Sunday, September 30, 2007
I cannot imagine what it must be like to be hungry. Or to have hungry children. How humbling it must be to ask for a free meal. Or to be so hungry that you show up 45 minutes early to get a sloppy joe and baked beans. Or to linger an extra hour so you can get in line for a meal to take home with you. I'm surprised I didn't burst into tears in the middle of the kitchen. I cry at the drop of a hat. Hubby calls me "sentimental". Looking into the eyes of a child who thanked me for a slice of chocolate cake made me want to cry. Getting a pat on the arm from an elderly lady who was grateful for a free meal made me want to cry. Seeing a room full of people who don't have enough money for groceries made me want to cry. It's a wonder I made it out of there with any mascara. I felt like a heel because I had to stick to the policy of two take-out boxes per person when some folks wanted more. Sure, one or two of them were trying to take advantage of the situation, but most weren't, and I felt bad limiting their take home sandwiches. I filled those buns as full as I could, though. I have to sleep at night, you know.
It really was a great way to end a taxing week. It gave me some perspective and forced me to stop and take in the world around me. To think about others instead of myself and realize how lucky I am. It was kind of like running into Frank at the race yesterday, everywhere I turned was a reminder that I should just shut up and be happy sometimes. I could hardly drag myself out of bed this morning. This evening I left the church full of energy and ready for the week ahead. Funny how the good Lord uses strangers to tap you on the shoulder and wake you up sometimes.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
I gave myself a mental tongue lashing as I hit the finish line, and told myself to refrain from putting on the pity party hat. Why? Because there were way too many shining examples of dedication around me today. There was the first grader who ran and finished only a minute behind me. There was the really young boy who ran a five and a half minute mile in the youth run. There were several 40, 50, 60 and 70-somethings who ran very well. But above all, there was Frank. Remember the elderly fellow I told you about in June who ran in the same race I did? Well, he was back today, and about a minute after I crossed the finish line, he came through the chute, holding his head. Blood was dripping from his face. Somewhere back in the race, Frank fell. He busted his head pretty good. It brought back memories of my spill a few weeks ago. But he kept running...and running...and running. He finished, bloody head and all. He spent time with the medics. An ambulance came, and he had to go with them. Probably for liability reasons. He was walking when he left, so I think he was okay. But he finished. he trudged through several blocks of blood and pain...to finish. God, he's inspiring. He gave me a butt kicking today and didn't even know it. Thank you Frank, for not letting up on me. I hope you're at the next race, too, because I need you kicking my hind end all the way to the finish line. If you can do it, so can I. That's why I'm leaving my pity party hat on the shelf. Frank didn't ask for one, and I shouldn't either.
Friday, September 28, 2007
"It's ten 'til 7. It takes five minutes to get to her house. If we leave now you'll be too early."
"Nooo. We have to go now."
"Okay." I'd rather drop them off early then listen to anxious whining by my child for the next half hour. I've been down this road before.
7pm-The drive to the game is filled with non stop chatter. Was I this loud at that age? Surely not. I'm sure I wasn't. Well, maybe a little. Hmm. Probably just as loud.
8:50pm-I drive back to the school to pick up the girls so they can change into their dresses. The parking lot is a maze of hazards like poorly parked cars and careless teenagers ambling around in search of each other. Whoo. This brings back a lot of memories. I had forgotten how big of a deal that first Homecoming dance was.
9pm-The drive back home is filled with loud rap on the radio and giggling...incessant giggling. Where does it all come from? Can it be bottled for use on a later, more depressing day?
9:15pm-I peruse the web, my ears are filled with the sounds of teenage girls giggling their way through preparations for their first high school dance. "Oh my God!" (insert Valley Girl voice-and if you don't know what that is then you're too young to be reading this) "Zip me up!" "What makeup are you wearing?" Close your eyes and imagine high pitched voices rattling like boiling tea kettles stopping only long enough for a dramatic pause or a scream of excitement. Picture flying hangers and shoes, scattered makeup containers and hair, hair hair. There is way too much energy in this house for this hour. Way too many voices and way, way too little bathroom. Lord help me, I don't have the strength for this tonight. It's been a long week. I think Hubby is going to have to pick them up later on. My energy..is...gone.
9:45pm-The drive back to the school is punctuated by "Shook Me All Night Long" on the radio. We bond over a little AC/DC, all of us singing loudly to a song that played during my first Homecoming. How ironic. Ah, the memories are rampant tonight.
9:48pm-The girls bound from the van in a hurry to get to the action. "Bye! Love you!" Followed by my "Be good. Have a good time." They hardly look back. Sigh. That phase has begun. You know, the moving forward, hardly looking back at mom and dad stage.
10:33pm-I set the alarm for 12:15am for Hubby so he won't sleep through his shuttle duty. I'm going to bed now. I'm sure I'll hear all about it in the morning. For now, I'm off to dream about a certain satin outfit, a little AC/DC and a little dance we liked to call The Hustle. And maybe a certain boy with braces. I smile because Teen Angel will be dreaming tonight, too.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Chapstick melts when left in a hot car.
I cannot lick this circus peanut addiction without a twelve step program.
Debating the merits of Taye Digg's butt too loudly while working at a blood drive can cause blood donors to point and laugh at you.
I'm not nearly as good at Microsoft Publisher as I need to be.
