Friday, June 29, 2007

The Class of 2007

I am an empty vessel today. I am worn out and worn down. I think I overdosed on children. Preschoolers. They look so sweet but taken in large does, they can drain you of every last bit of energy and patience you can muster. I have enjoyed Bible school this week but it has kicked my butt and tossed me out of the ring. I really do love the kids, but Lord, I need a long nap and an hour of absolute silence. A piece of chocolate cake wouldn’t hurt, either. I have mediated arguments over hats, washed sticky hands, cleaned up after a milk fight and glued enough rainbows to cover Mount Rushmore. I have also laughed…a lot. I’ve helped with Bible school for several years now, and I’ve noticed that every year we can count on the following folks to show up:

Nora the Ignorer….She’s the little girl that has the face of an angel and the ears of Helen Keller. She smiles sweetly at you when you give her instructions then turns a deaf ear to you and proceeds to do exactly what she wants instead of what she’s supposed to do …over and over again. She ignores you when you tell her not to pour punch on her neighbor at the snack table and acts like she can’t hear you when you tell her to quit pinching her sister. It’s a good thing she’s so stinkin’ cute, so I can resist the urge to swat her hind end.

Peter Puller….This little boy holds his genitalia constantly, leading us to ask him every five minutes if he has to go to the bathroom. Sadly, he doesn’t have to go. He’s just a man in training, afraid that if he lets go of his wee wee it will disappear. I noticed last night he alternated hands while doing the craft. Yes sir, we got us an ambidextrous one this year. He probably wonders why I’m always asking him to wash his hands.

Great Snot….There is always one child with a runny nose, even in the summer. God bless him. He can’t help it, but he spreads more germs than the Asian flu. This child is also the one who wants to give you lots of hugs and hold hands with you as you change activities. I just hug back and say a little prayer that my vitamin C is working overtime.

Wounded Wendy…..Somebody has to get hurt, and she’s always the one. Before the week is out, she’ll have a busted lip, a scraped up knee and some kind of head wound from running headlong into a coat rack. The tears usually erupt about an hour into the evening, and no matter how far away you are, you know it’s her because…well, because it always is.

There are others, and I could go on and on, but these are my favorites. At times this week, I’ve wanted to pull my hair out when the Nora’s and Wendy’s have been in fine form. But right before I reach up to yank out a few graying strands, someone under the age of five does something really warm and wonderful….like give me a hug…or tell a silly joke….or tell me how nice I smell. As we were singing at the end of last night’s program, a little autistic girl ran up on stage just to give our youth director a big hug and to tell him how much fun she was having. That, my friends, is why I will drag my weary butt to the church tonight for one last night of this madness. I could use a hug, and I just might get one.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I Have Today

This one is for Sissy. She's moving hundreds of miles away from her home of fifteen years this Friday. She's had some bad times and is making a new start. In the last seven years she has buried a son, a husband and a best friend. She also lost a twin brother about twenty years ago. Life has been mighty difficult for her in the last few years. I hope the sun shines bright for Sissy in Florida.

I Have Today

The winds of change blow once again
Pushing me on my way
I fear the road that lies ahead
But know I cannot stay

I cannot stay where darkness thrives
Where memories hold me tight
I need the warmth of a new star
To point me toward the light

My heart is bruised but beating strong
My hope will lead the way
I know I’ll find the brighter path
Because I have today

I have today to start anew
Another chance to run
To dance and dream, to dare and hope
A ticket to ride the sun

I have the power to beat the rain
That stains my world with gray
I can paint life strokes of color
Because I have today.

I’m stronger now than yesterday
A traveler’s soul I’ve grown
It feeds these wings of liberty
My destiny I own

I’m shedding my coat of regrets
The past I’ve packed away
This new journey starts tomorrow
Because I have today

Hulagirlatheart 6/26/07

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

When You Care Enough to Give the Very Best

Women often gripe about the presents their husbands give them. I don’t. Hubby’s never been the wine and roses kind of guy, but he does a great job of picking gifts for me. He likes to surprise me, too. I love a surprise. He brought me these back from Cincinnati last week.

I love them. Really I do. I won’t be wearing them to the Piggly Wiggly, but they are the perfect touch for my tacky Parrotthead costume that I’ll be wearing to the Jimmy Buffett concert next month. Hubby also brought me back some pink flamingo Mardi Gras beads and foam flamingo sunglasses. It’s a lovely ensemble when combined with my grass skirt and leis. I have a coconut bra, too, but I won’t wear it. There are just some things you shouldn’t do when you get past 40. There isn’t enough string on those coconuts to hitch everything up to the right place and hold it in. There also isn’t enough coconut to cover everything up. If they ever make one with underwires and padding, I’ll think about it. No wonder the Aborigines go topless.

The best part of this present is that he doesn’t understand my Parrotthead ways and bought this stuff anyway. That’s what 17 years of marriage will do to you. After a while, you learn to roll with it. How many men would accompany their wives 350 miles to a concert by someone he doesn’t care about and be surrounded by 2000 rowdy, wildly dressed people in 100 degree weather? Not many. He’s a good egg. This is actually the second time we will have trekked to Cincinnati for a Buffett concert. We went last year, too. I got to sit on the sixth row. See how close I am to Jimmy?

It was hubby’s initiation into the world of All Things Buffett. After three hours of witnessing some pretty crazy behavior and being offered numerous free drinks and cheeseburgers, he decided that Parrottheads are pretty nice people. Odd, but nice, he said. I guess he figures that if the worst thing I do on a regular basis is dance in public wearing a grass skirt and satin flip flops, I’m a keeper. I think he’s a keeper too, because he does things like bring me thoughtful gifts. Nothing says love like parrot flip-flops.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Lovely Linda

I’m thinking of donating a kidney to someone or taking a mission trip to China. That’s because I need to do some deep cleaning at my house, and I’m trying to find a good reason to put it off for several more months. I’ve run out of excuses, and I need something big this time; something that’s going to take me out of commission until pool season is over. I don’t clean house. Ever. I absolutely suck at it, so a lovely lady named Linda comes to my house once a week and wipes away my grime. I love Linda. She is my favorite person in the world next to my immediate family. I kiss her feet when she shows up on Fridays and shower her with any and every cleaning supply imaginable. She takes good care of us, and I am very grateful. If I have to, I will eat Ramen noodles and Kraft macaroni every night in order to afford this privilege because quite frankly, my house would go to hell in a hand basket if I didn’t have her. The only problem is that she does only light cleaning. You know, the basic dusting, mopping, surface cleaning, bathroom scrubbing stuff. The big things like closet cleaning, baseboard washing and window washing are up to me, and I would rather have a Brazilian bikini wax than scrub a baseboard.

I absolutely hate cleaning. Some women talk about the sense of satisfaction they get from cleaning their house. Not me. It doesn’t fulfill me in any way. Nada. Zip. Zilch. I feel no accomplishment and nothing but remorse for the time lost while scrubbing my home. Time that could have been spent with my family…or organizing my nail polish…. or clipping my toenails…. or cleaning out my belly button. There are numerous things I consider more worthwhile than housekeeping. Hold on to your drawers for this one. I would rather run a 5k in 95 degree weather than mop a floor. How twisted is that?

