Friday, August 31, 2007

Pull My Finger

I am so immature. Really. It's like I'm stuck in 7th grade sometimes. For example, I always find flatulance funny. I just can't help it. It turns on my giggle button every time. I can't even say the word "poot" without snickering. Don't you think it's funny? Say it over and over again, quickly. Go ahead. I'll wait. See what I mean. It's funny. Hubby had a routine colonoscopy today, and I tried to be mature about it, but I couldn't resist the really bad jokes, and I laughed throughout the entire process. I was bad.

It actually started at the doctor's office when we received his instructions for the procedure. You see, medical professionals who deal with this stuff all day every day have their own sense of humor about it, too. The nurse explained the whole "cleansing" process that takes place the day before the colonoscopy. Essentially you take a whole bunch of super duper laxative in a short amount of time and eat a liquid diet. It is NOT funny, except to the people watching you run to the bathroom every few minutes. The nurse made a little crack (tee hee, get it? crack? Told ya' I was immature.) about not going jogging after taking the cleanser, and I got the giggles. Then the rest of the medical staff got the giggles watching me giggle. Hubby was not amused.

This morning the nurse who guided us through the procedure tried some bodily function humor to lighten up Hubby's attitude about the test. It didn't work on him, but it worked on me, and I had to turn my head and pretend to have a coughing fit. Now, if the whole laxative followed by the butt cam thing weren't humiliating enough, there's the excessive gas part that follows the test. I do mean excessive. Monster gas. Elephant trumpeting through the jungle kind of gas. There were twenty six people having this test today, and about a dozen of them were all lined up in roughly the same area at the same time. That's a lot of trumpeting. I might have made a comment or two about musical instruments. I also may have snorted out loud when the nurse joked about room curtains fanning. And I may have made the tiniest joke about the stoned look Hubby had on his face from the anesthesia immediately after the procedure. I couldn't help it. The peyote scene in "Young Guns" kept running through my head.

I am not proud of myself. I tried to make up for it. I had an icy Diet Coke waiting for him as soon has he came back to the room. I patted his hand, and waited on him. I helped him with his clothes and picked up his favorite breakfast on the way home. Hopefully, he didn't see me biting my lip over that whole backless hospital gown incident.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Within My Rights

Is there some kind of rule that I don’t know about that says moms can never relax? Really, I want to know, because apparently I missed the amendment to my marriage/parental contract that says everyone is the house should pester the pee-waddin’ out of mom on the rare occasion that she gets the chance to sit down for a few minutes of quiet and relaxation. Don’t ask me what pee-waddin’ is. I don’t know. I have to make up words to keep from having such a potty mouth. What can I say? I’m my mother’s child. I swear there is a conspiracy in my house to drive me crazy. They don’t want me to rest. They want me tired. They want to make me so exhausted I’ll curl up in a ball in the corner, start sucking my thumb and have to be institutionalized. Then they can steal all of my money. Ha! All $278.56.

I have to run..on my lunch get my “alone” time. How crazy is that? I haven’t been running the last couple of days because I’ve been so busy. From sunrise to bedtime for nearly two weeks I’ve been extremely busy. I’m headed for cranky. I feel it coming on, and I really needed a few minutes of calm last night. Alas, it was not to happen as evident by the apparent invocation of the amendment mentioned in paragraph one.

Round 1 in their strategy to steal my inheritance: Wear her down with a request she should say no to but is too tired to say no to. 7:30pm-as I finally wrapped up cleaning the kitchen, bathroom and dining room table.
“Mom, does two sticks of butter equal one cup?”
“Yes. Why?”
“I’m baking cookies.”
“Why? I just cleaned up the kitchen.”
“But, I’m hungry for a cookie.”
“Get a little bit of that cookie mix out of the deep freeze and just make a few cookies instead of messing up the whole kitchen.”
“That tub of mix you bought from the school choir? That’s a year old. I’m going to make some.”
Sigh. “You have to clean up every mess you make. I mean it.”
“I will. I will.”

Round 2: Pound her with the shock and awe of conversation. 8pm-Right after I slipped unnoticed into the hot tub in the darkness of my backyard. Hubby (who I will remind you is retired) perched himself on the edge of the hot tub and said:
“Hey! There you are. Did you finally decide to come outside? What took you so long? Tired?”
“Hmm. I just want to sit here a few minutes and clear my head.”
“You want the radio on?”
“No. I just want silence.”
“Okay. So you had a rough day?”
“ Hey, have you figured how to change the lights yet?”
“Yes. I picked blue. I think they’re kind of soothing.”
“I want red. How come I can’t get the red? (insert repeated changing of multicolored lights.)
“I don’t want the red. I want blue. I’m relaxing.”
“But I want to know how to make them flash. They’re supposed to be able to flash.”
“Not now. I’m relaxing. Can you stop pushing the button?”
“Okay. Let me turn the jets down a little.”
“I like them where they are.”
“Yeah, but they’re too high.”
“I’m massaging my back. Please just leave them where they are for a minute. I’m relaxing.”
“I can’t figure out how to adjust these things. I guess I should read the manual.” (insert repeated changes in turbulence.)
“Yes, you should. Please, leave my water alone. I’m relaxing. You know, when you move around you turn the motion light on, and I’m no longer in the dark.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty funny.” (insert waving of arms.) “We need to fix that.”
“Okay, but could you please be still for just a minute, so it won’t go off?”
“Sure. Hey, I found out today these filters are expensive. You want to know how much it’s going to cost us when we get ready to replace that thing?”
“NO! I’m relaxing.”
“$83. Can you believe that?”
“I don’t want to know. I’M RELAXING!”
(insert more fidgeting and turning on of the motion light.)

So, after my brief soak, a second kitchen clean up and some restless sleep, I am starting another busy day. Tonight I’m invoking another amendment..the right to remain silent.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tiny Bubbles

The Hula’s are up to their necks in bubbles. Warm, frothy bubbles that sooth the back and massage the legs. Spa bubbles that gurgle and pop in every direction. We are the proud new owners of a hot tub. Sweet! It’s been sitting in the back yard for a week, but we had to finish building the deck and have some electrical work done before we could fill it with water and turn it on. The last few days have been like Christmas Eve in a house full of kids. A-N-T-I-C-I-P-A-T-I-O-N. But the waiting is over, and the bubbles are on.

Teen Angel was the first in the family to break it in. When I got home she was sitting in it, book in hand and stereo blaring. I could hear the bass from the front yard. I threw on my swimsuit and joined her. It was great. We soaked before dinner and again before bedtime. After all, we had to see what the colored lights were like in the dark. We soaked with the stereo on and with it off. With the bubbles on and with them off. We tried out every feature and every level of power. We probably used enough electricity to run all of the refrigerators in South Dakota. At this rate, we’re going to need more swimsuits. I’m sure our excitement will level off, but for now we’re sniffing bubbles like a hound dog chasing rabbits.

We built the deck so we could entertain large groups of people. We've never had room to do that inside our house. As with just about everything we do, we got a little carried away. I think we can sit nearly 30 people on this deck. That should hold all of the people we can afford to feed at any one time. We’ve got a great set up now; hot tub, pool, killer stereo and a great eating area. We can really entertain now. There is only one problem that didn’t occur to me until last night. As I surveyed the backyard and watched Teen Angel soaking to the sounds of Nickelback, I realized that Hubby and I can never leave town on the weekend anymore and leave her home alone. Yes sir, we have created quite the party area. Crap.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Life's Highway

I ran at lunch today, and it was the first time I’ve tackled that stretch of street that brought me to my knees a couple of weeks ago. By the way, I’m healing up nicely. I’m finally scab-less and have lots of fresh, pink skin on my leg. The scar may not be too bad if I keep it medicated. When you run you never know what you’re going to encounter, even if you’re on a familiar route. I didn’t fall today, but I came upon several little surprises that forced me to draw an analogy between my life and that running path.

