Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Way Back When

We made a flyin' trip to northern Illinois over the weekend, so we could attend my cousin's daughter's wedding.  It was a working weekend for me since I was taking the pictures, but it was fun to see family and be a part of such a fun celebration.  If you've read this blog for any amount of time, ya'll know daddy's side of the family is large.  Really large.  Kind of like the Kennedy's without any of the money.  And several of my cousins and a few aunts and uncles live just south of Chicago in Manteno, Kankakee, Bradlee and New Lennox.  They may be in a few other burgs up there, too but there are so many of my kin I kind of lose track of where everyone is.  Poor Hubby.  Even after 24 years, he stills needs a chart to figure out who's who. 

We traveled to Manteno, driving up early Friday so I'd have time to check out the wedding and reception sites before the rehearsal and to get checked into our hotel.  Mama and daddy rode with us since they're all about a road trip to see family, especially if they can get chauffeured everywhere.  It was also a chance for us to see the town we lived in during the early part of mama and daddy's marriage.  We lived in Manteno until I was five.  Daddy worked at the arsenal in Joliet, and we lived in a small upstairs apartment on the main drag in Manteno, right across from the rail station.  On weekends, mama and I often road the train south to southern Illinois where grandpa and grandma picked us up at the train station for a short visit.  I have vague memories of those train rides.  It seemed like such a big adventure then.  It was $6 a ticket, roundtrip, and they didn't charge for me.  Which was a good thing because mama and daddy had no money back then.  In fact, a lack of money is what sent them north when I was a baby.  I didn't know the full story about that decision until we were talking on the drive north Friday. 

Daddy was a mechanic in the tiny town where we lived.  I was a baby, and mama had quit her nursing job to stay home with me.  Daddy made $55 a week, and as mama put it, they were slidin' in the hole fast.  Daddy asked for a raise.  His boss grandly offered him $5 a week more.  Daddy said that wouldn't work for him and asked for his final check.  He walked out the door, went home to mama and told her to pack.  They were going north where he heard there were jobs.  That was a Saturday.  They left on Sunday.  THE NEXT DAY.   They stayed with my aunt and uncle in Manteno until they could find a place to live and daddy landed a job.  For the next few years, we lived in that small town until shortly after I started kindergarten.  Work took us home to southern Illinois in 1969, where I grew up along with SuperCop, who was born in Manteno right before we moved south and Handy Man who came along later.

My memories of Manteno are of the train station, our second floor apartment (which is still there), the grocery store where I asked the owner to bring me a baby brother just like he shipped in baby chickens and the beauty shop where mama got her hair done and I got treated to a Dr. Pepper and  Hostess cherry pie at each visit.  I'm sure it was to keep me occupied while mama was getting her hair cut, but because it was a special treat I thought a Hostess cherry pie and a Dr. Pepper were the grandest thing outside of Christmas.  I also have memories of spending time at my aunt and uncle's house which was a loud, hoppin' place because of their six kids, five of which were all older than me.  There was always something going on there, and I loved being there.  It was very exciting compared to our house.  It was extremely exciting the day aunt Betty's pressure cooker blew up, spewing food to the ceiling and sending us kids diving under the kitchen table.  There was also the day I choked on a peppermint candy and aunt Betty picked me up by the leg, turned me upside down and swatted that piece of candy out of my mouth and across the room.  I'm not sure, but I think I saw a bright light right before she smacked my back.  Or maybe it was after.  All I know is I owe my life to her quick thinking. 

We drove by their old house Friday while we were killing time before the rehearsal, only to find that it had been torn down.  That made me sad.  I haven't been there in 43 years, but I guess I just hated to see a memory disappear.  We also drove down Main Street, where the heart of the downtown area is.  Across the railroad tracks at 720 Oak Street was our old apartment building.  It looked the same, really.  They've painted it beige and added an awning.  The yard in the back looks the same, and the upstairs balcony where mama took my picture with my birthday cake was still intact.  It all looked like it did during the big winter storm where daddy had to shovel a path from that balcony because our front door was blocked by the snow. 