Five special projects is the maximum amount of projects I can handle at work at one time. I am currently working on six.
Forgetting to give your child money for food when she's eating dinner out with others does not get you the mother of the year award.
These are just the lessons learned since Monday. There are three more days left in this week. I'm through learning until Sunday.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
I am a grinder extraordinaire. I have been for years, and nothing I do seems to help. I’d like to blame it on stress from my husband and child. In fact, my dentist suggested yesterday that we look at my records and see if the treatment coincided with my wedding or Teen Angel’s birth. I can’t blame them though because I was about 20 years old the first time I had to have my two front teeth bonded, and trust me, marriage and motherhood were the farthest things from my mind at that age. In fact, I actively sought ways to avoid the two. Since then it’s gotten worse. I’ve worn a night guard for years. It’s a mouthpiece, kind of like football players wear, and you sleep in it at night. It doesn’t stop the grinding, but it protects your teeth. The first one I had was rubber, and I chewed through that in no time. I quickly graduated to a small plastic one. It lasted a little longer, but I had it in shreds in about six months. I was such a bad girl I had to have the rigid, thick plastic guard that doesn’t move. It IS sexy. It just screams “come and get some of this” to your spouse. I can’t tear through that one, but it doesn’t keep me from wearing out my front two, um..make that four now, teeth. My dentist has bonded those teeth so many times I’ve lost count. She’s tried everything but Kwik-crete. The most heavy duty dental compound is no match for my grinding. It seems to be accelerating, too. I’m knocking out the bonding faster than she can put it in, and my teeth are wearing down faster than ever before. She doesn’t know what else to try.
Out of frustration, I spent some time on the internet yesterday reading about tooth grinding, or bruxism as it’s officially called. The American Dental Association says it’s caused by anxiety, stress or tension, suppressed anger or frustration or having an aggressive, competitive personality. I purposefully eliminated most of my stress three years ago by changing jobs. I’m really not a very angry person. I just mouth about a lot of stuff, so that leaves a competitive personality. Ding. Ding. Ding. We have a winner. So now that I know the cause, what do I do about it? I scrolled through all the treatment options and found nothing new, until I got to the very bottom. Sweet Mary Sunshine! Can it be? A treatment we haven’t tried that has an added bonus? The Mayo Clinic says..and I quote…”Botox can be an effective treatment when other options have failed.” I can save myself from being a snaggled tooth old woman AND fill in my wrinkles at the same time? Can I get my dental insurance to pay for this since it’s for a legitimate medical disorder? Oooh! This is better than that A I got for flossing.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Teen Angel is not allowed to date until she’s 16. Well, her dad says 23, but I think that’s a little overboard. He just remembers how hormonal he was at that age, and it scares the bejesus out of him. Anyway, she’ll be going to this dance with a gaggle of girls. I say gaggle because they’re just as loud and vocal as a group of geese. Apparently, they dress up for Homecoming now a little more than we did back in the pioneer days known as the late 70’s. Disco was still in during my freshman year, so I wore a white satin shirt, satin pants, satin ballcap and a green satin purse to my first Homecoming. Oh, and Candies platforms. I wish I had a picture to share because you would all get a huge laugh out of that ensemble. Teen Angel said it’s MUCH different now adays. She didn’t like my idea of a nice fall jacket and gauchos that could be worn throughout the season so off we headed to the dress department for something I hoped might have a slim chance of being worn more than once and wasn’t going to cost as much as a new Harley.
We discovered long lines in dressing rooms and racks and racks of stuff that seemed way too sexy for young teens. Who designs this stuff? Certainly not someone who has a teenaged daughter or else the tops of these dresses would have much more material. And it seems most of these little rags come in teeny, tiny sizes designed to fit only the anorexic. That led to two hours of “I’m fat” when in fact she isn’t, but it sure made her feel that way. Nothing I said made a difference. I’m old and stupid, you know. And some of the prices were downright ridiculous. Just when I was about to pull my hair out, and I had reached the end of my patience, something wonderful happened. I ran to the restroom in the midst of a marathon fitting/debate session and came back to the dressing room to find Teen Angel standing in a perfectly fitting, lovely dress that looks grown up, but not trashy. And she liked it. And it was on sale. Ah. Finally, something we agreed upon. With a $29 shrug (that makes mom happy because it can be worn with many things) and an inexpensive pair of black flats, we were done. And I didn’t have to have a margarita after all. I almost fell to my knees in J.C. Penney’s weeping a Sweet Jesus prayer. I whispered it silently instead. I had already caused Teen Angel enough embarrassment for one day just by walking beside her in public for an extended period of time. My relief was short lived, though. I realized that with an average of four dances a year, and with her entire high school years ahead of us, we will have to go through this FIFTEEN more times. About that margarita…
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Will you save me a place
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Many folks lost their innocence on September 11, 2001. I lost mine nearly a year earlier on September 23rd, 2000. That’s the day my 13 year old nephew died. Tomorrow will mark the anniversary of Chance’s death. Seven years ago he left us in a sudden tragic accident that has forever changed our family and the way I look at the world. The loss was enormous, the pain unimaginable and the healing, well, that’s been a slow process. Like the folks shaken by September 11th, I now know that security can disappear in a heartbeat.