This path is fairly flat and easy on the feet and lungs. I like it when life is like that; smooth and easy. It doesn’t happen often, so it’s especially nice when it does. You have to enjoy it while it lasts, because you never know when a big hill is just around the corner. I don’t like hills, but they make me a stronger racer. This particular three mile stretch of sidewalk is full of hazards. You’ll be running along and suddenly a piece of sidewalk is sticking up just waiting for an unsuspecting foot. You have to be alert all the time, otherwise you’ll stumble headlong onto pavement. Trust me, I know. I have the knee to prove it. My days are full of little things that trip me up: impatience, stubbornness and pride, to name a few. I have the internal scars to prove that. About a mile into the run a dog came out of nowhere, determined to bite my butt. I haven’t seen this dog before. I tried talking nicely to him, but he wasn’t interested in my pleasantries, so I tried picking up my speed. I almost panicked until I saw he was on a leash that yanked him back just in time. I hate it when scary stuff just drops in out of nowhere and chews you up. Sometimes you escape intact like when your biopsy comes back okay. Sometimes you lose a limb, like when a family member dies suddenly. Scary is no fun, especially when it surprises you. I was pleasantly surprised by the yard sprinkler that showered me with just the right amount of water. It was 92 degrees out there, and while that doesn’t begin to match our past three weeks of 100 degree days, the sun was still pretty warm. That shower came at just the right time. I love it when something good and unexpected happens, like running into an old friend or finding a $10 bill in a coat pocket. I run with an iPod and usually it helps. Today it just felt like noise. It seemed too loud. I had to turn it off. Sometimes life seems a little too loud, and you want to turn it down. I didn't step in anything nasty today, but I barely missed some kind of sewage puddle. Sometimes **** happens, and you spend a lot of time cleaning up the mess.

I had a terrible run today. I was tired and slow. My head wasn’t in the game, and I just couldn’t find my pace. I was frustrated with myself. Hmm. Kind of like life lately. Somewhat stressful. Very tiring and a little frustrating. Mama J. and Papa T. have needed lots of extra care lately. Their needs have stretched us to the max and thrown us a few curves. I think it’s time to do what all runners do when they have a bad day. Stop. And Walk. Just for a while. To clear my head. And refocus. Maybe there’s a sprinkler in the next block.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hello North Dakota

Mama J. would die of embarrassment if she knew I was telling you this so let's just keep this one between us because it's too funny not to tell. She was the source of the funniest thing that's happened around here in a while. She loves the phone and spends a great deal of time on it. In fact, when she heads off to see St. Peter we'll need to bury her with a phone card so she can call us several times a day like she's accustomed to doing. Otherwise, Jesus will be sending us a phone bill. She's very direct when she calls you, and she doesn't give you time to respond to most of what she's saying. She speaks with the speed of an Amtrak train. When you pick up the phone, she states your name, identifies herself and launches into a one sided conversation sometimes before you finish saying hello. She can speak without breathing, so it's often quite a while before you get to say anything. We're used to it, so we don't think much about it, but we've always thought it could get her into trouble if she did it to the wrong person. It took several years but it finally happened this week.

Papa T. had outpatient eye surgery Thursday. He has a sister, Jane, in North Dakota who wanted to hear how the surgery went as soon as it was finished. From the recovery room, Mama J. called her and the conversation went something like this: (Keep in mind there are no pauses between sentences.)

"Jane? This is J." "T.'s surgery went fine. He's in recovery and will get to go home as soon as he's a little more alert....yadda, yadda, yadda" (insert 30 or so seconds of other nonessesntial information.) "Guess what. Sissy came home for the surgery, and she's here right now. Would you like to talk to her? Here she is."

She handed Sissy the phone, and Sissy says:

"Hey Aunt Jane. How ya doin'? Don't worry about Daddy. He's doing fine."

And from the other end of the phone Sissy hears:

"Sissy, I'm glad Daddy's doing fine. But this isn't Aunt Jane. This is Sandra at Willoughby's Pizza Parlor in Williston, North Dakota, and I need to be going now."

Sissy doubled over in laughter and so did everyone else in the room..except Mama J. She was really embarrassed. She carefully dialed Aunt Jane's number and relayed Papa T.'s condition and the phone story to her. Aunt Jane says the next time she orders pizza, she's going to call Willoughby's and tell them Aunt Jane needs a pepperoni pie. She's pretty sure they'll know who she's talking about even though she's never ordered from there before. We've laughed about that phone call for two days. Mama J.'s not laughing about it yet, but I did catch her smiling when we teased her about it yesterday. She still doesn't want everybody to know, so remember, this one is just between us, okay?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Crushed Ice Anyone?

We are simple people. I know this because of the excitement a new refrigerator has generated in our house. Oprah could have shown up on our doorstep this week, and we wouldn’t have noticed because we’ve been too busy admiring our Whirlpool wonder. Teen Angel rubbed it like a new diamond when Lowes dropped it off. In seventeen years of marriage we’ve never had a brand spanking new refrigerator. Our old one came with our house when we bought it in 1994, and we squeezed every last drop of life out of it. That’s no exaggeration because we gave it to our neighbor when the new one came, and it failed to start when he plugged it in his garage. We’ve known for weeks she was terminal, but we had no idea she was that close to expiring.

The old Amana was a 1983 model. She was no Cadillac, but she served us well. Even when we remodeled the kitchen in 1996 and bought new appliances we hung on to her. Mostly because that project went over budget, and we needed to cut a corner, but we also felt like she had more life in her. Boy, did she ever. She turned out to be the Miss Jane Pittman of refrigerators, hanging around long after the washing machine and a couple of other old appliances bit the dust. She had no fancy features, and was a little on the small side. We even had to have an icemaker installed in her when we bought her. Over the years she lost her grill at the bottom. She had a few nicks in the door, and the handle had to be screwed back on after one too many yanks. About two years ago the icemaker quit working and we chose not to fix it because we figured the fridge would quit any time anyway. We were wrong, so we’ve been fetching ice from the garage refrigerator for as long as Hillary’s been running for President. Saying goodbye to the old gal (the fridge, not Hillary) was bittersweet. We will miss her sturdy glass shelves and cute little egg holder, but the new Whirlpool has finally brought the Hula’s into the 21st Century, and we’re excited to be there because now we have…ta da! and water in the door.