We drove all over town and throughout parts of Kankakee all weekend as we attended all of the wedding festivities.  We discovered that parts of that area have grown quite a bit.  Some things have changed, much to Daddy's surprise since he couldn't remember how to get around as well as he thought he would.  About thirty minutes after our arrival Friday, I started punching stuff into the GPS instead of relying on his memory.  OR Hubby's internal compass.  The man has a severe distrust of the GPS which gets us into all kinds of trouble and makes my head spin.  Like in the hour before the wedding when we were racing across town to get to the church and they wanted to try some shortcut.  If I don't get into heaven it's likely because of the thoughts I was having during that drive.  Forgive me Lord, for I have sinned. 
It was good to see the old stomping grounds after 43 years.  And it was good to visit the little spots around Manteno that hold fleeting memories from my five year old self.  If we had had more time, we would have seen more and visited more with family.  As it was, we had a great fast weekend that created new memories.  The wedding was beautiful.  The bride was gorgeous, and everyone involved just felt darn good after seeing such a wonderful young woman marry the man of her dreams. 

I didn't take a picture of our old apartment building.  I just had this unexplained reluctance to get out of the car and snap a picture, which is so unlike me.  It didn't occur to me until the ride home that perhaps I just wanted to remember it the way it was back then.  Back when Mama and Daddy had the incredible nerve to just pull up stakes and set up housekeeping in a brand new place hours away from home in the course of 24 hours.  With a hungry baby in tow.  When I asked Mama Friday how she felt about that she just said matter of fact like that they didn't have a choice.  They just did what they had to do.  And they managed to do it with the help of family.  Some of those 23,618 family members that are scattered from one end of Illinois to another.  Like the Rockefellers, but without the money.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

I Almost Forgot my Login and Password

I haven't blogged in quite a while.  I've been incredibly busy, and I had to prioritize the things I needed to do and let fall by the wayside some things I simply like to do.  Like blogging.  And laundry.  And cleaning those pesky baseboards. 

I also needed to take a break from it to find out how I feel about it these days.  Kind of like breaking up with your seventh grade boyfriend just to see if you miss sitting beside him at lunch every day.  Do I still like blogging, circle yes or no. 

I started blogging four years ago to have an outlet for all of those things that roll around in my head.  It was also a way to develop the habit of writing every day, which is an important thing to do if you ever plan to write a book.  Which I do.  Someday, after nursing old folks and putting my child through college, I plan to take out that folder of notes I've been saving and bring to life those characters floating around in my head.  I have already named them and given them certain traits.  I even know how I want at least one of them to develop.  The manuscript doesn't have to get published.  I just want to bring a dream to life. 

But someday is not tomorrow or the day after, and in the meantime, the routine of writing daily without some kind of conclusion in sight was becoming a bit of a grind.  And in the meantime, life holds other joys I want to fully explore, like photography.  Truthfully, I was finding it harder and harder to blog regularly.  So I took a little break.  And I've come to the decision that I don't know how much longer I will continue to blog.  It will certainly be less regular than it has in the past.  I am not going to feel committed to writing every day.   

It's a part of an overall effort to take some control over the "busy-ness" in my life and make my family and my serenity a priority.  I am purposefully shedding some responsibilities in all areas of my life.  I am saying "no", and I mean it.  I roll off my committee assignments at church at the end of the year, and I've asked to be taken off a civic board a year early, in January.  I've been on that board for five years, and it's time for someone else to step up.   That means I will hold no volunteer leadership positions for the next year.  For twelve months, I will do what a lot of other folks do, I will simply show up and enjoy the fruits of someone else's leadership and labor.  I will help Hubby take care of his dad, I will nurture Teen Angel into adulthood and I will enjoy some free time.  And I won't feel guilty about it.

I will blog from time to time, but only when I feel like it.  I will post as the mood hits me, and I will use some of the time I've gained to savor some "me" time. "Me" meaning family.  I may actually watch a little television--if Dish Network quits breaking up with channels I love.  I will read more, and I will definitely take more pictures.  I hope you will continue to join me.  I have missed you, my blogging friends.    