I remember the phone call with vivid detail. Sunday morning. Six o’clock. The ring jarred me from bed, and I caught my breath when I saw the number on the caller ID. I braced myself for bad news because the call was from Sissy. Her diabetes ravaged husband had been to the brink of death more than once, and we knew his fate was inevitable. We had expected bad news about him for a while. We didn’t expect the news to be about Chance. It just didn’t seem possible. Chance and his best friend had been in-line skating at an industrial park when they were swept up in the run-off from a sudden rain. Both boys drowned. At first they were only missing. Hours later the dogs turned up their bodies in the water, and Sissy was introduced to a priest.
Answering the phone that morning was like hopping on a runaway train that wouldn’t stop. It set into motion some of the most painful moments of my life. Telling Hubby that the nephew he spoiled and cherished was gone. Watching Mama J. and Papa T. crumple under grief and explaining to our seven year old daughter that her brother like cousin would never eat watermelon with her again. And worst of all, trying to prop up Sissy and her husband during the worst of all possible losses, their only child.
The three hour drive to Sissy’s house was surreal. Cars whizzing by. People going about their every day business while we felt stuck in time. The news didn’t truly sink in until we arrived at our hotel and saw a news story about it on the television. Even though it was a major metropolitan city, the story was big news. Every television newscast. The front page of the newspaper. Everywhere, somebody was reminding us of the tragic nature of the accident. We staggered through four days of planning, services, homemade meals and well wishes. I cried non stop for four days. I simply couldn’t stop. There was just so much pain. Chance was the closest thing to a son Hubby and I will ever have. He spent part of his summer with Mama J. and Papa T. every year, bouncing between their house and ours. He was the only person who ever slept in our guest bedroom. Teen Angel worshipped the ground he walked on, and clung to him like glue. She would have followed him across the Mojave Desert barefoot. We loved that child dearly. The rip in our hearts was deep and jagged.
We buried him on a crisp, autumn day. As I stood in that little country cemetery numb to the preacher’s words and blinded by the sun, I realized that amidst the enormous loss, I had been given a gift by that smart, beautiful boy who had brightened our lives. That gift was the realization that life can be very, very short. It is not always what you expect it to be, and it is to be lived fully…every day…without exception. The clothes, the cars, the fancy homes really aren’t worth two figs in the end. It's not about living the good life. It's about good living. I try to practice that every day. It's why I dance when no one else does, sing really loud even though I can't carry a tune and laugh, laugh, laugh. I don't sweat the small stuff anymore. I know what tough really is, and most of my daily challenges are really not that tough when I consider how rough some folks have it.
A second gift I received from Chance is courage, courage to get out of my comfort zone. I'm not afraid to try difficult things anymore. Why should I be? I've already done the hardest thing I will likely ever have to do, help to bury a child. Everything else has to be much easier, right? After his funeral I came home and asked for a very challenging job promotion that I had been scared to ask for. I got it. I succeeded at it, and five years later, when I felt the call to a new career, I took that leap without much fear.
These two gifts were expensive, so I try very hard not to squander them. Each day I remember my dear nephew by using his gifts wisely. I will remember him tomorrow with a couple of tears, but mostly with pride for the dynamic young man he was and for the light he brought into my life. He was kind, generous and giving to others, so my challenge to you, my friends, is to help me remember him by being kind to others. I encourage each of you to commit a random act of kindness this next week, and come back and share it with me when you're done. If you're a lurker and don't want to reveal yourself, then post anonymously. It's about the act, not the name. Feel free to pass this along to your readers and challenge them in Chance's memory too. The world could use a little more kindess these days.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Since becoming the subdivision sheriff he has broken up a large teenage party that got out of hand when the booze showed up, picked up three people off their floors, found a way into the house of a man suffering a stroke, investigated a stolen trailer, watched over two homes of vacationing neighbors and politely explained to a registered child molester that those shenanigans would not be tolerated in our neighborhood. He also maintains the pool of some neighbors who vacation often. I like that one, because they bring us an incredible chocolate cream cheese cake in return. And on occasion Hubby drives our 86-year-old neighbor to Friday night parties. This gentleman is going to go no matter what and he usually ends up rather tipsy, so Hubby is his DD. They have a regular schedule. He drops him off at 5:30pm and picks him up at 9:30pm every time. I can’t help but think of Otis from the Andy Griffith show whenever they pull up in the driveway.
The list of stuff goes on and on. He logged two calls this week. Tuesday night he went to investigate two prowlers near a home down the block. It turns out they were teenaged boys peeping into the windows of a group home for foster girls. They were getting an eyeful of boob until the Subdivision Sheriff showed up. Unfortunately, they responded with a really vulgar suggestion when he told them to get home. A foot chase ensued and ended on the front porch of the boys’ home. Mama took over from there.