It’s not that I am completely inept around the house. I can whip out several loads of laundry in the time it takes most people to eat a meal. I’m a darned good cook. I’m no Paula Deen, but I have mastered just about every cake recipe she has published. I even sew a little. I’ve made curtains and a table runner. I just can’t seem to master a mop and sponge. I have tried to be a better housekeeper. Really, I have. The stubborn side of me refuses to admit that I am a failure at anything, so once in a while, say every couple of years, I set out to prove that I CAN clean a shower. I will scrub with the intensity of a doctor prepping for surgery and step away to admire my handiwork, only to find large streaks and soapy residue. I will try and try again with the same results, a soapy mess and a sense of complete and utter failure. Hubby just laughs. He’s a pretty good housekeeper, much better than me. Despite his OCD streak when it comes to neatness around the house, he has finally accepted that I will always need professional help in this area. Are there counselors for this sort of problem? Someone I can talk to? Because I need to clean out some closets and drawers and I am just not up to it. It gets harder each time I try, and I’m tired of failing. I need some help and Linda can’t bail me out on this one. Anyone need a kidney?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Chicken Rules

In talking to some girlfriends the other day, I realized that many of us grew up with a caste system for food rations at the dinner table. In the days before boneless, skinless tenders packaged for our convenience, people cooked whole chickens, and your position in the family determined the piece of chicken you got. The biggest and best pieces went to the adults first, and then the other pieces were doled out according to your size and/or age. A kid didn't have a shot at a breast. My friend Jane says she feels like she spent half her life working her way up to the pulley bone and into a seat at the adult table. I know what she means. Dad and mom always got the chicken breasts at our house. I remember getting a thigh. I was the firstborn, so I was pretty lucky. I don't really like dark meat, but at least I got a decent sized piece of meat. My brothers usually ate the legs. Good thing we didn't have any more kids under our roof, 'cause the next sibling would have gotten stuck sucking the scraps off a measley wing. Our kids are so spoiled these days. In this made to order world they have their choice of chicken parts. They have no idea what it's like to wistfully watch the platter get plucked clean as it works its way toward you. They've never lived in a world without nuggets or tenders.

My generation also grew up on the tail end of the sexist tradition called "the men get to eat first". Whenever there was a big family meal and everyone was called to the table, grandma always gave the men permission to fill their plates first. The children followed, and the women went last, eating whatever was left and sitting in the least desirable seats. When I got big enough to realize the unfairness of this rule, I was appalled, mostly because I could see myself at the end of the line in a few years. Phyllis Schlafley and Gloria Steinem were pounding the streets, trying to muster up enough votes for the Equal Rights Amendment while women all over the Midwest were slaving over a hot stove on holidays only to find themselves relegated to a card table in the living room with cold green bean casserole. I was outraged. This tradition quietly died out in my family as I reached adulthood, but it continued in my husband's family into the first year of our marriage. I didn't want to rock the boat with my new in-laws, so I kept my mouth shut...until that fateful Thanksgiving when my sister-in-law had had enough. When my mother-in-law announced that the men could go first, Sissy blew her lid. She went off on a rant that would have made the suffragettes proud. The other women chimed in, Mama J. caved, and Sissy and I headed to the head of the line. That first dip of cole slaw was liberating! We also sat down at the dining room table, taking our pick of seats. Glory, glory halleleuah! We were empowered!

Today we don't even think about. Everybody jumps in line in no particular order. We sit wherever we want, and there are plenty of chicken breasts to go around. We didn't get the ERA signed, but we did win a few other battles that are just as important to your pride as equal pay. We get to eat at the big table.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Little More Hula

Thanks for sharing in the last post and for giving me a glimpse of yourselves. I love the internet. The fact that I can make a connection with someone several hundred miles away with just a few clicks of the fingers is an incredible thing. Fun, fun, fun. Greetings to crazycatladymel and Lisa, and thanks for stopping by. Since you all actually did tell me what's in your grocery carts, it's only fair that I tell you what I put in mine yesterday. I spent $212. $212!!! I can't believe it. Everybody keeps griping about gasoline prices, but it's the price of groceries that gets me in a swivet every week, especially since we get our beef straight from the farm and don't buy much meat in the store. We eat out only on the weekends, so I do buy a lot of food. However, yesterday, we came home with a lot of "stuff" that is in no way edible. That's what we get for shopping at Wal-Mart. Besides a bunch of produce and staples like eggs and sugar, we had a garden sprayer, swim mask and fabric in the cart. Where else can you go and buy all of that in the same place? In recognition of Hanes for Everybody Friday we also bought underwear for Hubby and me. Teen Angel didn't get any. She wants all of hers to come from Victoria's Secret. Ha! She'll get over that when she's grown and paying for her own groceries. I also bought the ingredients for a lemon supreme cake since it's potluck Sunday at church tomorrow. We're Methodists so we believe that where two are more are gathered in His name, that's a buffet. I also needed a rubber snake to add to the bible school decorations but couldn't find one. How's that for an eclectic mix? See, you can learn a lot about people from their grocery carts.

It's probably only fair that I also explain where the name "Hulagirlatheart" comes from. There is a Jimmy Buffett song by that name. If you've read my profile, you know that I'm a huge Buffett fan. Here are a few of the lyrics:

Like a gecko behind a painting
With hidden wisdom to impart
In a world that needs more dancing
She's a hula girl at heart

In the land beside the ocean
Where romantics seem to dwell
Destiny can set in motion
Ripples that turn into swells
She Knows how to face the music
She Knows where the magic starts
In a world that needs more dancing
She's still a hula girl at heart

It echos my sentiments that the world needs more dancing. I love Buffett's music because it's really a celebration of life, a reminder that we need more vacation, that we should savor each moment and have a lot more fun. My leap into the "Parrotthead" philosophy came about seven years ago following the death of my 13 year old nephew. He was probably the closest thing to a son that I'll ever have, and his sudden death rocked our family off our feet. I'll blog about it one day, when I'm feeling up to it. If you've never helped to bury a child you can't imagine the pain of that grief. It's different from other grief. It's life changing. His death gave me the gifts of courage and gratitude. I'm bolder now. Less afraid to try things. I'm not skydiving yet, but I have rapelled, zip lined through a forest and stood on top of a 35 foot utility pole. I've changed careers and my attitude. Why not? Nothing can be as scary as Chance's death. I am more serene now. I just don't sweat the small stuff. Something needs to be on fire or someone needs to be bleeding, heavily, before I get wound up. I've quit worrying about a lot of stuff. I'm a better spouse and mother because of this. I try to see the fun in each situation and find an opportunity to dance each day. The rest of the world things I'm a little nuts, but I don't care. I think the world needs a little more hula.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Getting to Know You

I am incredibly curious. Well, downright nosey, if you want to know the truth. I eavesdrop on the conversations of strangers at the mall. I eyeball people's groceries in the checkout line, and I read the blogs of people I don't know. I love learning about people and what makes them each unique. Perhaps, that's why I enjoy blogging. I am intrigued by strangers, and I assume others are curious about me. That's because people stop by my blog each day, and I can count on one hand the readers that I actually know. I have no clue who the others are that log in and nudge my counter upward. I'm dying to know more about you. What part of the country do you live in? What do you do for a living? Why do you want to read what I have to say? What emotions do my ramblings pull out of your soul? I have an insatiable appetite for this kind of information.