Yes, we are possibly one of the last families in America to get ice and water in the door. We waited in suspense for four days until the plumber could hook up the water line. He got everything squared away, and we gathered around it yesterday evening oohing and aahing over it like cavemen who had just discovered fire. Of course, it takes about 24 hours to get a basket of ice, so we got excited all over again every time we heard ice drop last night. I checked it first thing this morning, and it was filling up nicely. By the time I get home this evening we should have all the ice we need. Unless that darn Teen Angel has used it all up just watching it work. I can’t wait for an icy glass of water. Hmm. What do you think? Crushed ice or cubed ice? I think I’m going to like this 21st Century stuff. Who knows what’s next. A CD player for Hubby’s old truck?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Keeper Pile

I couldn’t find something I was looking for in a drawer last night because it was so full of stuff I don’t use that I got fed up and started cleaning out the drawer. That’s usually why I clean something, because we all know how much I avoid cleaning anything. I have to have an urgent reason to clean. Otherwise stuff just sits there. Teen Angel started rummaging through my throw away pile just in case any of her stuff had found its way into the stack. I’ve been known to get a little carried away during these purges. She pulled out an old pair of pajamas that I thought were hers until I saw the monogram. Oh my gosh! My old pink pajamas. I had forgotten all about them. I love those jammies. They’re not at all stylish and are worn so thin you can almost see through them, but I love them. They’re cotton and comfy and I thought they were gone forever. I’m glad they’re back, and to think I almost threw them away.

There are certain pieces of clothing I just can’t part with. No matter how trends change or how many seasons pass, these few items end up in the keeper pile every time I clean closets. Usually, it’s for sentimental reasons. There’s the REO Speedwagon concert t-shirt I got during my senior year of high school. It was my first rock concert, and the first time my friends and I drove to someplace not so close to home without an adult chaperone. It makes me think of M. and C. every time I pick it up. It also reminds me of the crazy drunk guy next to us at the concert who fell off a chair. Good times. There’s also the Police t-shirt from the original “Synchronicity” tour in the early 80’s. That shirt is a classic. That concert involved a road trip with some very good college buddies that I never see anymore. It reminds me of them. More good times. I also have the tights to my college pom pon squad uniform. They have horseshoes on the butt because our mascot was a horse. Those are just too funny to throw away. I plan to keep those so I can pull them out of a trunk when I’m eighty and laugh with my grandkids about how svelte and wrinkle free I used to be. I have my eight grade graduation dress (prairie style), my senior prom dress and the hoop skirt that goes with it. I even have some jewelry from when I was about thirteen years old. It’s cheap and faded, and I never wear it, but I like to look at it from time to time. It’s funny how you can get so attached to old rags you wore twenty years ago.

I may eventually throw a few of these things away, but I doubt it. I don’t see them every day because they’re tucked so far away, but every now and then I stumble across them and try them on…when no one’s looking. After all, it’s a little disturbing to see a 40-something year old woman in horseshoe tights or a southern belle prom dress. I like the memories they hold, and the laughs they give me. They’re very comforting, like those old pink pajamas. Glad I found the pajamas. It was much more comfortable sleeping in those last night instead of the old prom dress.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

SSSSSSStay of Execution

The Hula’s are animal lovers. Not in the PETA refuse to eat beef and throw tomatoes on your fur coat way. We’re the spoil our dog, feed the birds, squeal at baby penguins kind of animal lovers. We love zoos and homeless cats and dogs. We feed stray dogs. We feed rabbits, squirrels and birds. Our backyard is a virtual smorgasbord for critters. We have doves, finches, hummingbirds, baby bunnies and an occasional possum. We also have a fascinating assortment of bugs, butterflies and spiders. We love all of God’s creatures….except one…snakes. We each have an irrational fear of snakes and any that slither into our yard risk decapitation, even the nonpoisonous ones. That’s because we don’t take the time to check out the shape of its head or the markings on its back. The only marking we see is a big fat bullseye. Even the smallest of snakes terrifies us. We can’t go into the reptile house at the zoo without jumping and hollering at the slightest sound or movement. I told you we were irrational.

At least once a summer one of us stumbles on a snake, and I told myself last week we were overdue for this year’s scare. I must have jinxed us because Hubby walked up on one in Mama J.’s and Papa T.’s garage yesterday. IN THE GARAGE! MERE FEET FROM THE BACK DOOR!! The only thing worse than finding a snake in the yard is finding one near the entrance to your home. A snake in the house is a nightmare I used to have as a kid. I dreamed about it on a regular basis. While other kids were worried about the boogeyman under their bed, I was sweating over wandering reptiles. I grew up “in the sticks” as we like to say around here and roamed cattle fields and country roads. I saw a lot of snakes, so you’d think I would have gotten used to them. Not at all.

I think I inherited this fear from my mother who was a vicious snake slayer and was always preaching the dangers of copperheads and cottonmouths. I remember her hacking more than one snake to death with a hoe. A snake crossing the road didn’t have a chance if we happened to be zipping down the highway, and she was behind the wheel. She would slam on the brakes and drive back and forth over the snake until she was satisfied it was dead. Once she marched all of us kids out into the yard to see all the baby snakes inside of a pregnant copperhead the neighbor had killed. All of this left a big impression upon me, and I can’t rid myself of my fears. I’ve tried. When my fourth grade teacher brought his boat constrictor to school I was the first girl to volunteer to hold it. I held it, but I wanted nothing to do with another one. I just can’t seem to help myself, and neither can Hubby. He’s 6’4” and is a pretty imposing figure. He’s not scared of much. He’ll hear a noise in the middle of the night and actively pursue a prowler while I’m inclined to cover up my head and hope it will go away. However, he screams like a girl if there’s a snake around. He did yesterday. Mama J. heard him from inside the house. His first reaction was to kill it with the first thing he could find. In the past that’s included everything from a hoe to a .44 magnum Dirty Harry handgun that sounds like a cannon when it goes off. Before he could find a weapon Teen Angel came running and begged him to save the snake. She does this with other problem critters, like the mole that Hubby spent two weeks chasing down in CaddyShack fashion with shovels and hoses. She decided the furry little mole was too cute to kill, so Hubby relented and released him in the nearby woods. Now the last thing Hubby wanted to do was to catch that snake, but he couldn’t say no. He carefully corralled it into a box and headed down the woods to let it go…except he dropped it…about fifty feet from our yard…and it slithered out. We don’t know where it is now, but I suspect it’s headed back toward our yard where one of us is likely to run into it again before cold weather. I don’t know what’s worse, running into the snake or worrying about running into the snake. That little fellow needs to be careful. This governor won’t give him a stay of execution, and a pardon is out of the question, provided I actually get close enough to him to pull the switch.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Plastic Pox

The Hula’s have contracted a chronic illness: Plasticus Hordus. Loosely translated it means we are unable to throw away plastic containers of any kind, especially those with lids. I think we inherited it from Mama J. who has every Cool Whip container she has emptied in the last decade and a collection of Dixie cups that she started during the Vietnam War. I tried to keep this pox out of my house, but it didn’t work. At this point, I’m just trying to keep it from spreading. Anyone who drags another plastic cup or bowl into my house is in big trouble.

Despite my best efforts to avoid a graveyard of plastic in my kitchen cabinets, I have managed to collect quite a stash of the stuff. I wouldn’t mind if we actually used it, but we don’t. We have enough bowls to feed Sherman’s army and a cup from every amusement park in the Midwest. We may have saved money on refills by buying those $10 souvenir cups at Six Flags, but they’ve cost me plenty of patience every time I’ve had to lasso one back into the cabinet. We have Gladware, Tupperware, Rubbermaid bowls and Chuck E. Cheese cups. Big cups, small cups, coffee cups and sippie cups. We have cups with super duper straws and flip top lids. Tall cups, skinny cups and fat, round mugs. And apparently plastic ware has the ability to reproduce in the dark because the cabinet seems to get fuller every day, even if I don’t add anything to it. Stuff tumbles out every time I open the door, and I don’t even recognize some of it. Rest assured, though, if it’s one of Mama J.’s containers, she will come calling for it. I have a habit of accepting her leftovers and forgetting to return the container. She has the memory of an elephant and will come searching for any Gladware that’s been MIA for more than two days. She will also lop off your head if you suggest that perhaps she should throw away disposable plates and cups instead of washing them in the dishwasher. Don’t ask me how I know this. (And please, no criticism from the green folks on this one. I’m working on it, okay.)