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Gone With the Wind

Well, he may love the recliner and hanging inside the house on cool nights, but he refuses to do two things:  he won't use the litter box, and he won't wear a collar.  You are looking at the face of a very sweet kitty who has now worn and torn off six, count 'em, SIX collars.

Apparently, his opinion of collars  is the same as Hubby's thoughts on socks.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Say Hello to my Little Friend

The other day I drove to a particular wooded area to try to catch a picture of some cranes that I'd seen landing in that area when I had driven by a couple of times.  As I rounded the corner, a blur crossed my path, creating this noisy crashing sound, and I braked the car to a quick stop.  I realized it was a deer.  A young deer.  He stopped a few yards from me and stared at me, probably wondering what on earth I was doing in his neck of the woods.  I'm not sure who was surprised more, him or me.  My camera happened to be in an open case in the seat behind me, and I slowly reached around and grabbed it.  I managed one quick shot before he dashed off into the bushes.  He was beautiful, and in the 3.5 seconds I had my eyes locked on him, I felt like I was staring into the face of God.  What a lovely creature. 

I missed the cranes.  They weren't there.  But I got something better.  I love it when things happen that way.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hanging on!

Even though the really hot days of summer are over, and the weather can be a tad cool for swimming, we decided to have one last blast to wrap up the pool season.  We have to put the cover on it soon, but we wanted one last hurrah before we start accepting the reality called autumn.  Pffft.  Autumn.  Her skies may be lovely and her foliage may be stunning, but my heart belongs to summer.  And we will miss those warm days splashing around with family and friends.  I think we had three weekends out of the entire season when we didn't have company.   We literally spent just about every weekend, whooping it up with friends.  We will miss it, so with the prospect of seven months of cool weather ahead, we wanted to go out with a bang.  And bang we did. 

It was 78 degrees Saturday, but we cranked up the heater on the pool and forged ahead.  All of our little friends paddled and played, while their mamas and daddies swam, visited, ate and played cornhole.  For six and a half hours.  Yep, six and a half hours.  And about that fifth hour when one little friend told me it was "the best party EVER", I said, "Self, life is good."  It really was the best party EVER. 

There were spills.

And chills.

Back flips.
Water gun fights.

Dunking and tossing.

And even a few wedgies.

Oh, and dancing.  Don't forget the dancing.

I looked up at one point to see a new kid in the pool and had to ask where he came from.  When everyone finally went home, there were more crumbs on the Man Cave floor than a mouse could eat all winter, the beverages were pretty depleted, and most all of the food was gone.  We're still finding random pool toys in the yard, which makes us laugh to no end.  Hubby mopped the Man Cave floor three times, and we washed two heaping loads of beach towels.  And we didn't mind one bit.  It was a great time, yes indeed.  A wonderful time.  Life is good.  Really good. 
And now to dig out some socks.  Pfffft. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hula-gen Family Fun Fact #93

Hula's love of hats started before she could even walk.  And apparantly, before she even owned a legitimate hat.

Friday, September 14, 2012

If Only Troubles Melted Like Lemon Drops

Monday marked Suicide Prevention Day.  I thought about writing about Sissy then, but I just didn't feel prepared to put into words what I was feeling that day.  We passed the three year anniversary of Sissy's suicide in April, and I had the same issue then.  I didn't really know what to write.  And I have found that if I don't know what to say, it's best to just sit back and say nothing until I'm ready.  When I'm ready, the words will come.

I really can't believe it's been three years.  Time flies so fast now, that it really only seems like a year or so since she took her own life.  A lot has happened in that time period, but the memories of the night of her death are still very fresh.  While I'm a little more numb to them now than I was even a year ago, they are very vivid.  Even when I'm old, I don't think I'll ever forget that knock on the door in the wee hours of the morning.  Those moments stick with you.  They slip back into the recesses of your mind and your heart, but they bubble back up when you hear about or witness someone else deal with a tragedy.  I sometimes think the final stage of grief is being able to keeping that boiling pot of feelings at a simmer 95% of the time instead of the full rolling churn it can often be if we let it consume us.  And that churn is really what brought Sissy down.  That, and the fact that she relied on dangerous vices to navigate her melancholy days.

