more than one or two children you must choose who you will meet and who you will not.

With 4 kids, 28 classes, 25 different teachers, and my husband out of town, this task becomes a bit overwhelming. I ask the kids who they really want me to meet and I get “no-one” from the boys and “as many as you can” from Jessie. I print the four schedules and map out my best plan. Some of the teachers I know from previous years, some are for electives that I am not concerned about, and so the narrowing process begins. In the end I can get to two of John’s teachers, two of Christian’s, one for Isaac and three for Jessie. There is one teacher for Isaac that I would really like to meet but will have to do it on another night.

Now I could just leave it at that, but I have learned the more you show interest and communication with your child’s teacher, especially in high school, where class sizes are edging towards 40 kids, your interest makes a difference! I then wrote the following email to all the teachers explaining my dilemma and letting them know of my interest and appreciation for what they do.

Good Morning!
My name is Kari Johnson, and if you are receiving this e-mail you have one of my four wonderful kids.  Isaac, John, Christian or Jessica.  My amazing husband, Scott, works is Eugene as a hospital chaplain.  He is gone during the week days, and I am a single mom for that time.  This leads me to tonight open house,  with four kids in seven classes, I clearly can not make it to meet all of you in person.  Our kids have the honor of being in 25 different and unique classrooms.   With Isaac a senior, and three others following close behind, I have had the chance to meet many of you on this list and feel so blessed by the time, effort, and expertise you bring to our children’s education.

If we have not yet met, I look forward to having that opportunity. Please know that if it is not tonight, it is not a reflection of my lack of interest or investment in my children, or you.  I volunteer in the Future Center, I have three-part time jobs, four high schoolers with sports and activities, and am very organized.  I am also just one person, and sometimes things slip through the cracks of the chaos I have chosen for my life.  Your communication with me through Parent Assist and e-mails are invaluable.  If there is any concern, a funny story, or frustration with any of my kids please do not hesitate to communicate with me via e-mail or phone: 541-948-1746.  My role is to support you in any way I can.

We are so thankful for Bend High, and for your contribution to making it such an awesome place for kids to be challenged both in education, and personal character to reach their full potential.  We are well aware that your job is the least appreciated, under valued, and under paid positions for the importance of what you are doing.  If our family can do anything to support you, make your life a bit easier, or just bring you your favorite cookie let us know. Thank you for your time, your dedication and your investment in our future.

love and laughter, Kari and Scott Johnson

No matter how old your kids are, no matter how many you have, your involvement in their education from pre-school through high school is imperative. These wonderful public servants give and give and give. If nothing else they give you a break for 6-8 hours a day so you can be a better parent when you do have time with your children. Communication is vital, and can be done in a way that everyone feels good about investing in your child. One email, supportive phone call or act of kindness will help so that no child slips through the cracks and your child gets the best possible education.

Managing Mondays: Rhythm

Managing Mondays: Rhythm

I slowly sip my coffee and revel in the mornings stillness. It is the first Monday of the first full week of school. My two sophomores, junior and senior are out the door. Gus, our golden retriever, has been fed and is curled at my feet. The day is going to be full, and a bit crazy as I juggle appointments for Jessie’s knee, Lila, and the cooking for my kick off of Kari’s Kitchen. I am looking forward to it.

The Summer was terrific and I enjoyed myself immensely, but I am so thankful that school is back in session, and a new rhythm is establishing itself. I can only go for so long without a structure or schedule. My kids need it and so do I. It feels good to have a plan and to be able to quantify accomplishments. The tension in our home the last two weeks before school starts is palpable. They are fighting for every last moment of freedom, video time, tv time, sleeping in and staying up late. I am at my wit’s end with the house, the mess, the laundry, the bickering, and the physical presence of large teenagers, three of which are smelly boys clogging up the air and space.

“Rhythm, a procedure marked by the regular recurrence of particular elements, phases, etc.” Good coffee, kids out the door, a chance to write, then tackle the day. Find your rhythm. Be willing to change the beat. Dance through your day!

Day sixteen on my island, contemplative



The sun sets on day sixteen over the island. A lone seal swims as a sliver of the moon rises. The water is rougher than usual, but the sun set one of the most beautiful. Today is the first day I have been seriously annoyed and ready for a break from my kids. Isaac especially. That is a pretty good record for us. We have been living, working, and playing together for over two weeks and today is the first I have raised my voice in pure annoyance.

Isaac, who loves to push all of our buttons has been relatively calm and amiable. He has been a hard worker and fun to play cards, and other games with. Today he reached his limit at the same exact time I reached mine. This is not a good thing. Fireworks fly as we both express our isolation frustration.

The majority of the projects are done, my dad told me the house and property look the best they have since my grandparents were alive, and living here on the island. Jessie and I finished our four-year sea glass mosaic project, and the sun which had been hiding for a few days, came out again.

Time seems to be catching up with me and I am tired tonight. I think about turning 45 next week, and for the first time ever I have mixed emotions about my birthday. I will have finished my goal of blogging everyday for a year, and our oldest son will be a senior in high school. I will be halfway to 90. This must be Isaac’s fault because my brain is in a negative space and he has been ornery today. That is one of the good things about having kids, there is always someone to blame.

Tomorrow is a new day, and I will spending time away from my kids, going for my favorite hike with a special island friend who I connect with once a year. We will catch up on each others lives, laugh, and enjoy the best view of the whole island. Maybe from the top of the island I will gain perspective, and find a new goal. Tonight I will fall asleep to the lullaby of ferry boats and the promise of another day.