What I really don’t understand is our inability to throw any of this stuff away. That big plastic mug from King’s Island has sat in the cabinet unused for the last year. When I finally suggested throwing it away, I got nothing but protests. “We can’t throw that away. We paid $10 for it.” “So? We don’t use it.” “Yeah, but we might.” Back in the cabinet it goes until I can slip into the kitchen at midnight and toss it in the trash while everyone is asleep.
Every two years or so I get fed up and start slinging stuff into the trash. This usually happens after the plastic tumblers have tumbled out one too many times. I lose my temper and clean house. I throw away every last piece of plastic, march to the store and buy the $10 pack of 21 stackable containers that fit in a six inch space. I feel a purge coming on, although it’s a little early in the season. I usually like to do it in the winter. That way the orderliness lasts until amusement park season. Kind of a self imposed quarantine. After all, this stuff could be contagious.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

I Got the Music In Me

I have a confession. I'm that woman you see singing at the top of her lungs with the car radio. I even dance a little. Well, as much as you can while seated and driving through traffic. When left alone in the confines of my Chrysler I transform into a ballad belting diva whose stage is the highway and whose audience is none...unless you count the poor souls who happen to be next to me at a stoplight when I have my windows down. I say poor because I can't sing a note on key. I'm bad, really bad, but I love to sing. All of the time. Loudly. Passionately. No matter where I am. I am the woman you've all seen in traffic...and laughed at.

I can't drive without listening to music. I always have the radio on. If there isn't anything good on the radio, I have the iPod plugged in. I'm a very sensory person, and music helps me to get through the day. I even keep an iPod docking station on my desk at work. I sing a little there, too but try to keep it low key. Barking out "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" soundtrack is not very business-like. I sing in the shower and when I run, but it's in the car that I give my best performances. Behind the wheel I am the queen of power ballads. I'm Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand and Josh Groban. I'm Louis Armstrong and Linda Ronstadt. Some days I feel downright rowdy. On those days I became Joan Jett, Poison and Pink. On those bluesy sad days I morph into Sarah McLauchlin, Wynona or Rickie Lee Jones. I have music for every mood, and I'm not afraid to use it. Unfortunately, I get so caught up in my performance that I forget people can see me. I remembered one day last week when I got busted by a friend. Three of my friends travel the same path to work that I the same time...every day. Rob Thomas and I were banging out a Streetcorner Symphony last Thursday when D. whizzed past me just slow enough to catch a glimpse of my encore. Oops! I saw the look on her face, and although she didn't say anything later, I know she got a good laugh. Is this what it's like to be a famous singer? Every move under the microscope? You can't leave the house without risking someone recognizing you? Hmmm. Perhaps I need a wig and sunglasses. So I can sing in private.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Happy Anniversary

Today is our wedding anniversary. Seventeen years of marriage. Nineteen years of togetherness. Hubby says some days it seems longer than that. He's a funny man. That's part of why I love him. I am attracted to his humor, his kindness, his gentleness and his physical form. They say opposites attract, and in our case that's true. We are very different.

As the song says, he's a little bit country. I'm a little bit rock n' roll. He's a little bit of Memphis and Nashville. I have a whole lot of Motown in my soul. He wants symetry. I like uneven edges. He wants white walls. I like color. I like to live for the moment. He doesn't. I'm a dancer. He's not, unless there's a little bit of liquid courage involved. He frets and worries about everything. I don't worry until I see flames or get a call from law enforcement. He's an early riser and bounces out of bed as a "Ready Teddy", as he likes to say. I, on the other hand, have to be pulled out of the covers with a pry bar and sheilded from light until I've slugged around the house for twenty minutes. I'm the liberal in this family, and he's the conservative. I'm telling you, we could not be more different. This created some tension early on in our relationship, especially when I realized he alphabetized his canned goods. I discovered this when he admonished me for putting the "C"orn next to the "T"apioca pudding. I laughed because I thought he was joking. He wasn't and at that moment, I had my doubts our relationship would survive, but it did.

Our relationship has been unique from the beginning. Not only are we very different, he is a decade older than me. Even the way we met was kind of odd. We met during a murder trial. Romantic isn't it? I was a reporter, and he was a parole officer. I kept seeing him at the courthouse during the trial. We made googly eyes at each other for several days, until the court reporter, acting as a go-between, finally relayed our interest in one another. He was kind of shy though, and I got tired of waiting for him to ask me out, so I called him up and asked him for a date. Did I mention I'm assertive and he's not? He went, and we have been together ever since. It's been a great nineteen years. Difficult at times, but great. Our differences keep things interesting. I have worked that alphabetized canned good thing out of his system, thank God.

In true "married for a long time fashion" our plans for today include an exciting wait for our new refrigerator to be delivered. That big truck from Lowes should be here any time. Hubby will spend the morning hooking up the water line. I will wash three loads of laundry and drop his mother off at the beautiful shop. Those of you who are single or newlyweds will think that's incredibly boring. Those of you who have waded through marriage for several years will nod your head in approval and understand our excitement about a new refrigerator. Don't worry. We have planned a dinner and a concert to celebrate in a couple of weeks. The timing for a romantic dinner just didn't work out this weekend. Those of you married for a while understand that, too.

Friday, August 17, 2007

American Justice

The scales of justice are sometimes wobbly. That's the conclusion I reached after serving on a jury yesterday. We spent a really long day in trial and a long time in deliberations last night before settling on a verdict. It was tough...and tiring.

People sometimes ask me if I miss being in journalism. I don't really, but I do miss attending court proceedings. I love a good trial, especially a murder trial. I've covered several, and I never fail to be fascinated by the process, the drama and the interaction between the families affected. If I were young and single, my dream job (other than being a Rockette) would be freelance writing about high profile trials. I even met Hubby at a murder trial-more on that this weekend. I enjoy legal dramas, legal thrillers, legal novels. I could spend hours immersed in a John Grisham book. Of course, none of that fiction is like the real thing. The real thing is even better. So, it was with great enthusiam that I opened my notice for jury duty recently. I'm that much of a nerd. I was probably the only goober in the pool of people gathered yesterday hoping to get picked. Arnold Horseshack couldn't have been any more eager than I was. You see, I've been called for jury duty before but never gotten chosen. My job in news and Hubby's career in law enforcement gave me an automatic boot from any case. I would show up, only to be quickly turned away. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. This time, though, I have a different job and Hubby is retired. I was cleared for take-off and survived the strikes. Finally, I got to see the inside of the jury room and take part in that process. It was much tougher than I thought it would be. It is an incredible responsibility to know that you are holding someone's future in your hands. And the future of his family.

We heard a child abuse case, and to make a long story short (which I'm not very capable of) neither side presented a very good case. The police investigation was weak and so was the prosecution and the defense. Throughout the testimony my opinions on guilt or innocense kept sliding back and forth. I truly had mixed feelings when I entered the jury room. We stayed in the jury room a long time and in the end decided on not guilty. For the sake of the child we hope we did the right thing. I think we did the right thing. We followed the law. That was what we were charged to do. I wish I were completely comfortable with the outcome. I'm glad I got to serve, and I hope we tipped the scales in the right direction. I just wish they weren't so wobbly.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Building A Marriage

What's the secret to a good marriage? A good carpenter. Carpenter Ricky is my new best friend. He's the man who's going to save my marriage by building our deck. There are a lot of things Hubby and I do well together. Remodeling and construction are not among those things. Every time we start a project, we risk beginning World War III. It's true. There are some things married folks should just not do with each other. The Hulas should not wallpaper or build together.