When I first installed a counter, I was startled to discover that anyone actually visited my little corner of cyberspace. I don't advertise it much because I don't have the time, so I'm still a little surprised each morning to log on and see verification that someone knocked on my door and came on in while I was away. I'm even more surprised when someone takes the time to leave a comment. I do my fair share of lurking on other blogs, and I often don't leave comments on other blogs because I'm so busy. Some days I do well to fill this space. However, I hope you will delurk at some point and introduce yourself because I really want to know you. Stop by any time. Pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable. I'm a people person. I love company. Share a tidbit or two about yourself. Tell me what's in your grocery cart. I'm dying to know.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It's All About Me Today

This is another one of those “getting to know me” things, but it’s kind of fun so I’ll play along. Besides, you want to know quirky stuff about me, right? Actually, I’m just out of clever blog topics today because I’m having a stressful week, so this is an easy way out.

My roommate and I once spent a week in Fort Lauderdale during Spring Break. Details will not be divulged in this public format. Use your imagination.

Never in my life have I been able to keep my mouth shut when asked my opinion. It’s a disease that has been crippling me for years.

High school was lots of fun. I wouldn’t to do it all over again, but I enjoyed it while I was there. I’d certainly do a lot of things differently the second time around.

When I am nervous my colon betrays me in very ugly ways. All of my stress goes right to my gut.

My hair is the same as it has been for years. Stick straight, thick and brown. I don’t love it, but I’ve learned to quit fighting it. I will never have long luscious curls.

By this time next year I hope to have been to Aruba.

My ideal breakfast is biscuits and gravy, but I eat sugar free oatmeal with flaxseed because need the fiber. Don’t ask.

My favorite aunt is Aunt Betty. She’s large and funny and easy to love. She’s also the one who saved me from choking on a peppermint candy when I was four. She held me upside down and smacked me on the back so hard that I spit out a toenail with the candy.

You know I like you if I tease you. If I don’t I’ll leave you alone.

If you visit my hometown you’ll be surprised at the amenities it has for a small city. You’ll love the friendly feel and the great restaurants. We have great BBQ, too. Not that runny stuff those folks in Memphis serve.

If you spend the night at my house my dog will probably want to sleep with you. He likes to snuggle. You’ll also have to sleep on the couch because I got tired of not having enough closet space and turned our spare bedroom into one big walk in closet. It’s my favorite room in the house.

My favorite blondes are: Hmm. I can’t really think of any in particular. I’m partial to brunettes. Oh, except for Mandy. She’s a hoot.

My favorite brunettes are Hubby, Teen Angel, Matthew McConaughey. What? Can’t a girl dream?

I shouldn’t have been going so fast when I flipped that three wheeler about thirty years ago. It resulted in a couple of hours of mother scraping cinders and gravel out of my back with a brush. I still have a few cinders in my elbow.

Last night I taught an aerobics class and then helped to decorate for bible school. The night before I visited with girlfriends while our husbands drove about two hours to the closest Hooters. They took their buddy there because he is from Honduras and had never been. They all went in one van and stopped afterward at Dairy Queen for Blizzards. We hens watched the kids and let them chase chickens in the backyard. How redneck is that?

I’ve been told I look like hell when I wake up. I’ve also been told I look like Halle Berry. I like that better.

If I could have been a car I would have been a red Mercedes convertible. Fast and attention seeking. I’m the first born, remember?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Summer Reading

A co-worker took his young son to the eye doctor the other day to make sure the little boy’s new contact lenses were working. Jake kept tearing up his glasses so his parents finally convinced the doctor to fit him for contact lenses, even though he’s only nine years old. The doctor’s exam went something like this:

“Jake, can you read the bottom line of the eye chart for me?”
“How about the line above it?”
“Well, try the line above that one.”
“Now, what’s going on here? I know your eyes aren’t that bad with your new lenses.”
“I don’t read on summer vacation.”

Jake has shut down on reading for the summer. In fact, he’s not going to do anything that remotely smells like school work. I remember what that was like. The minute the last bell rang on the last day of school, the feeling of complete freedom washed over me in ripples that reached my toes. I loved school, but the idea of three months of freedom from the school routine was bliss. Freedom to sleep late. Freedom to set my own schedule. Freedom to choose what I wanted to do at any given time of the day. Freedom to do a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y-n-o-t-h-i-n-g. What a glorious gift!

The first full day of summer vacation was the best. I slept late, watched a little “Price is Right” and tore up the gravel road on my bicycle. Drinking a bottled Pepsi with lunch instead of milk was the nectar of the Gods, and staying up past 9pm felt downright naughty. Unlike Jake, I loved to read in the summer. We went to the library every week and came home with stacks of books. I poured through Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and every mystery I could get my hands on. I read every day. I mowed yards. I played games. I chased lightning bugs and picked blackberries. I helped to can tomatoes, make freezer jam and churn homemade ice cream. Even when I had to help out around the house, I still felt that special freedom that comes with long lazy days of sun. Boredom didn’t set in until the last couple of weeks before the start of the next school year.

I would love to have summer vacation now. What would I do? I’d spend more time in the pool. That’s for sure. I would sleep late, ride my bike and drink a soda with lunch. I’d probably can some tomatoes, make a little jelly and eat homemade ice cream. I don’t pick blackberries, anymore because I can’t stand the chiggers, but I would pick some raspberries. I’d probably even catch a few lightning bugs. And I would read. Lots and lots of books. Mysteries.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Older You Grow, The Lower They Go

You can tell the age of a tree by counting its rings. You can determine a woman’s age by counting the cracks in her feet. I used to think it was the wrinkles on her face that gave it away, but recently I decided it is the appearance of her feet. Faces can be altered with plastic surgery, Botox and expensive creams. Feet, however, are left relatively untouched to tell the world of their owner’s travels. Daily, I find that my feet are a reminder of past journeys, foolish choices and years logged under my belt. I remember laughing at my mother’s feet when I was a kid, marveling at her misshapen toes and worn heels. I thought she just didn’t take care of them or had inherited some quirky foot gene. After all, her mother had a bunion the size of Mt. Everest. Based on what I know now I’m surprised mama didn’t put one of her dry, cracked size 6s up my butt, because no matter how well you baby your feet, you just can’t undo the damage from decades of pounding the ground.