He may be taking his duties a little too seriously, though. Yesterday evening I was fixing dinner when Hubby stuck his head in the back door and shouted that the little girl down the block was running away from home, suitcase in hand. Before I knew it he was off in his cruiser, um golf cart, to save the little damsel. Come to find out, she was walking to a neighbor’s house to play and had a large case of crayons under her arm. Well, not all emergencies are what they seem, I guess. Like that time he jumped out of the bushes at the suspicious car that kept driving around the neighborhood at 3am. Turns out, it was a new newspaper delivery person trying to learn the route. That’s the way it goes when protecting the public. Some cases are solid. Some are a bust. It’s a thankless job. The Sheriff is a reluctant sheriff, but he wears the yolk with pride. And we all sleep better at night knowing he’s protecting us..well, except for that newspaper lady.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
That filter is a result of two things. First all, I’m a product of my surroundings, and in the south we kill people with politeness, even when we don’t mean it. It’s somewhat dishonest and leads to a lot of passive aggressive behavior, but it’s tough to overcome. Secondly, Baby Ruth and Zeke raised me to be nice to people, even when people are not nice to me. I may be 43 years old, but they would still kick my hind end if I went around acting like a horse’s rear end most of the time. So, I keep my tired and cranky comments to myself. It’s a good thing because my imagination has been a real butt today. Here’s just a sample of what I wanted to tell folks but didn’t:
To the clerk in the drive-thru-“Those gold caps with fake gems you put on your two front teeth look like crap. What were you thinking? Bend down here and let me yank that mess out.”
To the guy who sells me company Christmas cards-“You tracked me down on my cell phone while I’m in traffic to make a sales pitch? I WILL buy some, but not today. It’s September for Pete’s sake.”
To the secretary of the attorney who wants me to provide him with information for an upcoming lawsuit-“ I don’t want to leave another message. He hasn’t returned any of my other calls, and I don’t have any hope he’ll call me back this time. Just tell him my cooperation is commensurate with his courtesy toward me. It really chaps my rump that he sent me a letter telling me to show up for a SATURDAY morning meeting and won’t even call me back to tell me what he needs from me. Two words-subpeona this!”
To the tech guy at the internet place-“If you mean a twenty minute wait, don’t tell me five to ten minutes. By the way, do you own a comb?”
To the receptionist at the internet place-“For the fourth time, I do not want a candy bar or want to watch a different channel on the TV. I just want to sit here and stew about my lengthy wait for a new DSL modem.”
To Britney Spears-“You are a walking train wreck. Get some help for your addiction before you lose your kids, your family and your career. I’m sick and tired of your trashy act staggering across my TV every morning, and I’m sad that your children have to live with a mother who obviously never stays home at night and doesn’t know when to put on underwear. They’re going to be so ashamed when they get a little older.”
To O.J. Simpson-“Mama always said what goes around comes around. Something about this latest case seems a little fishy, so I feel like I should be skeptical about it. The truth is I don’t care. I hope you go to prison for a long time. You got away with murder the first time because you had the money to hire a slick defense team. I still want you to pay for that, so I’m not even going to try to be objective this time.”
And finally, to the woman who waited on me at an unnamed store-“I’m sorry. Did you say something? I was distracted by those butt ugly plaid pants you’re wearing.”
See, behind my smile and my calm demeanor I’ve been a grade A jerk today. Baby Ruth would tell me that thinking it is almost as bad as saying it. I supposed I should feel bad about it, but the truth is I’m too tired to care right now. And I’m not done with the day yet. Anyone who crosses my path is likely to get a piece of my mind, if you know what I mean. Oops. There’s the phone, and it looks like it’s that lab that wants me to pay for something my insurance has already paid. Care to guess what I’m thinking?
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Now, this is the reaction I get every time we travel by car for any significant distance, and I have to pee. It’s the reaction I used to get from my dad when I was a kid. It’s also the reaction Hubby’s father used to give his family. In fact, just about every male I’ve ever traveled with, has had that kind of reaction. Women don’t do that. If I were traveling with a group of women and one of them asked to pull over, the driver would respond with a big “Sure, honey” and pull over at the nearest exit. Women don’t mind. We understand. Men mind. In fact, they get right down grumpy about it. Hubby’s mood can turn south in a heartbeat with the mere mention of a pee stop. “But I was making good time,” he says. “I’ll lose this Cadillac with the fuzz buster. It will slow us down.” “Yeah, well we’re going to slow down plenty if I pee all over this front seat,” I tell him. He stops, but I have to listen to a whole bunch of grumbling and huffing during the entire stop and another twenty minutes of “we’ll never make up that time” after we get back in the car.
I just don’t understand. It’s not like I take a long time in the restroom. Unlike a lot of women, I get in and get out. No primping, no lipstick, just a pee, a flush and a hand wash. I don’t even take my purse in with me. I want to get to our destination as quickly as Hubby does. Do Nascar drivers get this mad when they have to make a pit stop? If so, that would explain why there are no women in the pit crews. Are men born with a gene that causes them to get mad when they have to stop? If so, THAT would explain why they won’t stop and ask for directions, either.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
I will be away for a couple of days. Someone close to me is without hope..and is drowning. I will board a plane in the morning and pray that somewhere over the Midwest the good Lord grants me the wisdom and strength to help save a life 'cause I'm wingin' this one.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
10. The Make-up Artist-I see her almost every morning. She doesn’t see me because she’s too busy finishing her beauty routine. Sweetheart, if you didn’t get it done before you left the house, forget about it ‘til you get to work. You cannot curl and lengthen both eyelashes during one stoplight.
9. Nose picker-Stop it! People can see you. I see you, regularly. You may be alone in your car, but the whole world is watching while you dig for gold. YOU-ARE-GROSS.
8. The tailgater-This guy runs the same stretch of highway I do every morning and consistently rides the bumper of several people during his dash across town. He’s done it to me, and I’ve seriously considered throwing on my brakes and letting him buy the back of my car. If I knew I wouldn’t get hurt, I would. Being the safety bug I am, I will just continue to seethe quietly instead. Well, maybe with hand gestures.