We picked up on the wallpaper thing as newlyweds. The house we were renting had a butt ugly bathroom, and the landlords gave us permission to paper it. It was a small bathroom. It was a hot day. It was uncooperative paper. The first couple of sheets rolled off the wall and into the floor. I blamed him. He blamed me. Ugly words were spoken, and I finally suggested that I could finish that little project by myself. Hubby agreed and headed for the yard. Three hours later my bathroom was blue, but I wasn't anymore. It was right about this time we discussed him teaching me to shoot his guns too, and we decided that perhaps that was another thing we shouldn't attempt together because of the liklihood that one of us might lose a foot.

Over the years we have attemped many a remodeling project. It always produces a lot of pain and suffering. Like the time we redid the kitchen, and it was completely taped off and unavailable for three weeks. We are cranky people when we are hungry and have to survive with a grill and a cooler. Or the time we refinished the floors and the fumes from the lacquer made us delirious and unreasonable with each other. It was kind of like that cemetery scene in Easy Rider...without the nud*ty. Even small do-it-yourself projects create chaos around here. There was the time we refilled a waterbed, lost our grip on the hose and ended up spraying water all over the bedroom.

We started planning this deck back in the Spring. We were going to build it ourselves, but Hubby wanted one thing, and I wanted another. He couldn't see my vision. Granted, I probably shouldn't watch so much HGTV, but I wanted so much more than just a rectangle with sideboards. I wanted layers, angles and built in seating. I wanted....a hot tub. As usual, I wanted grand. He wanted simple. We can build simple. We can't build grand, not without professional help. After months of measuring and fussing, we surrendured and called in the big gun...Carpenter Ricky. In 24 hours, he had a plan drawn and a cost estimate. God bless him. He starts next week. In a matter of days, I'll be lounging in my outdoor entertainment area and soaking my muscles in my "Oahu Lounger". Is marriage counseling always this expensive?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"Wearing" Me Out

We haven’t finished a full week of school yet, and we’ve already had a fight in our house about school clothes. The second day of school started with a 6am battle over holey jeans and a short shirt. That’s too early in the day for an argument. The school has toughened up its dress code, which doesn’t bother me at all. With all the hormones floating around the high school, I’d be happy if they had to wear nun habits and burkas every day. The new dress code seems very reasonable, but to low-rise jean lovers and bare midriff teenagers it smacks of communism. Jeans can have no holes or fraying, and tops must cover the stomach at all times, even when you’re reaching for something or bending over. Nothing wrong with that, except that three-fourths of the clothes made for teenage girls these days don’t meet the dress code. Teen Angel loves her holey jeans, but I’m not about to leave work and pick her up from school because she didn’t dress up to snuff for classes. I decided Friday that a shopping trip was in order to prevent any more morning clothing battles, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy to find the right stuff.

I’ve posted before about my clothes shopping frustrations. Let me just say that shopping with a teenager requires a whole lot of patience and a margarita or two. It just makes my head hurt, and it’s harder than finding clothing for yourself. The hoochie mama styles refuse to go away, and necklines hang lower than my kneecaps. Anything with decent coverage has some kind of goth-like logo, a Marilyn Manson picture or vulgar saying. I cannot let my child wander into Hot Topic unattended anymore. On a recent mall outing she came out of there with a T-shirt that said “I pooted”. “I pooted”? I didn’t realize it was cool to share that with others now. And to think I’ve been denying it all these years.

Part of the problem is that teenagers work in most of these stores, so you have to battle their influence when your kid is trying on clothes. The clerk in a store that sells jeans for prices higher than the national debt raved about a pair Teen Angel tried on Saturday. “They fit great,” said Perky Clerk. Now these pants were as tight as the bark on a tree and were riding five inches up Teen Angel’s crack. When I gave her the “what the heck are you thinking” look she feebly added that they tend to loosen up with wear. Not enough to meet the school’s dress code or MY code. Show us the next size up, please. And do you have any jeans cheaper than a 2003 Toyota Camry? Did you know $98 jeans are pretty common in some of these stores? Unbelievable. We managed to emerge from the mall several hours later with four new pair of jeans, a few shirts and some tank tops to go under anything that might be too low or two thin. I was tired, but I didn’t feel so bad because I obviously wasn’t alone. It was a big day for back to school buying and parents were all over the mall, shopping for their kids. There was a fight in every dressing room. I saw one mother battling it out with her teenaged daughter over a pair of jeans. She was pretty angry, and a few people were giving her dirty looks. Not me. I wanted to walk over, give her a hug and tell her that I understood. She could probably use that web address I found for ordering muzzles. That’s one accessory that the school will probably allow, don’t you think?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Teacher, Teacher

The beginning of school last week has made me think quite a bit about teachers during the past few days. I have several teachers in my family and circle of friends. It has forced me to look at teachers in a much different way than I did while growing up. I now know that they are human, that they put their pants on the same way I do and that they make mistakes, too. When I was a kid, I put my teachers on a pretty high pedestal and had a hard time understanding their flaws. My sixth grade teacher was incredibly grumpy, barked at us all day and picked her nose. I still don’t understand the booger habit, but I now know she had a very dysfunctional family at the time and probably needed to be somewhere other than a classroom filled with 30 rowdy kids. If I had had her family, I would have been crabby too. She wasn’t a very good teacher, but she was the exception. I was fortunate to have many good teachers.

There was Mrs. V. who would feed you crackers and a carton of milk if you happened to miss breakfast. She understood the connection between a good breakfast and good grades long before the Department of Education. Mrs. T. taught fifth grade with a wonderful sense of humor and a hug even for the kids who weren’t the hugging kind. She knew some of us needed more hugs than others. Mr. T. (no relation to Mrs. T. or the man with all the gold chains) ruled with an iron fist but was really creative in the way he taught fourth grade. He had a nifty homemade electronic gizmo that lit up when we got our multiplication tables right, and he brought his boa constrictor to class when we studied reptiles. We also had a moon pie and RC Cola party for meeting some goal, although I can’t remember what it was now. Mr. B. let us listen to the radio in his homeroom AND play paper football if we had our work done. He also overlooked the fact that we girls sometimes read romance novels tucked into our textbook during English class. Mr. M. taught me geometry with the patience of Job. God bless him for dragging me up to a B in his class. Mrs. L. quizzed us on the twelve comma rules every day of my senior year until everyone made an A on the quiz. She said we would need them for the rest of our lives, and she was right. She was also right about that “chewing gum makes you look like a cow chewing cud thing”. Mrs. B. fueled my love for art and music in my early years. She could take books of wallpaper samples and turn them into art projects for months. Mrs. S. made me take her graduate level grammar class in college even though I didn’t want to. She said I needed it, and she was right.