Sissy's depression started in earnest with the death of her son.  The day he died is the day she stopped living.  She fought it for a little while but lost the urge pretty quickly.  About a month after her son died, her husband underwent a kidney/pancreas transplant.  She spent long hours at the hospital dealing with her husband's fight for life, and in an effort to cope, she started drinking regularly to block out the nightmares of her son's drowning and her husband's condition so she could sleep.  And once she started drinking, she never stopped.  Through her husband's recuperation, their eventual divorce, his death and those early years after my nephew's death, she grew to rely on alcohol and eventually her prescription medication to get through the days.  She lived several hours away from us , and when we visited her, she kept herself together to the point that it took us a long time to realize she had an issue with alcohol.  We truly didn't realize how severe it had become until she moved to Florida following the suicide of a close friend of hers.  In Florida, she tried to take her own life. 

She called us that afternoon, and as I talked to her, she sounded distant.  When I tried to call her back later, I got no answer.  And even though she hadn't given us any indication that anything was wrong, I just had this horrible feeling in my gut that something was wrong.  I felt this panicky, sick feeling that wouldn't go away, and I called some friends of hers who lived in that same city, and I insisted that they check on her.  They had seen her only hours before, said she was fine and were skeptical of my concern.  I had to beg them to go, and they finally did.  When they arrived, they found her half dead in the garage in a running car.  It was the first of what would be many times she tried to kill herself.

We moved her home to Kentucky and for the next three years, spent just about every hour of every day trying to keep her alive.   It didn't work, and the morning the deputy knocked on our door, we knew the news before he spoke a word.  By that point, we had made many trips to the hospital with her, following ambulances, standing in ER rooms and riding the rolling coaster of her attempts to end her pain.  We had done everything we could.  And it didn't work.

It took six days to find her body and pull it from the river into which she had jumped.  For her last suicide attempt she had chosen a bridge.  She wanted it to work that time.  She just didn't want to fight her demons anymore.  And while we were profoundly sad, I was glad she was at peace finally.  So many times she had told me through tears that she just wanted to be at peace.

I think about her often.  When we drive over that bridge, I can't help but imagine what it was like for her that night.  I can't imagine the courage it took to climb onto the side and take that fateful step.  I wonder a lot of things about that jump, but I can't think about it for very long or I start to crack open the lid on a box that I don't want to crawl back into.  Because we live in her house now, I sometimes think about her when I'm lying in bed, in the same part of the bedroom where she slept.  I lay in the dark, imagining what it was like when she lacked the strength to get out of bed, when she felt lonely and when she was thinking of death.  I wonder how that felt, how she got to the point where life hurt so bad she just wanted it to stop.  And I can't imagine that feeling.  I just can't.  I've always loved life too much.  And I've always had hope.  I don't know what it's like to be without hope.  Thank God, I don't know what that's like.

I think about her when I hear her favorite song.  Just yesterday, Somewhere Over the Rainbow shuffled through my iPod.  We played that song at her funeral.   The version on my iPod is from Eric Clapton, and it reminds me of the time she and I saw him in concert together.  It was the last great time we had together, and that song makes me smile and cry at the same time. 

Back in April, I was running at lunch on the anniversary of her death, when I passed a beautiful bloom that had fallen from a magnolia tree.  I had to smile at the obvious metaphor.  Sissy was like that bloom.  Beautiful but knocked off its foundation and doomed to an early death by a strong wind she just couldn't withstand.  Lovely on the outside but likely to crumble at any time. 

Throughout our struggles with Sissy in those last few years of her life, I chose not to write about a lot of what we endured.  Partially, for the privacy of the family, but also because it just hurt too much.   Living closely with and caring for someone who is crippled by depression and substance abuse is overwhelming.  It consumes you.  And that's why I'm writing about it now.  Not because I have any great words of wisdom or solutions.  Hardly.  There are things I'd do differently if I were doing it all over again, but I know we did our best, and that's all anyone can do.  I'm writing because I have learned in the past three years that there are many people dealing with the same situation.  Because Sissy chose to die in a very public way, the whole community came to know about our situation.  Since then, several people have told me privately that they have a loved one who is an alcoholic or is suicidal.  Out of embarrassment or shame, they deal with it quietly.  And they hurt. 