The first foot clue to a woman’s age is the height of her heels. There are some middle aged women who hang in there with the stiletto pumps but most of us have to give them up by age 35 and definitely by age 40. When it comes to heels, the rule is: The older you grow, the lower they go. That can be applied to boobs, butts and guts, too, but that’s another post. Hooker heels are back in style these days, and every time I look at them, I tally up the emergency room bill in my head. I couldn’t wear those fifteen minutes without pulling my heel or wrenching my ankle. There’s a small part of me that wants the leopard pumps, but they’re not worth the $500 health insurance deductible so I shop in the aisle two rows over from the Sass lace-ups instead.

Foot ailments are the best clue as to the owner’s age. Bum nails, hammer toe, flat feet. The list of stuff that affects your step goes on and on. It starts to creep in around age 40 and just gets worse and worse. Tendonitis in my heels prompted my first visit to the foot doctor about two years ago. It was quite humbling to sit in the waiting room with so many senior citizens. It was even more humbling to discover that the foot doctor was obviously younger than me. However, it is rare that a young handsome man plays with my feet, so I got over it as soon as he started rubbing my instep. How about a little Marvin Gaye or Barry White on your sound system, Dr. S? A little more pressure on the left heel, please. Just a tad more. Right there. Oh, where was I?

I’ve spent a lot of time staring at my feet lately, marveling at how they’ve survived 42 years of walking, running, tripping and falling. 42 years of bad shoe choices including plastic mary janes from the Fair Store, pointy toed pumps and flimsy flip-flops in eight different shades. 42 years of mashed, stomped and stubbed toes. 42 years of walking barefoot on gravel, asphalt, concrete and grass. My feet look very much like my mother’s did at this age. My daughter laughs at them. I’d put my foot up her butt for it, but it would probably inflame my tendonitis.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Rules of Fatherhood

As I pondered what to write about Father's Day, I realized there are several unspoken rules dads follow, no matter their age, location or background. They are handed down by example and perpetuated by each new generation. They are universal and part of what makes fathers so unique and special. That's because most of these rules require sacrifice (Except the one about pulling his finger. That requires sacrifice on everyone else's part). Here are a few of the more important ones.

1. Dad eats all the scraps. In homage to the starving children of the world Dad finishes what's left on everybody's plate because food just shouldn't be wasted. His dessert consists of two bites of pork chop, a tablespoon of potatos and a half eaten ear of corn. He will usually remind his kids that starving children in China would be glad to have what they failed to eat, although I never believed that some six year old in Peking wanted my fried liver. I also never understood why he thought all Chinese children were hungry. They looked well fed to me in the encyclopedia and National Geographic. We have a friend who never orders a meal in a restaurant. He simply waits to see what his three children don't eat off their plates and makes a meal out of that. He hasn't ordered a meal in a restaurant in fifteen years. I am not making that up.

2. Dad drives the old car. Mom gets the good car to shuttle kids and groceries around town. Dad gets the '78 Pontiac with an AM radio, a rip in the driver's seat and a radiator leak. He carries a jug of water, spare hoses and a set up jumper cables at all times in the trunk. We put a positive spin on it by calling it his "work car", but we all know it's the junker. It's the one you hope doesn't show up at the school house doors to pick you up after basketball practice. Someone might see the tailpipe dragging the ground.

3. Gifts to Dad are often duds. Kids are all pumped about Mother's Day, so they go all out with flowery homemade cards and crafts. But by Father's Day summer vacation is underway, his kids' creativity has lost its steam, and dad's gift turns up a little short. Sadly, a man can use only so many socks, flashlights and key chains. This trend lasts through Christmas resulting in gifts such as car wax and popcorn tins. Funny though, Dad always smiles and acts like it's the best gift he's ever gotten and something he'll definitely use. Somewhere at my dad's house is a stockpile of houseshoes that started in 1969 when I was six years old.

4. Dad metes out the big punishment. He carries the big stick. He's the ulitimate threat. The Top Gun. The Big Kahuna. The Don of Discipline. "Wait 'til your father gets home" is the cry uttered 'round the world by worn out moms who have tried everything they know and need to call in the big guy. The threat of a spanking from dad at the end of his work day was enough to stop me in my tracks on even my worst day. When I was sixteen years old and had broken curfew for the 20th time, it wasn't mom who nabbed me slipping through a dark house with my shoes in my hand. She had handed the gavel over to dad, and it wasn't pretty. I almost peed my pants. In fact, I may have, a little bit.

5. Dad knows how to fix everything. Even if he doesn't, he has to be a good faker. He needs to be able to bluff his way through a running toilet, drywall patches and small engine repairs. It's also important to know how to fix bicycle chains, flat basketballs and hurt feelings when you're always the last one at bat or always stuck in left field. It helps if he can make you a better batter. When that's not possible, his skills at finding the best ice cream stand in town come in handy.

As I said, all of these require sacrifice, but there are a few rules with perks. Like..Dad gets his own chair. Nobody else sits in that chair, even when he's not home. It's reserved for the King of the Castle. After my grandpa died, it was two years before anyone sat in his recliner. I tried it once, and it just felt wrong. I never did it again. Dad holds the tv remote and has final say in the choice of programs. Complaining about Nascar is not allowed. He's allowed to wear tacky shirts, worn out caps and socks with sandals. He gets to swear, scratch and burp in his own home, and if he wants, he can ask you to pull his finger.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Oh, Brother

Somebody tried to kill my brother the other day. This guy tried to run over him, twice, during a high speed chase. Punk #!@*. I hate it when somebody tries to kill a family member. It just puts me in a bad mood, and it’s a reminder of just how dangerous Supercop’s job can be. Sometimes I forget that. I get lulled into security by the fact that he works in a small town. It may be small, but it’s no Mayberry. It has its share of loonies and weapon toting felons. Apparently, this punk #!@* didn’t know the cardinal rule of siblings. Nobody beats up on my kid brother except me.

I am the bossy big sister. There are five years between each of us kids, so I am five years older than Supercop and ten years older than Handy Man. That makes me REALLY bossy. I’ve never denied that, but I think it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve come to realize just how commanding I used to be when we were growing up. I was in charge of everything, no matter what we were playing. Rationality be damned when a hula girl-in-training is trying to get her way. I remember playing Batman and Robin and Zowie, Pow! Bipping my way out of a cardboard box jail even though I was Cat Woman. (We bought a freezer that year and we kids practically lived in the cardboard container all summer.) I have a distinct memory of standing on the back porch with my hands on my hips trying to justify to Supercop in his green blanket cape why Batman wasn’t ever going to win. Ever. No matter what happened on TV. Picture me stomping my foot.

Every now and then Supercop joined me in ganging up on Handy Man. There’s a picture of Handy Man when he was about three or four years old, dressed up as a girl. In our never ending battle against boredom, Supercop and I dressed up baby bro in a skirt, hat and fur cape and paraded him in front of mama in a one man beauty pageant. Handy Man is smiling in the photo because he’s too young to realize how much he’s going to hate that picture one day.