My favorite teachers were all folks who pushed me to excel with a firm hand, a caring heart and a warm smile. I’m grateful for everything they did for me, and while I now understand why weren't perfect, I still put them on a pretty high pedestal..because they belong to be there.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Search is On

We have begun the search for a new refrigerator, and at the rate we work we should have it installed by Christmas. That's because Hubby has a particular process when it comes to buying these kinds of things, and it takes f..o..r..e..v..e..r. I'm pretty decisive when it comes to buying appliances. I walk into Lowes, look at my options, consider my budget and pick whatever matches my other appliances and gives me the most bang for my meager bucks. When our washing machine pooped out, I had a new one picked out, delivered and introduced to our dirty underwear within a day. However, advance notice of an impending appliance disaster triggers Hubby's research process that takes weeks and causes my hair to gray faster than usual. It's really better for me if we don't know a break down is coming.

Our refrigerator was purchased new in 1983, a year after I graduated from high school. It came with this house, and we paid $50 for it. We figured it was worth the $50 if it lasted another year or so. That was in 1994. It's been running on borrowed time for a while now. In fact, we have avoided talking about it so as not to aggravate the appliance gods who require a sacrifice whenever you have a spare dime in your pocket that you'd like to spend on something else. Kind of the "out of sight, out of mind" approach. Recently, the refrigerator started making an odd sound. We hold our breath and lock eyes every time it kicks off and on, wondering if this electric wheeze is the last. We think the compressor is going out, and we'd rather buy a new fridge than pay $600 to fix the old one. I braced myself when we came to this conclusion this week because I know what lies ahead; multiple trips to the store and reams of reading. Oh, and daily reports on his progress. I don't want this much organization in my life. It makes me nervous.

Hubby made a trip to Lowes Thursday and scouted the options. He then sent me by the store yesterday for my first sweep. In the meantime, he consulted the bible of big purchases, "Consumer Reports". Not the magazine..the annual directory. Hubby refuses to buy anything that doesn't get a good rating in that book. He reads...and reads...and reads. He compares brands ad nauseum. By the time we've finished this process, I will have heard the pros and cons of 27 different models, half of which aren't even in our budget or available to us. We visited Lowes after church today (third visit if you're counting) but didn't advance our search because Hubby couldn't remember the heighth of our old refrigerator. We came home, measured and spent an hour on the internet finding models that will fit in our kitchen. I had big dreams of a honkin' big white fridge with a freezer on the bottom. Those were dashed when we realized our kitchen cabinets are too low for anything bigger than 22.6 cubic feet. As usual, replacing something in a forty year old house is like trying to put a round peg into a square hole. Everything has to be modified, planed, squeezed or twisted in order to fit the dimensions of an older home. You usually have to settle for "good enough" instead of "awesome". I'm okay with that. I just wish it wouldn't take us weeks to get there. We settled on one model today that we both like, but if the past is any indication, we should have at least two more trips to the store and one or two rounds of reading before we can place an order. If I'm lucky, our old one will crap out tomorrow, and I can just pluck one off the floor of Lowes and be done with it. It would be like August.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Sounds of Silence

For the last three months I have awakened long before Hubby and Teen Angel and quietly, peacefully gotten ready for work. I like calm in my morning. In fact, I would prefer to have complete silence until I am ready to leave the house. I’m not a cheery riser. It takes me fifteen minutes to crawl out of my cocoon and put my feet on the floor once the alarm has rung. And I do need an alarm. I’m not one of those crazy people whose body adjusts to a certain schedule and awakes itself at the appropriate time. Pfffftt! Not happening. Never. I’ve worked all kinds of schedules and my body will sleep as long as it’s allowed, no matter what the clock says. Once I’m up, I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want to look at anyone. I just want to slip into the day at my own quiet pace. I’ve enjoyed that for the last twelve weeks...until today. My summer vacation from morning chaos ended on this first day of school.

Teen Angel started high school today, and I can already tell our morning routines are going to tangle on a regular basis. We share a bathroom, and we both need to get ready within the same hour. The fact that she wanted to make a good impression at school or at least not stand out in an embarrassing way added to the stress this morning. Apparently, I did not iron her shirt well enough because there was a small crease in the front of the shirt that was hardly noticeable to an adult but obvious to the teenage eye. It seems her belt couldn’t be adjusted right, and I may or may not have helped with that issue. I’m just not sure based on the response I got. Let’s just say I tried. Blemishes needed covering and hair was being tamed when I walked out the door. I put it in God’s hands, gave Hubby a kiss and wished him luck with the drive to school. That four minute drive can be tricky. Among the travesties he committed last year were: pulling up too close to the school doors in the rain, arriving two minutes too early and playing embarrassing “old man” music with the windows cracked.

Hubby called me immediately after the drop off to let me know that he had almost committed the worst offense imaginable to a fourteen year old. It seems the gas light in the van came on yesterday, but he got busy and forgot to fill up, so he almost ran out of gas….in front of the school….on Teen Angel’s first day of high school. Gasp! Can you imagine the drama that would have caused? It was bad enough when I drove her to school registration last week in Papa T.’s pickup truck with the cracked windshield. You would have thought I had hog tied her and rolled her down to the school in a barrel from the way she carried on. Running out of gas would have brought on screams heard in the next county.

Deep down I know I should relish the chaos. Four years from now, when she heads off to college, I will get all the silence I want. No “Good Charlotte” blasting at 6am. No rants over bad hair, and no arguments over clothing. I’ll long for some noise; for someone to debate the merits of Fergie’s new song with and for someone to tell me how ugly my shoes are. It won’t be there, and I’ll miss it. Silence is gilded.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Turning up the Heat

Hot Dang! It’s hot! As I write this the temperature is 101 degrees, but it feels like 106 according to the National Weather Service. The humidity is only 34%, which is unusually low for these parts. Thank goodness. We wouldn’t be able to breathe if it were any higher. It’s supposed to be this hot again tomorrow with a heat index of 110. Summer is smacking us around like it usually does in August, but I am not complaining. I hate cold weather. I whine and mope all winter long for summer, so now that’s it’s here I’m keeping my mouth shut. I refuse to acknowledge that I’m sweating like an ugly girl on her first date. I am also in complete denial about the way my whacked out hormones are reacting to the heat. I kicked the covers off the bed so hard last night I almost sent the dog sailing with them. I think I scared him because he ran to the other side of the bed and stayed there the rest of the night. Today I have had a fan running full blast from the file cabinet across from my desk. I have on linen capris and a t-shirt and it still feels like too much. My clothing gets briefer as the days get warmer this week. At this rate I’ll be showing up for work nak*d by Friday. The heat has forced me inside to the treadmill this week, but I still walked away from my run today smelling like a sour rag….after my shower. Can I just say I am jealous of the way men can run in just a pair of shorts?

Of course, some of my sweating may come from the fact that Teen Angel starts high school tomorrow. I’m trying to be really excited for her, but I’m so apprehensive about the next four years. She’s going to grow up SO much in that time. She identified herself as “your little freshman” when she called me earlier today. Wow. When did she get that old? When did I get so old? We are a year and a half away from dates and a driver’s license. Is it any wonder I’m sweating bullets? We have a saying around here that "you pay for your raising'", which means your kids make you pay for all the misery you caused your own parents when you were growing up. If that's the case then I'll be sop and wet (southern for soaked) every day between now and May 2011. It looks as if this heat wave could last a while.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Kindergarten Smiles

School starts in a couple of days, and a whole lot of little folks will toddle onto that big yellow bus for the first time and head off to kindergarten. I love kindergarteners. They are so cute. I remember Teen Angel on her first day of school. Her backpack was as big as she was. She was spit and polished in her romper and matching hair bow, but she couldn’t have cared less about what she was wearing. She just wanted to go to school. She was ready. She was too little to be embarrassed by the fan club that gathered in the driveway to see her off: mom, dad, Mama J. and Papa T. Of course, I cried, even though I tried not to. It’s so hard to turn loose of little ones because you know you can’t protect them from everything anymore. I know some moms (and dads) who will be crying in their driveways this Thursday. I penned this one for them.