7. On The Blink-Did they take the turn signals out of some cars and not tell me? Because it seems as if some folks don’t have any. Tip: Making a left turn in front of me quickly without a signal is a good way to get run over. Or at least make me spill the contents of my lunch bag all over the front of the floorboard.
6. Putting on the Brakes- I hate it when folks putter 20 miles an hour in front of me and then slam on their brakes to make a turn. No matter how slow I’m going I will give myself whiplash trying to stop on a dime.
5. Disappearing Detour-We have a major road construction project about a mile from my house, and it affects three separate roads. I know it’s there. I know to expect a detour. I just don’t know from hour to hour where that detour is going to be. It moves frequently throughout the day. It’s probably not their fault, but I wish the construction folks could pick a detour and stay with it for a day or two.
4. Crappy Radio-I’m not too choosy about my music in the morning, but it seems there is nothing good on the radio at that time. I don’t need a lot of talk. I don’t need a bunch of commercials, and my ears aren’t ready for Kanye West at 6:30am. Just give me a little Steve Wonder or Marvin Gaye to start my day, Mr. Deejay. I know you have it. You play it later in the day when I’m at work and can’t listen to the radio.
3. Yellow Light Racers-I don’t know how many times I’ve almost been run over by someone racing through a red light at a high rate of speed because they thought they could beat it before it turned to red. Speed racers-saving yourself thirty seconds is not worth risking my life. If you’re doing it just because you like to go fast, let me know. I can hook you up with someone at the local racetrack who can give you a safe place to risk your own neck.
2. Cell Phone Hogs-Every day I am surrounded by folks trying to talk on the cell phone and drive in busy traffic at the same time. You’ve seen them. You’ve probably almost been run over by them. And I’ll bet if you were to take a poll of those folks, most would have to admit that the majority of their car calls are not that important. I say we ban cell phones from cars and that way I don’t have to answer mine whenever someone is calling to ask me what I’m cooking for supper or if I’ll pick up some Kraft Macaroni and Cheese at the Dollar Store.
1. This is the granddaddy of them all….the one that makes me absolutely insane…the thing that makes me swear like a sailor at strangers…the thing that makes me pull out fist fulls of hair…HOGGING THE LEFT LANE. Ooooh! I can’t stand it. If you are not passing or making a left turn soon, get out of the left lane, especially if you are driving way below the speed limit. Some of us would like to pass. Some of us are going the speed limit and would like to get around those of you who are driving 20 miles an hour in the 60 mph zone. No doubt, you are the same folks who park their cart in the middle of the aisle at Wal-Mart and hold up traffic in the bread aisle. Please, please get out of the way. I beg of you. You are plugging up traffic and making me cranky. Then I become that loud mouthing, swearing, angry driver that the rest of you hate.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I eventually grew to like Mr. T.. He was an excellent teacher and was probably a little ahead of his time in the methods he used. Fourth grade was the year of the multiplication tables, and he rigged up this homemade gizmo that set off a buzzer when you guessed the right answer to each math equation. We used it for individual practice, and I thought I’d wear out the buzzer before I learned all of my twelves. He brought his pet boa constrictor to class, and he was always challenging us with some kind of riddle or trick question. He kept us on our toes, pushed us to learn and rewarded us at the end of the year with a Moon Pie and RC Cola party. There was no goofing off in his class, though. He ruled with the confidence of Castro and the sword of fear. Whenever someone got in trouble you felt sorry for the accused because no matter how guilty he was, the punishment would be harsh and swift. Of course, you were also secretly relieved that if someone was going to get caught, it wasn’t you. I vividly remember the day he grabbed Billy Z. by the hair for some infraction and shook his head like a dirty rug. Billy was stunned, and the rest of us were terrified. You could have heard a pin drop for the rest of the afternoon. Billy showed up the next day with a buzzed head. I was scared for his life but impressed with his defiance. On another day Mr. T. tied Greg R. to his seat with a jump rope for failing to stay seated and posted Laurie L.’s sentences on the wall for all of us to admire when she tried to race through that punishment with tiny scribbles just above the lines. She got another 1000 sentences assigned to her since the first 250 were so pretty, he said. Mr. T. made fourth grade worth showing up for class.
It was a year of slumber parties, usually at Lisa M.’s house. We rode horses there. Lisa’s mom went to beauty school that year and practiced on her kids. It was not unusual for Lisa to get on the school bus each morning with a new perm or frosted bangs. She had a puffy wash and set hairdo for picture day, and I made her mad by laughing at it. My weekends were filled with Nancy Drew and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Mood rings were popular and jean legs were bells, big bells with patchwork fabric sewn onto the bottom. My mother loved that trend because she could squeeze extra months of wear out of my pants. My best Christmas present that year was my first bra. It was a yellow elasticized number that was pretty but definitely unnecessary. All of us girls came back from Christmas vacation excited about our new bras. We talked about them endlessly and showed them to each other in the restroom. There was more flashing going on in that restroom than at Mardi Gras in New Orleans. We talked non stop about boys, too. That was the first year we really started to notice them. It was the year we noticed them noticing us.
It was a year of many changes for us. It was a good year, a fun year. We were oblivious to all of the Watergate, Vietnam, Cold War fallout swirling around us as we practiced our multiplication tables in rural, small town America. 1973 was a good year if you were nine years old at Franklin Elementary. Thanks James for reminding me of that.