Today, Handy Man is a man of few words, and it’s probably because I sucked up most of the vocabulary genes. He waited to get a word in edgewise and gave up after about fifteen years. Supercop played Super heroes a lot when he was growing up, maybe as a way of standing out as the middle child. No wonder he fights crime today. Me, I like being in charge of stuff. It doesn’t matter what it is. As they say in these parts, I want to run the show. Punk #!@*.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

State of the (Re)Union

I just mailed my registration form for my 25th class reunion next month. I had a freak out moment when I noticed a line on the form where you could list any grandchildren you have. GRANDCHILDREN!!!! We’re not old enough to have grandchildren! Are we? Surely not. Let’s see. Hmm. Maybe we are. Great balls of fire! We are. Are we really that old? How did that happen? It just seems like yesterday we were cruising the Sonic and basting our backsides in the tanning bed. $2 could buy you a gallon of gas and a quart of Budweiser. Skirts were short and hair was big, really big. And curly. REO Speed Wagon, The Police and Joan Jett blasted from our eight tracks, and we didn’t have a care in the world, other than whether or not we had a date on Friday night. The summer after graduation was a good one.

It didn’t take long though, for real life to start knocking on our door. By spring, two of our classmates had been killed in accidents. Another had been arrested for drugs. A couple of classmates got married, quickly discovering that marriage wasn’t as easy as they thought it would be. Those who didn’t go to college soon figured out they weren’t going to get rich working at the local gas station and started looking for other ways to make a living. Some of us pushed those lessons back a few years by running off to college. We started scattering to different corners of the country. By our first reunion, we were starting to catch on that the adulthood thing was not going to be easy.

By the 15 year reunion we had done some living, some more than others. We had lost a classmate to suicide. Another was in prison. Marriages had fallen apart, and children were adding up. A few faces were starting to show the signs of too many dares and challenges accepted. Many though, were doing well. Businesses were being started. Career advancements were taking place and those two early marriages I mentioned were still kicking. We were still scattered across the country but making our mark in corporate America and building our own homes. We had learned to roll with a few punches but were still a little naïve about the years ahead.

We didn’t have a 20 year reunion, so I suspect a lot of things have changed since we last gathered. They sure have changed since 1982. Today $2 won’t even buy one drink, let alone a gallon of gas. Our skirts are longer to hide our flabby thighs and Spanx. Our hair is straighter and MUCH more flat. We are balder and fatter. Memories are shorter. I recently realized that I don’t remember the names of all my classmates. The lines that document our life’s journey have crept onto our faces. Some of us use reading classes. Many of my classmates have buried a parent…or two. But our businesses have thrived. We sit on the boards of our local schools and service agencies. We hold government positions and run the corner drug store. Our children are nearly grown, and in some cases, fully grown. I’ll bet a few even have grandchildren. Holy Cow! We really are that old….and a lot wiser.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Raiders of a Lost Art

We held a planning meeting for bible school last night. Oh boy! I love bible school. That’s because I’m usually in charge of decorating, and it’s an opportunity for my glue gun and glitter fetish to rear its spastic head. I am a nut with a glue gun. And craft paper. And poster paints. Ooh, and colored duct tape. I once used 14 rolls of yellow duct tape to create traffic lanes on the floors of the church hallways and fellowship hall. I’ve built cities, boats, ancient villages and time machines. Last year I made a rock ‘n roll café. Rock ‘n roll…there was a fun theme. Don’t worry. We’re Methodists. We’re okay with dancing and loud music. Heck, we’ll even speak to you in the liquor store.

I follow the Donald Trump motto of “Go Big or Go Home”, so I always get carried away. My goal is to drape the church in as much burlap, bubble wrap and cardboard as possible. My favorite dramatic touch is hanging big banners from the ceiling. I put them everywhere. The santucary looks like the Olympic village. By the time we’re finished taping, painting and stitching next week we will have created a set that rivals Cecil B. DeMille’s finest moments.

I guess all of this comes from the pressure to make bible school exciting and larger than life. Today’s kids get bored so easily. It takes a lot to lure them in. When I was a kid, your parents made you go. The only theme was the Ten Commandments. You glued some macaroni on a plate, dropped pennies and nickels into a little plastic church and sang Kum-ba-ya every day. Your odds of getting a spanking for being a smart mouth were just as high there as they were at home. Snacks were Kool-Aid and vanilla creme cookies. The only variety was the flavor of the Kool-Aid. Now days it takes a slick marketing campaign and an edgy theme to get kids in the door. Church signs advertise the “Arctic Edge”, “Avalanche Ranch” and “Solid Rock Café”. Our theme this year is “Treasure Hunters”. I haven’t decided yet what to do with this pirate and archeologist inspired curriculum. I’m sure I’ll eventually come up with something that involves glitter...and a few banners. If nothing else, I can always hang pictures of Orlando Bloom, Johnny Depp and Harrison Ford. The kids won’t be impressed, but it will give the mothers something to stare at all week while we’re making Popsicle stick treasure chests.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Little Things

When you care for senior citizens on a daily basis, you often notice with startling clarity little changes in their ability to do certain things. These are things that have slipped by you but then suddenly seem so obvious you can’t believe you’ve previously missed them. Like being able to wear certain kinds of shoes. Mama J. has always loved a good pair of sandals but now all of her shoes have to have some kind of support in the back. That’s to keep her from slipping and falling because she shuffles as much as she walks. Pants have to have an elastic waistband. It’s too exhausting to fight with zippers that always win. She signs her checks, but we fill in the blanks. Her handwriting could get her into medical school.

Papa T. has quit talking about trying to drive again. “When my eyes get better” has been replaced with “will you pick up my mail at the post office”. I drove his truck last week and realized I couldn’t remember when it was last filled with gas. Directions such as “the cornbread is to your left” don’t keep food out of his lap anymore. Somebody has to read the newspaper to him every day, not just on cloudy days. The most recent change in him scares me, though. As I watched him eat dinner last night, I realized that his hope has been quietly replaced with resignation; resignation that his health, namely his eyesight, will probably never get better. That his social life is drawing to a close and that his quality of life will likely continue to decline. In Mama J.’s eyes last week, I saw fear. She is scared for both of them. She sees the future, and she doesn’t like it.

Can they see the fear on my face? Do my tone and carefully chosen words betray me? Is my wrinkled brow giving me away? Do they notice that we check on them more times each day than we did just a few months ago? Or that we walk with outstretched hands behind them to catch a fall? I hope not. I want to be strong for them. I need to. I see the future, and I don’t like it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

I Want to be Alone

When I decided to become a wife and mother, I knew I’d have to make sacrifices. I’ve accepted those willingly, except for one that I didn’t expect. I have not gone to the bathroom alone in 17 years. Now, I’m not a modest person. In fact, I’m a little on the exhibitionist side, but some things deserve a little privacy, and potty time is one of them. The most intimate moment in a marriage is not the first time you see your mate naked. It’s the first time you see each other on the pot. It’s a little unsettling at first, but over the years, you grow to accept it. After all, somebody has to bring you toilet paper when the roll goes empty unexpectedly. However, that doesn’t mean you want to completely give up the privacy that certain acts demand. When Teen Angel was little, I always took her into the stall with me in public restrooms as a safety precaution. She’s fourteen years old now. I’m ready for her to leave me alone in the bathroom. Hubby, too. At any given time, they are prone to flinging open the door to ask me a question, share some good news or dig for something under the sink. Even the dog is in on the act. Last week he pushed open the door with his nose, toddled in and put his paws on my knees. Apparently, he wanted a pat on the head and knew where to find a captive audience.