Kindergarten Smiles

Notebooks, pencils,
shiny new shoes.
A colorful backpack
bigger than you.

A great big step
to the yellow bus
signals the end of what
was once just us.

A smile, a wave,
you’re on your way.
Your journey without me
begins today.

Will you be scared?
Will you make friends?
I hope you’re smiling when
your first day ends.

From this day on
the years will fly.
Soon you’ll be grown and then
waving goodbye.

Indulge my tears
on this big day
and the catch in my heart as
the bus pulls away.

I share your joy
about this ride,
the doors it will open,
prizes it hides.

But it seems too soon
to let you go
to share you with a world
of troubled souls.

Hurt and sorrow,
anger and crime.
Now they begin to touch
this child of mine.

I pray for strength,
wisdom and peace,
for the power to touch
when out of reach.

Know I’m with you
when we’re apart.
I am your first teacher.
You are my heart.

Laughter through tears
will carry me
through each of your milestones.
I’m fine, you’ll see.

I’ll be right here
when you get home
to share your joy about
the trip alone.

Today’s the first
of many trips
that will open new doors
and sail new ships.

Ignore my tears.
They’re really smiles
for my kindergarten child’s
first learning miles.
By Hula Girl, August 2006

Monday, August 6, 2007

Driving Miss Hula

Hubby and I don’t fight like some couples do. We’re just too tired to argue about the small stuff, so usually we agree to disagree and move on. It’s a good thing because the gap between our political opinions is as wide as the Mississippi River. The one thing that still starts us bickering after nineteen years together is driving….specifically, HIS driving and my inability to keep my mouth shut about it. I try. Really, I do, but sometimes it just wells up until I can’t stand it anymore and spills out of my mouth in profane ways. It did yesterday, on the way back from St. Louis.

We have a system when we travel. Hubby drives and I navigate. If we’re ever on “The Amazing Race”, I will be the chick in the backseat with the map. I usually do very well at navigating, so I get really frustrated when he refuses to listen to my directions. “I’m the one holding the map, fool,” is the response I gave early in our relationship when he questioned my directions. I decided to try a different approach after I came close to being dropped at the nearest exit ramp a couple of times. Now I bite my tongue, say “yes” and focus on a Cracker Barrel billboard while counting to three. Do you know how many Cracker Barrel billboards there are between the Butler Hill Road exit and the Peveley, Missouri exit on I-55? Five. That’s how many times I had to count yesterday when we headed in the wrong direction as we started home. I knew immediately we had made a mistake. It felt wrong. It looked wrong. It just wasn’t right, and I knew it. I said so…three times. Hubby insisted that he remembered the area and kept driving. He would not turn around, even when he began to suspect he was wrong. He finally pulled off at a Shell Mart and told me to ask for directions. I think the party at fault should be the one to ask for directions, but I bit my tongue and trudged into the store only to find out what I already knew. We were headed in the wrong direction and simply needed to TURN AROUND. Sixteen miles later we were back where we started. Oh, look! There was the interchange we needed, one half mile from our hotel. I pointed that out….loudly.

I got even louder when we nearly drove through a red light. “What the h@&^l are you doing”, was out of my mouth before I could stop it. I got some story about the dust prevention gizmo on the brakes causing them not to work right when you have to slam on the brakes. I refrained from pointing out that slamming on the brakes isn’t necessary if you don’t approach stoplights at an excessive rate of speed.

I was starting to get grumpy, especially since I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, and it was around 9:45am. Hubby had promised to stop pretty quickly so we could eat before we got too far down the road. Thirty minutes into our drive we had passed two Denny’s, one Bob Evan’s, three Cracker Barrel’s and several fast food options. Every time we pointed to a sign, Hubby would say, “Okay, but I’m sure we’ll find something you guys will like somewhere down the road.” What’s not to like about any of those? They all have biscuits, and as my daddy says, “That’ll do.” Still, we drove. In fact, we didn’t stop until the last exit before a long stretch of rolling Illinois farmland. Where did we stop? Bob Evan’s. Arrrrgh!

I guess the other Sunday travelers weren’t in as big of a hurry to get home as we were because we kept running up on the back end of their cars. I thought perhaps reading a book the rest of the way home would be a good way to take my mind off of Hubby’s tailgating AND stop my left eye from twitching. I didn’t, so I opted for my passive aggressive way of drawing attention to the issue. It’s a tactic I use close to home, too. I simply grab the dash or the overhead handrail when we get too close to someone. I also like to mash my foot into the floorboard as if I’m pressing a big, fat imaginary brake pedal on the passenger side. This method allows me to truthfully say I didn’t SAY anything about his driving. It gives me some semblance of trying to keep my mouth shut. He passively aggressively ignored my passive aggression but did finally slow down a little when the state troopers got a little thick.

This whole driving thing worries me because I see us turning into Mama J. and Papa T. in a few years. They’ve been fighting over Papa T.’s driving for years. He hasn’t driven in months, but he’s been known to make a few butts pucker on past road trips. I’ve seen Mama J. demand to be let out of the car while riding down the highway. Her more polite way of handling it has been to smile and thank Papa T. for the airplane ride as she got out of the car upon their arrival home. I thought about thanking Hubby for the plane ride yesterday but managed to bite my tongue. I really was trying hard not to be ugly. Besides, there is a slight chance that the wrong turn onto I-55 could have been my fault.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Don't Stay Home

"If you ain't got no money, take your broke *** home."-Glamorous by Fergie

That's my favorite song lyric right now. It cracks me up every time I hear it. Hubby and I sing it all the time, laughing at how being broke has never kept us at home. No matter the state of our finances we have always found a way to take a vacation or a few road trips each year. We both grew up with parents that took us on summer vacations, and it's a tradition that has stuck with us. We didn't take a big vacation this summer because we are headed to Florida in October. However, we've been on three road trips, two of them involving amusement parks. We've just returned from St. Louis where we spent a full day shopping for school clothes and a long, hot day at Six Flags. We probably could have put the money toward more practical things, but I'm glad we didn't because Teen Angel brought a friend who blessed me with a reminder that I'm not nearly as broke as I think I am.

After a day of roaming the mall Friday we hit an O'Charley's for dinner. Best Bud struggled over picking her dinner and finally admitted she had never been to O'Charley's before. I thought that was a little odd until she revealed later that she had never even been to an amusement park. Her family has never been able to afford it. She is fourteen years old. I've been aware of their financial struggles for a long time, but I didn't realize how much it had cut into her childhood experiences. That's because she doesn't let it get her down. She's honest about her situation but she bounces back from each disappointment in a way that prevents you from seeing how deeply it runs. I knew she doesn't have an iPod or any of the other techno accessories the teens arm themselves with these days. I knew she doesn't get to spend much money on clothing and that her shopping money this weekend came from her babysitting job. I also knew she had never been on a big vacation, but I had no idea she had never even been to an amusement park. Never been on a roller coaster. Never spent the day running from one wild ride to the next. Never bought a $6 corn dog or a $4 soda. Never thrown up from too much heat and too much spin. Never won a fuzzy hat by hammering a plastic frog into a lilly pad. She literally had no idea what to expect at Six Flags the next day.