If you are in that position, you are not alone.  There are people and organizations that can help.  Do not be afraid to seek them out.  I found Al-Anon to be a great help for me.  And more than once, I looked up at a meeting to see someone I knew (I live in a relatively small town) wandering in out of desperation and frustration over a loved one's addictive behavior.  They were surprised to see a familiar face but glad to have someone they could share their pain with. 

You have to find ways to take care of yourself or else your loved one's issues will consume you, too.  For three years, we went to bed every night wondering if we would find Sissy dead in the morning.  We started each day wondering if she would make it through the day.  We were afraid to go to sleep, so we stayed exhausted and sick.  I couldn't keep weight on my body.  I got down to 113 lbs, which was way too low.  No matter how hard I tried to keep food in my system, it either came back up or roared through my intestines.  You have to stop focusing 100% of your energy on the afflicted and take care of yourself.  It's okay to step away when you need to in order to keep yourself healthy.     

Know that you cannot control someone's behavior.  You can help them.  You can even save them if they want to be saved.  But you cannot force someone to want to live.  That's a very hard concept to accept.  The head knows it, but the heart doesn't understand.  Do all you can, but know that if your loved one dies at his own hands, it's not your fault.  You are not to blame.  You are NOT to blame.

I've always thought suicide was a selfish act.  And I still do, but I'm more forgiving of it now.  I know Sissy didn't want to hurt us when she chose to die.  She just wanted her pain to end, and she couldn't see past that.  I'm not as angry at her as I used to be.  I'm still angry at her psychiatrist, whom I feel fueled her addictions with a blind eye and a heavy prescription pad, but that's an entirely different post.  In the end, the blame for her death lies mostly with her.  If she had not chosen to live in the bottle after my nephew's death, she might still be with us.  Maybe not.  I will never know the answer to that question.  I will never know what triggered her jump on that particular night in April of 2009.  I stopped looking for answers many months ago because that's living in the past.  Living in the past and not the future led Sissy down a path I don't want to take. 

Her death hurt then, and it hurts today, but not as much as it did three years ago.  It gets better as time goes by.  I am a changed person because of that experience.  I hold my loved ones close, often too close, especially Teen Angel.  I live with a dread of loss.  I am wary of the willingness of doctors to dole out prescription drugs at ease.  And while I enjoy an adult beverage now and then, I'm leery of its power.  But I live passionately.  I don't just dream, I work to make my dreams come true and I try to find joy in every day.  I live somewhere over the rainbow, if you will.  I think Sissy would want it that way.    

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I Just Can't Keep From Singing

Ya'll, I love a good bracelet.  I rarely go anywhere without wearing one, or two..or three.  I'm especially fond of a good cuff, and when I found this Tuesday over at Rustic Cuff, I felt like I'd just hit the jackpot.  Trust me when I tell you that no one deserves this bracelet more than me.

"Yes, I know I can't sing.  Yes I'm going to keep singing anyway."

And oddly enough, my family agrees.  I keep telling my husband to quit leaving the TV on those music infomercials unless he wants me to sing every song from the Sound of the 70's.  And 60's....and 80's.  Heck, I can even do the country ones.  Not in key, mind you. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Catching Up

I've neglected my poor little blog lately.  Partly because I've been busy with other things.  And also, I just didn't have the motivation to string together some kind of cohesive post.  My blogging mojo could use a little boost.  I'm not sure what to do about that, so I've been sitting back hoping something would magically inspire me to write some creative witty ditties that would fill these pages, but alas, the writing fairy has screwed me over again.  She must be hanging out with that ornery laundry fairy who bales on me quite frequently, too.  Oh, well.  Some days you're Cinderella.  Some days you're the mouse with a too small shirt and a shrill voice.