Monday, September 10, 2007
There, I said it. Finally. After days of debating whether or not I’m ready to write about this, I’ve finally put it out there. Papa T. has dementia. He’s in the early stages of the illness. We don’t know what’s causing it, but I can tell you it sucks. The doctor handed us the diagnosis a couple of weeks ago, and it still smarts. Individually, we’ve suspected for a while now that he was suffering from it but didn’t really have the nerve to voice it out loud to each other. Mama J. was the first to have the courage to bring up the subject. With some reluctance I did a little internet research and found the symptoms of dementia, which may or may not be caused by Alzheimer’s but results in the behavior we like to call senility or hardening of arteries. I was startled to discover just how many symptoms of dementia he has. That prompted a discussion with the doctor that confirmed our fears.
For the last few months Papa T. has been pretty forgetful. He doesn’t always seem to be as alert as he should be, and sometimes he gets confused. He also wants to sleep and eat all of the time. We blamed it on medication, thin blood and a number of other things. We danced around this unspoken fear probably because we weren’t ready to accept it. After all, he still can’t see much, and his hearing is poor. Neither one of those issues is likely to get better. That’s more than enough to handle. But to know that he has a terminal illness for which there is no cure is heartbreaking. The real sucker punch is knowing what this disease is going to do to his personality. We’ve already had a glimpse of that, and it’s not pretty.
He’s always been a very kind and gentle man. He still is, except when you try to help him with basic functions like getting into the shower or navigating steps. His temper flares, and he says some downright ugly things to the person helping him. Moments later he doesn’t remember saying those things. Perhaps it’s best that way because he would never intentionally hurt those he loves the most, and he would feel terrible if he knew he was being mean. But it does hurt. He was always very particular about his dress and hygiene. That’s fallen by the wayside. He’s an intelligent man who led an entire school district for years, engaged in lively political discussions and chaired important committees in important circles. Yesterday he lost track of half the day believing it was morning when it was late afternoon. Daily, he can’t remember if he’s taken his medicine.
It makes me very sad, but in a way it’s empowering to know what we’re up against. We’ve been slapped in the face with a diagnosis, and it’s up to us to fight back now that our enemy has a name. While we know we can’t win the war, we can win a few battles, and this enemy has no idea what it’s up against. The Hula’s are a determined, stubborn lot. We fight hard, and we fight mean. We were a little stunned by that first blow, but we’ve picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and have put up our fists for the next round. This could get a little bloody.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
I dashed into a couple of shoe stores this morning while I waited for Mama J. to finish up her wash and set at the Beauty Box. I saw six pair of shoes that stole my heart, and none of them were made for the ahem, mature woman. I wanted to take them home anyway. That cute little pair of patchwork Keds would be great with jeans. And the lace Sketchers with the shiny silver trim. Surely, they would work with yoga pants. The polka dot flats with the bow, darling dahling. They'd go great with leggings..if I were young enough to wear leggings. I tried them each on, touched them longingly...and finally put them back. All of them. Poop! Who made up the rule that you have to quit wearing fun clothes when you turn a certain age. I don't want to look goofy, but come on! Clothing for the 40-plus crowd is so....boring. Isn't there something between Hot Topic goth and Sears stretchy pants for my age group that has a little zing? A little sass? A little 'tude?
I have to be careful. The urge to step over the "Too Young For Me" line sometimes gets the better of me. Apparently, I have made that mistake a few times. About five years ago, someone anonymously mailed to me an article from Reader's Digest about women who try to dress too young. I got it at work. No return address. No signature. Just a snarky little jab at my clothing choices. I was shocked...and hurt. No one, including my family, had ever said anything to me about what I wore. After about an hour of ripping mental scabs off my insecurities and trying to guess which Bee-ach sent it (you know it was a woman), I bucked up and decided I didn't care what someone else thought. I was comfortable with me. I shredded the letter. I have never forgotten it, though, and I'm a little paranoid about dressing too young. So, I didn't come home with the sassy red flats or the shiny Sketchers. But I wanted to. Just like I want those boots. Before the month is over, I may order those boots anyway. 'Cause I'm feeling a little bold, a little reckless and not at all 43 years old. I'm not done dancing, thank you, even if some folks my age have hung up their boots and pom pons.
Friday, September 7, 2007
PTO meeting. Is there a new Star Trek movie coming out? Did I miss the anouncement?
November Methodist Women's Circle meeting. I'll need a coat, though.
Ooh, here's one. Is this the boy from "A Christmas Story?"
It might work for the library book sale, but I'd best leave this one on the rack. Anything with this many spots falls under some kind of hunting season in Kentucky.
January parent teacher conference. (note to self: accessorize with Counsin Ernie's bagpipes.)
Look, caftans are back. Wait 'til I tell mom. She'll be excited, she's back in style again.
Company Christmas party. Although, this could be a little breezy, and I'm not sure where to hide the Spanx.
Hey, her glasses are like the first pair I ever had back in 1978. Are those back? Are there pants with this top? If so, I can wear this to the dirt track races.
Trip to Tampa in October, although the carry-on may be a little big, and Sissy may not want to pick me up at the airport. I could always wait and wear it to the TaterFest in the Spring.