I lost my appetite. I suddenly realized what a big deal this was for her and why her grandma was so glad we were taking Best Bud with us. My child has been to more amusement parks than I can count and has traveled to beautiful places in the Caribbean. She knows how to get around in an airport, eats exotic foods and mingles easily with kids from other countries. And yet, one of her friends hasn't had the opportunity to ride a roller coaster. Wow. I was determined that Best Bud would have the best time possible. It was fascinating experiencing the park through her eyes. It was like taking a toddler to the park. Everything was new. She was scared to ride rides, which required some negotiation between her and Teen Angel because my child is a daredevil and wants to ride only the fast, scary stuff. Hubby and I spent the day in the water park, periodically meeting up with the girls. We let them run and stomp and do what they wanted. It was a full day.

My pockets were pretty empty when we came home today, but I'm glad we went. I hope Best Bud gets to see more of the world in the coming years. If I won the lottery tonight, one of the first things I'd do is take her to Disney World or maybe on a cruise. I'm glad we didn't keep our broke *** home. Maybe it gave her an inkling of what's waiting for her.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Sunshine in Missouri

I'm posting from a St. Louis Holiday Inn where we just spent the day at Six Flags. It is hotter than Guam here. 98 degrees and sun, sun, sun. I've had all the sun I can stand for a few days. Hubby and I spent the day in the water park while Teen Angel and her buddy rode rides. The wave pool was so packed you couldn't stir 'em with a stick. That's southern for really crowded. We saw a lot of tired kids, many cranky parents and several sunburned bodies. Oh, and plenty of tattoos. Today's winner? The Winnie the Pooh cartoon strip panels that stretched up and down one man's arm. There were several bad bathing suits as well. The grand prize in that category goes to the fat man in the tiny neon blue Speedo. The poor service award goes to the snack stand that ran out of food AND ice. Hot people get grumpy when they can't get cold drinks, includng me. All in all, it was a good day. The girls are headed for the hotel pool and I'm headed for a shower. This trip has been unique in a very special way. More on that tomorrow.....if I'm not too pooped to post by the time we wander home. I wonder if anyone will notice if I wear my pajamas to the hotel pool?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Good-bye Summer

We are headed to St. Louis tomorrow. It’s our last grab at summer fun before school starts next week. We’ll spend a day at Six Flags, do a little shopping and eat some fatty foods. I don’t think we’ll ride The Arch because the darn thing keeps losing power this summer. I have ridden in those little trams, and I do not want to be knee to scabby knee with strangers in a sticky little cubicle for a couple of hours. This long weekend is a chance for Teen Angel to have some fun with one of her best buddies who is moving to a new school. They won’t be going to high school together, and that’s tough for them to accept. In fact, Teen Angel has four friends that she’s saying so long to this summer because they’re going to different schools. She also has a close friend who lost her dad to a bad car wreck two nights ago. It’s a transitional summer for sure. That first bite of grown-up realities can leave an aftertaste that lingers.

I remember feeling really out of sorts and awkward during the summer before I started high school. Nothing felt right. I knew I wasn’t a little girl anymore, but I wasn’t very grown up either. I was leaving the comfort of a rural K-8 school where I knew every face, could predict the weekly lunch menu and had enjoyed the friendship of the same 30 kids for nine years. I didn’t know what to expect but recognized that I was entering the world of boyfriends, peer pressure and serious academics. I was insecure about my appearance. I hadn’t fully reached puberty and my boobs were the size of mosquito bites. I also couldn’t see my hands in front of my face. My eyes has gone terribly south that summer, but I was not about to tell my parents because I knew thick glasses would be the result. I didn’t know much about boys, but I knew girls in Coke bottle lenses weren’t likely to turn many heads. I said good-bye to a buddy that summer. One of my classmates moved to New Jersey, making me realize there was a world outside my little hometown and that sometimes it sucked up people around me. Would it eventually whisk me away too, I wondered. I knew I would be making new friends but fretted over whether I’d keep many of the old ones. I was a nervous wreck.

That summer flew, as they all do when you’re a kid. I spent a lot of moody days sunning and reading. I mowed yards and earned money for school clothes. When it came time to buy clothes, mama took me to a nearby department store for name brand jeans instead of hitting the jean and t-shirt racks at Finkel’s Five and Dime. I finally entered the hallowed halls of womanhood, which was exciting for about two days. Then I realized what a drag that was going to be for the next forty years. I also got a new hair cut, something a little more feminine than my tomboy bob. I picked up my class schedule and bought my school supplies. Just pens and notebooks. No Trapper Keepers or “Dukes of Hazzard” lunch boxes. By the time the first day of school rolled around, I was determined to make the most of the four years that lay ahead. I don’t remember much about some of my other summer vacations, but I do remember that particular summer. I have thought about it often this past week. When I took Teen Angel to buy school supplies and had to explain why she wouldn’t need scissors. When we talked about getting school clothes and a hair cut. When I got a phone call from my old classmate who eventually left New Jersey for Louisiana. Remember Teen Angel, good-bye isn’t always forever.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Give me Some Skin

I feel like I’m twelve years old today….because I fell and busted my knee wide open. It was a pretty spectacular tumble, and it left me with the best case of road rash I’ve had since a three wheeler accident in my teens. It’s one of those weepy wounds that requires gauze and tape because they don’t make a band-aid big enough to cover it. It’s a doozie that stretches from the top of my kneecap to four inches above the ankle bone. If there were contests for this kind of thing, I’d win a blue ribbon.

I was running at lunch time, and trying to be extremely careful because it was 96 degrees outside. I thought the heat would be my biggest problem. I didn’t know my own klutziness would be a much bigger issue. I was running on a somewhat shady street that runs out of sidewalk for about two blocks. I usually zip down a driveway and run on the edge of the street until I hit sidewalk again. I guess I misjudged the distance between the curb and the edge of the pavement because my toes came down about two inches too short, sending me knees first onto the hot asphalt. As I was landing I thought to myself, “Self, there is nothing graceful about this moment. This is as ugly as it feels”. As soon as I hit, I did what everyone does when he falls. I bounced up, looked around to see if anybody was around and acted like nothing had happened. I took off running and had too much pride to stop and look at my knee until I could hide behind a shade tree in the next block. I knew it was bad before I looked because of the hot drip I could feel running down my calf. Despite the stinging and the bleeding, I ran all the way back to the office because I was so ashamed of my dirty, bloody leg. Did I mention I fell on one of the busiest streets in the city? Go big or go home, I always say.

Our first aid kit didn’t have any peroxide, so I had to clean my knee with alcohol. Those kits should come with a bullet to bite down on when you’re using that crap. I’ll spare you the details but there was a lot of cleaning that needed to be done. Nothing like picking asphalt out of your knee right before you eat a bologna sandwich lunch. This tumble left a mark that will take days to heal. I haven’t had a scab this big since I was twelve and tried to ride my bike down a really tall hill. I lost control about a third of the way down, flipped over the handle bars and slid on my knees for what felt like twenty yards. I thought I was going to meet my Maker as I was flying through the air. For weeks, I kept busting those knees open. My birthday picture that year shows me holding a cake and brandishing two scraped up knees. Beautiful. At least I won’t have any photos to document this tumble. However, I will get to wear my lovely gauze bandage to a business breakfast in the morning and jury selection later in the day. (I have jury duty this month.) The price we pay for physical fitness? Twelve pounds of pride.