The past few days have been filled with a lot of work, some good times with family and lots and lots of picture taking.  I've been working overtime some, and fortunately, I love my job, so I don't mind.  Besides, it's a blessing to be employed during this stinky economy, so I wouldn't dare complain about working.  I like having groceries and being able to keep my lights on.  And sister mercy, it takes a wad of cash to keep the lights on these days.  The extreme heat sent our electric bill soaring this summer.  It hurts so much I'm almost wishing fall would arrive.  Almost.  But not quite.

We had a big get together with my brothers and cousins on mama's side on Labor Day.  That was lots of fun, and a great excuse to splash around in the pool.  Sadly, we will be closing the pool soon, so we plan to have one last big bash this weekend before we have to put the cover on it.  It will also be a good way to empty the man cave fridge of all those odd condiments, sauces and adult beverages that have accumulated in there during the various parties we've had this summer.  Last time I looked we had six kinds of beer, five odd bottles of wine and four kinds of soda out there.  Oh, and Hubby just added a kegerator to the man cave.  It's apparently an item coveted by many men because every time I mention it in the company of men they get this excited look on their faces and want to know more AND the UPS man almost wet his pants with excitement when he delivered it.  We don't even know the UPS man.  The weather looks to be a wee bit cloudy and cool this weekend, possibly even a little wet, but I've decided to damn the torpedoes and push straight ahead with the festivities.  I may be sitting under an umbrella on the deck in a downpour, but I will NOT let the weather ruin my last chance at celebrating summer.  Is there some kind of voo doo spell I can put on the skies?

The past few weeks have been filled with picture taking.  Babies, babies, babies and brides and grooms to be.  I've been stuffing my little travel envelope with money and keeping my fingers crossed that it will grow enough for me to be eating cannoli in Venice in May.  We'll see.  At the very least, it's been keeping me busy.  I'm finally caught up until I have to shoot a wedding in a week and a half.  I'll have a chance to shoot some stuff just for fun in the next week while the weather's not so gosh forsaken hot.  Look out, flowers and bugs!

I hope all is going well with you.  I'll be catching up on your blogs in the next few days, too.  That means checking out your art, hearing about your new home purchase, looking at your pictures and generally catching up on all those things that my blogging friends do.  It will be a refreshing change from all of the crazy political posts on FaceBook these days.  Frankly, the election can't get here soon enough.  Oy vey.      

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Maybe They're With all the Socks That are Missing From our Washing Machine

This guy?  The one with the beautiful blue collar that we've taken into our humble family. 

The one who wandered in the wilderness for a couple of years, killing his own food and searching for shelter in the winter walking uphill barefoot both ways, before he finally came across our doorstep.  The one who begs for attention and has claimed the ottoman in the family room as his own perch?  The little stinker has now torn off five, count 'em FIVE, collars.  He will not keep one on.  I think it's his way of saying, "I love you, but you're not the boss of me."  Just like a cat.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Photo Friday Challenge-"Modern Life"

From Broadway and 44th in New York City.
For all of the other entries, hop on over to here.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Y'all Know How I Love Sunflowers

Sometimes when I get the urge to shoot some pictures, and I don't have time to go anywhere, I just pop outside and shoot whatever is in the backyard.  This year, we planted a few sunflowers at the edge of the garden.  They weren't very big, but they certainly had bold color when they bloomed.  I caught them one night when the light was just right and was thrilled with the colors I found in the images I took.  We're definitely planting more next year.  Did you hear that, Hubby?  We're planting more.  Yes, indeed.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Excitement Abounds

Where to start?  My class reunion this past weekend or the four hours of my life I lost to jury duty this morning?  It's just one exciting event after another around here. 