In the words of Marlena Detriech, “I vant to pee alone”, so I’ve created some rules for potty privacy in my home.

1. Entering the door must require an emergency. Asking for $20 to go to the movie, showing me a new listing in the real estate magazine or sharing a dirty joke is not an emergency. Neither is digging for moisturizer, showing me a new t-shirt or asking if those pants make your butt look big.
2. I do not want to take any phone calls, no matter how important they may seem. Please do not ask, even if it’s my mother. If the pest control man wants to know if he can come on Tuesday, tell him I will call him back. Do NOT. I repeat, do NOT tell him I can’t come to the phone because I’m going to the bathroom. That requires canceling my contract and hiring another company because I can no longer look him in the eye when he shows up to spray for crickets.
3. If the door is locked, do not get a butter knife and pick the cheap lock. It is locked for a reason. Really. I mean it this time.
4. I do not want to carry on a conversation through the door while I’m..umm..indisposed. I cannot talk to you and read “Humor in Uniform” at the same time.
5. Sliding a note under the door is not acceptable either, for the same reason mentioned in rule #4.
6. Inquiries about what I had for lunch or jokes about courtesy deodorizer sprays are NOT funny. Stop it. I’m not laughing. I swear. Not this time. Really. They’re not. Well, maybe a little.
7. And finally, mom is not the only person capable of changing the roll of toilet paper. Leaving one or two squares of paper on the roll so technically it’s not “empty” is bad sportsmanship. ‘Cause I get left holding the scraps and have to holler for someone to bring me a new roll. That requires letting someone in……

Miss Katherine

The matriarch of our church is a cute little lady I’ll call “Miss Katherine”. You’d never guess that she’s pushing 90 years old. She still lives alone, drives and stays on the go with a bunch of activities. She is VERY lively, and you never know what she’s going to do next. She’s a hoot. That’s southern talk for someone who’s a whole lot of fun. She’s not afraid to speak her mind, though. She has bright blue eyes and a bit of a mischievous grin. And something funny is always rolling off of her tongue. She doesn’t plan it that way, though. That’s what makes her fun. I asked her this past Sunday how she was doing. She said, “Fine, for the moment”. “Are you on a moment by moment basis, Miss Katherine”? “Are you kidding? At this age I don’t even buy green bananas”.

Before her balance got a little out of whack she came to the aerobics class I teach at church. She bounced around during the cardio portion and then did her own modified version of the floor exercises while sitting in a chair. Except for the night she decided to TRY the floor exercises. She was in the floor before I could blink an eye, but I kept my mouth shut because no one tells Miss Katherine what to do. I certainly wasn’t going to be the first. I like that my head is connected to my shoulders and I want to keep it there, thank you. She managed the leg lifts and sit-ups just fine. Until it was time to get up. She didn’t seem to mind that it took two of us to pull her off of that mat. She gave me a second scare the night that she kept fumbling around with the top of her sweatshirt. When I asked her if she was okay, she casually responded that it was just her heart monitor. Heart monitor???? It seems they strap one on her a couple of times a year and monitor her for 24 hours to see how her ticker is doing. Of course, she told me this AFTER we had worked out especially hard. I walked around the next day afraid that I would get a call from her doctor asking me what in the heck I was doing, running an 88- year old woman with heart problems in the ground.

The thing I like best about her is that she’s a great Christian lady who walks the walk. She doesn’t talk much about her religion. She just lives it. She knows the bible inside and out. She loves everyone. She forgives. She does mission work, and she’s excited to be at church every time the door is open. She leads by example. She never seems to have one of those days when she has to fake it because her faith is a little weak. I so admire that. She is something else. That’s southern talk for someone you admire.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Ice Cream Man!

Today reminds me of the last time the ice cream man came by our house. It was a sunny, sticky Saturday, and I was doing laundry, just like today. Teen Angel was three or fours years old. I had my head in the dryer when Hubby banged on the back door and hollered for me to come quickly. He has an annoying habit of doing this, and always makes it sound as if he has an emergency. It rarely means there is an emergency (except for the day he fell off a ladder) so I took my time. By the time I got there, he was worked up in a lather. "Tell me what you hear", he said. "Music, maybe? Is Mr. R. playing his luau records outside again?" "No. I think it's an ice cream truck." "Really?! Are you sure?" We squinted and searched the horizon and sure enough, his van was toodling into our subdivision. "Oh, my God. It's the ice cream man!!!"

Now, you have to understand, we hadn't seen an ice cream man in our subdivision in several years. Also, I grew up in the boondocks, so the only time I saw the ice cream man when I was a kid was when he happened to drive by grandma's house while I was visiting her. That happened maybe twice. So, on that sunny June day that Hubby beckoned me to the door, I was in the middle of a 20 year ice cream man drought. I may have been more than 30 years old, but the appearance of Mr. Frosty's little white truck rolling through our subdivision turned me into a kid all over again.

"Get some money, and I'll get the girl!", I shouted. I scooped up Teen Angel and hit the door. "What's wrong, mommy?" "Nothing, baby. It's the ice cream man. It's a good thing." As I hit the door, Hubby tossed me some dollar bills from the tool box money jar he thinks I don't know about. I put Teen Angel on the ground, grabbed her hand and started running across the yard. Mr. Frosty was already past our house. "Hurry up", I hollered. "We're going to miss him!" I practically dragged Teen Angel for two blocks. We cut through Mr. R's yard, jumping his peony bushes. He didn't care. He understand that it was an emergency. He was watching from his front porch. We were barefoot, and her little legs were moving as fast as they could across thick grass and hot concrete. We finally flagged down the truck and excitedly surveyed our choices. We settled on an orange push-up for me and Nutty Buddies for Teen Angel and Hubby. When Hubby was a kid, he would catch the truck on one side of the subdivion, buy some ice cream and then run to the other side of the subdivision for a second purchase as the truck left. I didn't think Teen Angel's legs would hold out for that, so we headed straight back to the house. We plopped down in the swing where Hubby was waiting for us and started savoring our goodies. As I sat there watching my two favorite people eat their ice cream, I thought to myself, this is the good life. And I realized that for once it really was an emergency when Hubby hollered at me to come to the back door.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Running on Empty

I ran in a race last night. It was my second race and longer than the last, four miles. Four miles is a piece of cake to experienced runners, but to a newbie like me, it's exhausting. Man, it lasts a lifetime when it's 90 degrees outside and you're at the back of the pack. I finished fourth in my age group, which was right in the middle of the pack. I'm still really slow, but that's okay. I will eventually get better. At least that's what everybody keeps telling me. It's just frustrating to see people zip past me, especially when they're much older or much, much faster. I'm just so competitive that I hate it when I can't do something really well. I keep telling myself to quit worrying about the other guys and stick to reaching my own personal goals. It's hard when you're surrounded by people who are so skilled and intense. There were some serious runners there last night, and they were very intimidating. I feel like such an amateur, but I can't stop now because I know it's not really about beating the other guy. It's about proving something to myself.