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Day eight on my island, Triumph and Trouble


Day eight on my island, Triumph and Trouble

We spent the weekend without water in the kitchen sink. The bolt would not budge for anyone or any thing. Isaac bless his heart, washed al lithe dishes in the bathtub last night. I got a wonderful night of sleep and woke up with renewed vigor to tackle our faucet issue. I enlisted my sister and daughter and we went down to the bakery to sweet talk the old men and see if they could help. I had already talked to them once and they had told me there was a man I needed to speak to who would have the correct tool. I fueled my self on coffee and a raspberry scone from the bakery and approached the table.

I used my best smile and asked once again for help. They all pointed to on man and I said what do I need to do t o get this tool. He smiled and said come to my house and get it. I of course squealed with delight and made the arrangements. I left the table, did a happy dance which made all the men laugh. I still did not have a name, but I had the directions to his home and I knew I was going to be able to fix the stupid faucet.

We went to his beautiful home with an incredible view looking back towards the main land. Their parents had built the home in the early fifties and now the fourth generation of family was enjoying the Island. He listened to my accounting of the faucet issue and gave me a tool we were both sure would work. I came back to our home eager to get this problem solved. The tool was exactly what I needed and after some maneuvering, pounding, swearing and faucet wreckage it was out. I came out of the cabinet under that sink and ran out to the back, screamed a roar of triumph, and did another happy dance.

I got out the new faucet placed it on the sink, dove gleefully under the sink cabinet and hooked the cold water and then the hot water to the new faucet, turned the valves and asked my sister to turn the faucet on. It worked beautifully. Unfortunately, I noticed a leak in the hot water hose. I turned the hot water off at the valve and nothing happened. I was getting doused with water and nothing I turned or tweaked did anything to stop the flow. I am laughing and swearing and calling for help. I send my sister and kids out of the house to find the main water shut off and the whole hose to the hot water breaks.

I now have a beautiful faucet, a very clean kitchen floor and sink cabinet, cold water to the house but no water to the kitchen sink and no hot water to the house. The plumber has yet to return my calls. I get out from the sink, change my clothes, start a load of towels and my wet clothes. I make myself a gin and tonic and call it a day. I do have a beautiful faucet, and a cold shower is better than no shower at all. Maybe tomorrow I will get the call, maybe not. No worries eh? It is island life.




Day four on my Island, frustration


Today, day four on my Island we experienced the down side of being so far away from civilization. One of the reasons we came to the island this summer was to clean up our cabin and the property. The biggest project by far is the deck. It is a large beautiful deck that stretches along the entire side of the house. It has become a slippery, mossy, mildew disaster. When it is wet, and that is quite often up here in the beautiful North West, it is a wasteland that can not be used and a sure liability for any one who attempts to walk on it.

The three boys are here to wire scrub the entire deck, and restore it to its original wood and beauty. It is not a glamorous job, it is hard work on your knees pushing gross sledge. We do not have a hose, so it is washed off with buckets of water filled in the sink then carried out to the deck. Two hours of hard scrubbing back-breaking work on your knees is the most we ask in one day. While filling these buckets with water we became aware of a leak in the faucet. This was not a good thing.

I finish making lunch for everyone, the boys get sent out to trim the trees and dad and I tackle the leak. Now, my dad is seventy-five. He is in fairly good shape and can still do just about anything he wants to. I am almost forty-five and in fairly good shape, but getting on your back and into a cabinet to work on a sink that was installed in the sixty’s is not fun. We decide that it is not the pipes but the faucet and set about to take it out and replace it. This was the beginning of a very frustrating day.

I get the water turned off and the hoses detached, this takes a little work, a few swear words, some dripping water and dirt in the eyes. I then look at what we have to do to get the rest of the faucet out and I cringe. Now I am not a plumber, but I have replaced a faucet, and I know this is not what I have seen before. I ask for a wrench and nothing we have is big enough for the hexagon shaped bolt that is sealing the faucet to the sink. My dad has me move out and looks for himself. He has a similar reaction.

We spend the afternoon between the one hardware store on the island, and underneath the sink. Nothing works, the bolt will not budge. It is in an awkward spot with no room for maneuvering. After trying every position and every tool we can buy or borrow we now have a kitchen sink that does not work and a frustration level that is extremely high for both my dad and me, as we know what needs to be done, we know the new faucet will go in fast and easy but we are stuck trying to get this damn bolt off with no success.

I wash the dishes in the bathtub, we make a phone call to someone who might be a plumber on the island and we sink in our defeat(pun intended). We can not just run to home depot and ask for the right tool, if indeed there is one. We can not look in the yellow pages and keep calling until someone says they will help. My dad goes to sleep disgusted with himself for not being able to do it himself, and probably very sore from getting up and down off the floor and contorting his body in weird shapes to try to fix something that should not be this hard to do!

No man is an island, and today I wished for the first time I could have the best of both worlds, which is why this island is not a city, I guess. Most of us can not deal with the idiosyncrasies of island life. We have far too much to do in far too little time to be able to handle very many days like today. Still the ferry horn sounds, the sun warms my sore muscles and my kids are learn vesting their time and muscles into an inheritance that they hopefully one day will share with their children and grandchildren. Washing the dishes in the tub is not that bad after all.