The reunion was fine.  It was our 30th.  I'll let you do the math on that rather than say it aloud, and if anyone asks, I'm still 41 years old, okay?  I had a few reservations about attending because there were a few really immature folks at our last reunion that kind of turned me off from the whole thing, but at the last minute I decided to go, and I'm glad I did.  There were some people there whom I hadn't seen in thirty years, and it was good to reconnect with them.   I was really pleased that I didn't fail to recognize anyone.  That happened at the last reunion, and I was really embarrassed.  We were smart enough to have name tags this time, thank heavens.    
The odd thing about this reunion was the realization that we are old enough to have grandchildren.  Sweet mother of Mabel, how is that possible?!  Everyone's conversation about their kids revolved around college, grad school and weddings and for some, grandbabies.  As I stood there talking to one friend who has two grandchildren, my brain kept rejecting that notion.  In fact, that scene from Terms of Endearment where Aurora has trouble accepting that she's going to be a grandmother rolled through my head.  Twice.

It just doesn't seem possible that thirty years has passed since we tossed our graduation caps in the air and leaped into the wild wild world of adulthood.  The proof is there, though, in the thinning hair and thicker waists.  Despite our best efforts to tuck everything in with Spanx and straighten our posture, it's impossible to hide the fact that we're just not as young as we used to be.  We're the people we never thought we'd become.  I have mixed feelings about that.  Is that the way my parents felt just a couple of decades ago or even now?  That the person they are on the outside is older than the person on the inside?  Hmm.   

The good news is our class, as a whole, seems to be doing well.  In fact, I think we look darn good. 

Some folks have had some medical issues, and a few have had some hard knocks, but mostly, we're doing well and trying our best to shake the good stuff out of life.  I talked with a classmate who spent eight months in a coma and two years in the hospital after a motorcycle wreck.  He should be dead, but he's doing well, and I walked away feeling blessed to have had that conversation with him. 
I did NOT feel blessed after spending all morning at the courthouse today in jury selection.  It took four hours to pick a jury for a four day civil trial against two local doctors, and three of those hours were consumed by asking potential jurors about their biases, their relationship with the parties involved and their medical knowledge.  I didn't make the final cut, but I had to sit through it all until they had their panel, and I wanted to bang my head on the bench in front of me about half way through it all.  The attorneys were SO repetitive.  And the people who are obviously trying to worm or cry their way out of jury duty by pretending to be biased one way or the other or feigning some kind of hardship drove me out of my ever lovin' mind.  Jury duty isn't my favorite thing to do, but it's a necessary part of being an American citizen, so I do my civic duty.  However, it sure was boring today, and now I'm waaaaay behind at work.  I am finished with jury duty for the month, and it will be two more years before they can draw my name again. That means the next time they call me, I will have passed a big birthday.  Um, 43.  I have found that time marches slower if you just lie about your age.

PS...A big shout out to Madd Maxx who is fueling up his generator and stocking the pantry this evening.  Isaac's comin' your way, Maxx.  Hang on!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

22 and Counting

Hubby and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary this past weekend.   It's was a fairly tame celebration with a wonderful steak dinner and a little walk around the downtown area.  When I think about all the time we've been married, my first thought was, "My, how time flies!"  My second?  It is a good man indeed who puts up with all of my shenanigans.  Thank goodness, he tolerates me 'cause no one else would.  I am truly blessed.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Little Shiner

I was always pretty relieved that I had a girl and didn't have to suffer through being a football mom.  I know some moms embrace their children's football participation with full blown enthusiasm, but I would have spent every game worrying about neck injuries, paralysis and concussions.  Especially after a neurosurgeon told me he could count on most of his business to come from ATV's, trampolines and football.  Sometimes, being on a local hospital committee gives you insight into things you'd be more comfortable not knowing.  Since Teen Angel didn't play football, I pleasantly told myself I didn't have to worry about such things.  Until now.

Until my tomboy daughter took up roller derby at the late great age of 18.  After years of braces, corrective shoes and us nurturing her into a healthy young women, she went and joined the rowdiest sport she could think of.  For the last year and a half, I have watched her bouts with one eye closed, praying the whole time she wouldn't fall and knock out some teeth or break a bone.  It wasn't until recently that I could actually watch with both eyes open and cheer with great spirit.  I had started to relax a little.  Not much, but a little.  And then, in an out of town bout this past weekend, she fell and took a skate to the face.  She scraped her face, bruised the area just below her eye and busted the inside of her lip. 
Saturday Night

She was darn lucky she didn't lose an eye or some teeth.  And yet, she is thrilled with her darkening eye.  It's a badge of honor in her world.  A sign of toughness. 