Despite my frustrations last night with my own performance, I felt really good about a couple of things. First of all, the spectators. I noticed a few people who lined the route and cheered for every last person. They didn't leave after the bulk of the runners had gone by. They stayed on the curb and cheered those of us in the back. It's very motivating for a complete stranger to clap and shout encouragement to you because they know that winning to us is just being able to finish. God bless the man in the blue cap with the little girl and the baby in a stroller. Their shouts were a push in my back at the end of that third mile. They have no idea how good they made me feel at a time when I needed it most .

I was also impressed with the senior runners. The 70 year old man with the six pack abs and top gun speed was kind of annoying, simply because I felt so inadequate next to him. Really, though, I was in awe of his athleticism. However, I was more impressed with the elderly fellow who came in last, but never quit. I passed him early on. He had a crooked gait and an untied shoe, but he was DETERMINED. Long after I had finished and was sucking down water, I saw him hit the finish line at the same slow speed and with the looping stride. He never gave up. If you ask me, he was the big winner of the night. It's a shame they don't give out a plaque for "best effort". He would have won, hands down. I hope I can keep up with him.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Leg's Call it Quits

That’s it. I’ve had it. I’m divorcing my pantyhose. I’ve tried. I really have, but I just don’t have the strength to keep up this relationship anymore. This love/hate fling we’ve had for thirty years has worn me out. I’m tired of the abuse those things just keep dishing out. Every time we go out, it’s the same old thing. They suffocate me. They hang on to me so tightly, I feel like I can’t breathe. The waistband won't allow me to relax when we’re around other people. They’re so..I don’t know…controlling. And demanding. Always reminding me to suck in my gut or tuck in my fanny.

I remember when we first met. I was young and carefree, excited about this new love. Everything seemed shiny and brand new. It made me feel so grown up, so adult. After all, they were usually nude. I didn’t mind that we were so tight. I was blinded by appearances and too wrapped up by my newfound love to care.

For a while, we went everywhere together. We were inseparable. But over the years I noticed a change in our relationship. We stopped seeing each other so often. I went from feeling hot and bothered to…well…just plain hot. They just didn’t seem to care how much they hurt me, and I quit reaching for them when I needed them most. We lost that spark, except when my thighs rubbed together. I guess it’s because I’m not the same person I used to be. I’ve grown….in many different directions. We just don't fit together anymore. Oh, I’ve tried from time to time to rekindle my interest, but it’s just not there. I'm ashamed to admit that here lately I’ve been flirting with other options…like socks or maybe bare feet. I want to walk on the wild side for a while. Call it a middle aged crisis, but I think we need to go our separate ways, at least for the summer. A few months of sandals might make me feel differently, but I don’t think so. I really think it’s over this time. For good. I‘d prefer that we don’t stay in touch. It will be much easier that way. We'll just remember the good times we had; the parties and dances, and leave it at that.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Special Delivery

Teen Angel is anxiously awaiting a game she ordered off the internet. It’s supposed to arrive via UPS within five to seven days. We’re on day seven. Please God let that game come soon. She is driving me crazy, worrying over that package. I know how she feels, though. I love getting mail, especially packages.

I really liked getting mail when I was a kid. I guess that’s because I didn’t get much of it. That made it special. Every once in a while I got a letter from my cousin, Kim. She was a Yankee from the Chicago suburbs, so it seemed like she lived a world away. For a couple of years we traded letters extolling the virtues of Shaun Cassidy and Peter Frampton and debated which was better, “Happy Days” or “Welcome Back Kotter”. (Just for the record, I voted for “Welcome Back Kotter”. Come on. Everybody knows Vinnie Barbarino beats “The Fonz”.) My favorite kind of mail was those toys you ordered from a box of cereal or the back of a comic book. Do kids still do that? Probably not, but for my generation and a couple before me, it was a big deal to order something like that even though the item was usually pretty disappointing when you got it. You’ve seen the scene in “A Christmas Story” where Ralphie checks the mail box every day for his Little Orphan Annie Decoder Ring. When he finally gets it, his excitement is crushed by his discovery that it’s just an advertising gimmick for Ovaltine. I think anyone who is 35 years old or older has had that kind of experience.

Hubby remembers saving his pennies to order sea monkeys only to get them dead on arrival. I ordered plastic Freakies characters from a box of Freakies cereal. What? You don’t remember Freakies? That’s because it was the Edsel of cereals. It failed because three children in Iowa and me were the only ones who ate it. It took FOREVER for that package to arrive, and the characters were about a third the size I thought they would be. Their arms didn’t bend either. What’s your mail order shame? Come on. Don’t be ashamed. Everyone has a little sea monkey in his past.

These days when I get mail I have a system for opening it. A UPS Box gets opened in the driveway. Yippee!! A goodie for me. Colorful envelopes are next. They usually hold a card or invitation. Sigh. It’s nice to be wanted. Catalogs and sale flyers follow. 40% off at J.C. Penney’s? Yeah! The bills are last. What?! The gas bill is $40 higher this month? As Ralphie would say, “Skunked again”.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Adventures in Chaperoning

Hubby is a brave man. How do I know this? He drove a church bus full of young kids to Six Flags yesterday and spent the day with them. At 6’4” and 200 plus pounds, he can be a little intimidating, and for thirty years he wrangled criminals in a law enforcement job. But even that can’t fully prepare you for chaperoning kids on a trip. Hubby is licensed to drive a small bus so we end up chaperoning a lot of trips. In the last year we have followed young people down ski slopes, around three amusement parks and all over Washington, DC. It always proves to be an adventure.

For starters, somebody always throws up before the trip is over. Always. Always on the bus. Near the front. Where everyone has to walk. Someone always loses something important. Sometimes it’s an iPod or a wallet. Last year, on a trip with teenagers, it was pants. One of the kids hadn’t really traveled much and didn’t realize that buying a locker in the water park is worth the $6 because if you lay your pants on a concrete wall instead, someone will steal them. He wore swim trunks for two days. At least one kid in the bunch always spends all of his money way before the trip is over. He’s the kid who blows $90 on games trying to win a purple pimp hat and then has to eat off of $10 for two days. Speaking of hats, why does everybody have to get a goofy hat on those trips? Last year Hubby won a black and white spotted Viking hat with horns and braids because some park worker couldn’t guess his weight. Ever seen a 6’4” man in a Viking hat with rainbow braids? Well, you sure can’t miss him in a crowd. I’d post his picture, but I like living in my home and want to stay there.