Again, I don't want to look like a hick when I leave the house, so just let me know what I need to order from these high dollar houses of fashion. Those high faloutin' designers in New York City know what's best, and I just can't find this kind of stuff in my J.C. Penney's catalog.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
1. Obituary-No flowery language please. Don’t write that I “went to be with the Lord”, that I “was called home” or that I “passed onto the other side after a brave fight against a lengthy illness”. I hope I’m with the Lord, but that’s no excuse for horrible writing. Keep it simple. Just tell them I died and for heaven’s sake, tell them what killed me. I don’t want anyone speculating about the reason for my demise. If I have a nickname, don’t include it in the obituary. The obit page is full of goofy nicknames like Dog, Lightning and Tater, and I don’t want to be remembered as an animal, vegetable or mineral.
2. Visitation-Don’t prop me up at the funeral home for everyone to weep around. I hope you’ll miss me, but I’d rather you celebrate my life than stand around and cry for three hours. Please attend a party in my memory at a local rental hall. There should be plenty of food and drink. Some circus peanuts. At least three flavors of margaritas and dancing. The music should be lively, plenty of Jimmy Buffett, reggae and classic rock. Make a toast to me and have a good time on my dime. The Zeke’s and Baby Ruth’s of my generation will appreciate this.
3. Funeral-I need all the church I can get, so you’d better roll me in there for my final send-off. Be sure to tell everyone to dress casually; shorts and flip-flops. It’s what I’ll be wearing ‘cause I want to be comfortable wherever I’m going next. They can even wear their Parrot Head gear. Close up the coffin because no one looks good as a corpse. Besides, people say stupid things like “doesn’t she look natural” or “didn’t the Jones Brothers do a good job with her makeup”. Gag. Oh, and make sure my hair looks okay. I don’t want someone from the corner Cut ‘N Curl giving me a do that looks like something Aunt Fanny would wear.
4. Music-Three songs at the service: Rod Stewart’s “Sailing”, Bette Midler’s “Sailing Away” and Andrea Bocelli’s “The Prayer”. Tip to the sound engineer: if you don’t cut off the Rod Stewart song promptly, you’ll run into the next song which is “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” and that could be inappropriate. Funny, but inappropriate. We’re in church, so we should also play a hymn, but I haven’t picked that one yet. I want something upbeat. Maybe the Rev. James Cleaveland’s “Get Right Church”. I like to run to that one. When we get to the cemetery I want you to play Jimmy Buffett’s “Tin Cup Chalice” and drink a toast like the song says. Parrot Heads are used to BYOB so there should be plenty to go around.
Those are the basics, the non-negotiables. Everything else is up for grabs. Hopfully, people won’t even recognize these songs by the time I need ‘em. I realize some of you don’t like to talk about this kind of thing, but after reading today’s obituaries, I figured I’d better write down some instructions. There were four nicknames, two sappily written send-offs and five, count ‘em five people in their 40’s who died. It made me a little nervous.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Usually, I’m pretty disciplined about my eating habits. I’m trying to make up for years of lard fried pies and convenience store burritos. During the week, I eat lots of fruits and vegetables. I limit soda to a half a can a day. I skip dessert and limit the deep fried stuff. I let go on the weekend and enjoy some of the bad stuff, but I don’t get too carried away, and I go back to being a good girl on Monday morning. I don’t binge on buffets anymore, and I’ve converted the whole family to skim milk. They give me dirty looks behind my back for it. I can feel it, but I don’t care. It’s good for us.
The one area I have trouble with is candy. I can’t resist a little candy when I’m reading at night. I try to limit myself to a handful of Red Hots or Sweet Tarts, but I can’t break the habit entirely. I’ve tried going cold turkey, but that just led to a frenzied search in the cabinets yielding only dried out Peeps from Easter. Which I ate…in secret…so no one would see me eating four month old candy. I felt like an alcoholic drinking cough syrup because it was the only thing in the cabinet. Ashamed, but satisfied, and then full of guilt. So now I keep a little stash of candy handy and try to control my habit. I’d been doing okay, until I fell off the wagon about two weeks ago. All because of this:
The circus peanut. An orange wad of marshmallow that doesn’t even taste that good. Unless consumed with a glass of iced tea and a good book. I’ve found they’re best when eaten fresh, while they’re still somewhat soft, but I’ll eat them when they’re as dry as cardboard. I’m addicted. I like the way they feel, smooth on the bottom, textured on top. The smell is…I’m not sure how to describe it….a tad fruity but mostly…artificial sweetener. Whoo! God is good. I like that nice piquant aftertaste, too. I can’t stay away from them. I don’t know what brought this on or when it will end, but I’m beginning to worry. I bought a bag last Friday, and it’s already empty, two days faster than the last bag I ate. Sometimes I’m not even aware that I’m eating them. I found one on the bathroom counter Saturday and had no recollection of bringing it in there with me. Food..in the bathroom….that’s desperate…and gross. I grabbed two on the way out the door the other day and got a little panicky when I got belted into the van and couldn’t find them. After a frantic search under Teen Angel’s disgusted gaze I discovered them…in my purse. I didn’t even care that they were fuzzy. I’m telling you. It’s bad. I didn’t even have this kind of weird craving when I was pregnant with Teen Angel. So, I’m admitting my addiction publicly..on these pages…hoping it will shame me into better behavior. All I can say is it’s a good thing I wasn’t in the Garden of Eden. I could have passed on the apple, but if that serpent had waved a circus peanut in my face I would have slid to hell on a fast Brach’s train. Pray for me, brothers and sisters.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Summer is a fierce mistress. She tickles us with her hot hands and shiny skies. We unashamedly bare our imperfect bodies, hoping for relief from her warm embrace. She’s fickle with her rain, sometimes giving us more than enough, but often teasing us with just a damp kiss. She’s attractive, strong and fast moving. By the time fall rolls around most folks are worn out from her demands and need a break. Not me. I hang on until she slips away in a rustle of smoky leaves.