The other scary thing about these outings is that you end up riding rides that you haven’t been on in years or really don’t want to get on. I’m kind of brave about some rides but really don’t like the stuff that launches you from 0 to 90 miles an hour in four seconds. I also can’t handle the spinning stuff. Puke city. But who wants to be a big scaredy cat in front of a bunch of kids. Not me, so I jump on, close my eyes and hold on tight. My pride lands me on things like the “Texas Tornado” and “Drop Zone”, and then it takes my nerves a few days to recover. Last year at King’s Island, I squelched my “you could get hurt on that thing” policy and climbed aboard several thrill rides. We closed down the park on our last night with a wild and rough ride on the “Son of Beast”. My joy at taming the “Beast” was short lived when the roller coaster halted in mid-ride the next day and seriously hurt several people. Apparently, our ride was one of the last few down the tracks before a beam broke and caused the accident. That was too close for comfort. See, you CAN get hurt on that stuff.

Yesterday’s trip was the first of three that he and/or I will take with kids this summer. Next month is King’s Island and Holiday World. I’m not sure what takes more courage, riding the rides or riding on a bus with teenagers.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Dreams for Sale

We were whizzing down the highway last weekend when we passed two little girls who had set up a makeshift yard sale near the road. It looked to be a poor neighborhood, and the little girls were dirty and dressed kind of ragged. In fact, one little girl had on nothing but a pair of underpants. They had assembled about a dozen assorted items including some old silk flowers and a large ceramic cheetah. Whenever someone drove by they would fling a cardboard sign into the air advertising their sale. I got a really big chuckle out them. I suspect they needed money for something they wanted and thought they’d earn it by selling some stuff laying around the house. We passed by that neighborhood again about an hour later, and they were gone. They had packed up their wares and gone home. Because they were kind of pitiful, Teen Angel chastised me for laughing at them. But you see, I wasn’t laughing at them. I was reveling in their enthusiasm. At some point in every kid’s life, usually around age 4, he decides he’s going to be an entrepreneur. He sets up a lemon aid or Kool aid stand in the front yard and tries to earn some spare change. It’s usually spurred by the desire for a toy or something special that mom and dad have refused to spend money on or can’t afford. If you’ve ever watched a kid do this, you know how excited he gets and how much work he puts into setting up his stand and making his signs. You also know how quickly he can fail. Very often his customers are limited to the mailman and the retired neighbor next door. It’s his first business lesson learned the hard way.

I have thought about those little girls all week. They were jumping up and down and putting their heart and soul into waving in uninterested customers. They were flinging that sign in the air with the spirit of Olympic athletes, and they just kept waving even though the cars zipped by them. What a blessing to live in a country where our poorest children can dream big and still hope that a pile of junk could make them a little bit richer. There is an old quote that says you shouldn’t take away someone’s hope because that may be all that he has. In some countries children don’t even have hope, but we do here. I hope someone bought something from those little girls, if for no other reason than to keep their hope alive. I wish I had stopped and bought that tacky cheetah.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

I Take This Man

I went to two weddings yesterday, each very different from the other. The first wedding consisted of two long time divorcees who have struggled for years with the dating scene and never thought they'd find love again. Their ceremony was simple and moving. They wrote their own vows and incorporated the bride's teenaged daughters. I don't usually cry at weddings, but this one was a tear jerker. As I watched I thought this was two people who already know how tough marriage is and are approaching it with the honesty and dedication it deserves. The second wedding was a young couple fresh out of college and head over heels in love. As I watched their wedding I thought, boy, they don't have a clue what they're in for. All of the premarital counseling in the world just can't prepare you for the reality of marriage and the grit it takes to make it work year after year. As I listened to their traditional vows, I thought to myself, who wrote this stuff? Yeah, all that "in sickness and in health"and "for richer for poorer" stuff is important, but it doesn't really include everything does it? I think we should add a few things. Keep it a little more real so there are fewer surprises later.

How about promising to take your spouse even if he leaves his wet towels in the bathroom, hogs the tv remote or passes gas with the force of a category three tornado? Or accepting that he will sometimes pick a crappy birthday gift, maybe never send roses or leave used dental floss on the bathroom counter. Perhaps the men should promise to accept hormonally driven mood swings, changes in temperment that can't be explained and a compulsion to hoard shoes. And maybe they should agree to accept an occasional phoned in meal, leg hair left in the shower and the insistance that he learn to read the female mind. Aren't these the kinds of things that prompt most arguments? Loving someone is easy. Loving them when they leave toenail clippings on the living room floor year after year is a lot tougher.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Hair's Looking at You

I took Mama J. to the beauty shop this morning. She doesn't drive these days, so we take her each Saturday morning. The second coming could be imminent, and she would not cancel her standing appointment at the beauty parlor. However, she would be perfectly coifed for her meeting with St. Peter. You see, she is one of those senior women who relies on what's known as the "wash and set" method of hair maintenance. Once a week, a stylist curls, backcombs, sprays and puffs Mama J.'s hair into roughly the same style she's had since 1972. She hasn't washed her own hair in years. It's not a method that I would choose, but it works for her. She is part of a dying breed of "wash and setters". Most women now opt for something more simple as they grow old, but for Mama J. and a handful of others, the weekly trek to the corner clip and curl is the only way to go.

There are some telltale signs of a member of this clique. First of all, they usually fill the shops on Friday and Saturday mornings. That's so the 'do will be fresh for weekend outings such as bridge, dinners and church. They each have the same time slot each week. Mama J.'s is 9:40am. Hardly anyone in the shop this morning was under 50 years old, and it was the same faces we see week after week. Woe is the stylist who goofs and books a newcomer in someone's standing appointment slot. Improving your time slot is a little like joining the country club. You have to get on a list, and someone practically has to die in order for an opening to become available.

The second sign of membership is the satin pillow. When your hair is combed only once a week, you have to treat it gently in order for it to maintain its style for seven days. Sleeping on a satin pillow, preferably the "neck roll" helps with this. Those satin pillows aren't always easy to find. We once spent an hour searching an outlet center for a particular store that was rumored to sell those things. Once we found it, we bought two pillows so we could have a backup in reserve.

The biggest sign is the rain bonnet. Keeping the hairdo dry is of utmost importance, especially early in the week. Despite mass amounts of AquaNet, the wash and set can be reduced to a sticky mess by the lightest of rain showers. Water must be avoided at all times. Experienced "wash and setters" never go anywhere without a plastic rain bonnet. We were once riding on a log flume ride at an amusement park when the elderly lady in front of us whipped out a rain bonnet right before the first big splash. No Boy Scout was ever prepared more. While it is rare for Mama J. to leave the house without her rain bonnet, she did get caught without one during a sudden downpour a few years ago. In fact, so did Aunt K. who was with us. When it was obvious that the rain wasn't going to let up, they both resorted to putting Walmart bags on their head in order to dash from the car to the restaurant. And they thought it would be more embarrassing to have messed up hair? Hmmm.

The wash and set method just won't work for me when I get old. I won't be able to stand the itching and the hair spray. I will probably be the old woman with a long gray braid because I won't know what else to do with it. Oh, excuse me...the long blond braid. I may be brunette now, but in the south, we'll go blonde before we'll go gray. So let's see, I'm going to need an appointment every six weeks for that, won't I?