I hate cool weather. I hate the time change and the shortened days it brings. The gray skies suck the energy right out of me. I stomp through wet, slushy streets with the temper of a two year old. Coats make me grumpy. So necessary and so annoying. The holidays help me to make it through December, but January, February and March are long, dreary months that never seem to end. Ninety days to endure until spring weather. Ninety days until the smell of warm dirt and wild onions work their way back into my days. Ninety days until a glimmer of summer’s return. Ninety l-o-n-g days until the love affair resumes.
Goodbye summer. I hope you’ll stick around a little longer. Another month would be nice, but I’ll take whatever I can get. I’d like to pretend that I won’t care when you’re gone…but I can’t. Honestly, it gets harder each year to say goodbye. I’ll see you in six to eight months. I’ll be right here, waiting patiently for your return…with my flip-flops…and my shorts. You won’t forget about me, will you? I’ll be thinking of you.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
Even though I'm not a Possum fan (that's George's nickname), he earned my respect for several reasons last night. Musically, he doesn't try to be something that he's not. He's still singing the stuff that made him famous and hasn't tried to change his style to keep up with the Toby Keith's and Kenny Chesney's. He's 76 years old, and he's still touring. Even though his voice cracks a little now, and he gets winded on the fast songs, he keeps going. He obviously loves what he does. I hope I'm doing something I love when I'm 76. He seems to have a great appreciation for his fans and caters to them. At one point he dedicated a song to a couple celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary. How many artists do that any more? His T-shirts and CD's were very reasonable. $10 for a CD. That's affordable for most any fan. He was witty, down to earth and pretty honest about his drunken past. He dedicated a song to his wife, and sang an old fashioned gospel song; stuff that just doesn't happen at many concerts anymore. I love that he hasn't given up because radio doesn't play his stuff. Maybe Hubby is right. Maybe he is a legend, not because he had a big string of hits but because he's still doing it his way. For that I'll give him a round of applause. And for all the folks who made the people watching fun, I'll give you a round of applause too, for coming just the way you are and not caring what other folks think.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Come on. How cool would it be to be a rock star? I wouldn't want the job on a permanant basis because it would be too crazy. And there's the whole issue of my lack of musical talent. But I'd like to step in their shoes for just for a week. It's probably like going to Vegas. The first few days are exciting, almost overwhelming. About three days into the trip, though, everything starts to seem a little too loud and by the fifth day you just want to leave all that overstimulation behind. I'd like a little piece of that rock star action for just a few days. I would:
Dress like Cher-wild and crazy, just because I could. I wouldn't go quite as scimpy as she does, though. Not matter how old I get, I still have to answer to my mother, and she would kick my hind end when I got back from L.A. for baring my butt cheeks while dancing on a submarine.
Get myself invited to a party at the Playboy mansion-Just to satisfy my curiosity. Can you imagine what the people watching must be like at a party there? Besides, I want to see how old Hef really looks in person when he's not being airbushed or filmed through a fuzzy filter.
Throw a party at my hilltop mansion-make it the social event of the year and not invite Paris Hilton, Nicole Ritchie or Britney Spears. I would invite my favorite authors: Fannie Flagg, Lee Smith, Harper Lee, John Grisham and a bunch of others. I'd also invite Matthew McConoughay because we'd need some eye candy, and he makes my toes tingle.
Use my fame to draw attention to social causes-in the United States. I'm concerned about Darfur, and don't even get me started on the Iraqi War, but most folks don't have a clue how many children in this country go to bed hungry at night or how many senior citizens can't afford to eat and buy their medicine. Then there's the folks who are staggering under medical debt because they can't afford health insurance. I'd hold a concert in front of the White House and invite my other rock star friends to jam with me so we could sell an album afterward and raise lots of money for our cause.
Sit on the patio at The Ivy-so the tabloids will take my picture and I can frame the covers as souvenirs of my brief week of fame.
Visit the VIP lounges in the famous Vegas clubs-The casinos pay famous people to dance and gamble in their clubs. I need someone to pay me to gamble because I'm terrible at it, and I'm too tight to spend more than $20 of my own money on the tables. Just once I'd like to play some really high stakes poker behind sunglasses and dance in an expensive lounge wearing sunglasses.
Go to rehab in Jackson Hole, Wyoming-Not that I'd need it. It's just a tool to boost my fame right?
Wrangle an invitation from that Virgin Records guy to stay at his island in the Virgin Islands-Have you seen his digs at Necker Island on the Travel Channel? I need some of that. I don't want the cabin next to Mariah Carey though. She seems like a whiner.
Buy my own island in the Carribbean-so I can retire after my rock star stint and walk the calm, smooth beaches every morning and languish in the sun with my family or read a book in my hammock and reminice about my previous fame. And play air guitar and sing in the mirror with a hairbrush.