I guess all those times she came home from preschool with ripped tights and busted knees were a precursor to all of this roller derby business, but I sure didn't see it comin' at this age.  And after this weekend, I'm back to worryin'.  And watching with one eye closed.  Maybe two.  Aye, yi, yi.  Is this why they invented vodka?    

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Word of the Day-"Fatuous"

Pronunciation:  fa'-chü-əs
Origin:  Latin fatuus foolish

First Known Use: 1633

Definition:  complacently or inanely foolish:  silly
Used in a sentence:  "With her fanny stuck in the air and her head against the convenience store floor, Hula felt extremely fatuous fishing her wallet out from under the big ice cream freezer where it slid when she dropped it." 

Right by the checkout counter, yes indeedy.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Happy Weekend

There are so many crazy things going on in the world that the news today left me feeling a little confused about what I wanted to write about. I write what I feel, and with all of the political bantering (Come on, November!) and the sadness that was swirling around different corners of the world today, I borrowed a phrase from a good friend of mine and said, "Bump it." I thought I'd simply share something that might make me smile. If you haven't checked out Pogo's remixes on YouTube, try it sometime. He takes sounds and snippets from movies, adds some jams and turns them into something really fun. Feel free to tap your toe right into a nice weekend. Ciao, friends and neighbors. Let's make the world a better place next week, shall we?

Thursday, August 16, 2012


So, I glanced at the calendar today and said to myself, "Self, this time last year you were sittin' outside the Louvre, soaking up the Paris sunshine.  And now you're not."  And then I said, "Snap."  Or something like that.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Another Road Trip Well done

We had a large time in Louisville.  The shopping was fine, we had some tasty food and the show was excellent.  It was outdoors, and there was a chance of thunderstorms, but the rock and roll gods were looking out for us, and it rained nary a drop.  Well, just a couple of tiny drops that made me wonder if we were indeed going to need our ponchos or worse, have another incident like the Eric Clapton tornado that Sissy and I endured a few years ago in Indianapolis.  But the storms stayed away, and we were simply left with a breeze that floated along the riverfront park where 16,000 of us gathered to hear Mumford and Sons.  Thanks goodness, because we've typically had 100 degree weather all summer.  I cannot imagine how hot and stinky things would have been with that kind of heat and all those bodies packed into one place.

The boys from the UK were in fine form, and we managed to get in the gates pretty early, giving us a spot on the grass pretty darn close to the stage.  I'm not good with guessing distance, but I'm going to say we were about forty feet from the stage.

Dear Blackberry, you need a better camera on your phones.  Sincerely annoyed, Hula.

Anyway, we threw our small blanket on the ground and managed to hold a decent piece of space for a while, but inevitably, the folks squeezed closer, and our little patch of real estate became just enough space to stand.  I warded off attempts by three different young folks to squeeze in front of us and push us back.  And can I pause here for just a moment to rant?  Why yes, I think I will. 
Don't get me wrong, I love young people.  I love being around them.  They keep ME young.  But one of my biggest pet peeves is really young girls who believe they can manipulate people into giving them what they want by being cute.  That mess doesn't fly with me.  We had one girl who literally squeezed through the crowd and planted herself in front of me where there wasn't really room enough for her to stand.  In fact, the girl next to me had to lean back to make room for Miss Cuteness and couldn't even stand up straight.  The interloper pretended  to be looking for someone but proceeded to stand there and make herself comfortable.  After it was obvious she wasn't going anywhere, I tapped her on the shoulder and told her to move on.  She batted those eyelashes at me, and I told her in no uncertain terms why she was going to leave NOW.  I may or may not have used my pointing finger.  (The finger of 180 degrees Teen Angel fondly calls it.)  She moved along quickly.  Call me an old fart, but I just didn't feel like taking that kind of crap from someone less than half my age.  I'm older and have more insurance.  Plus, I can afford bail.  Twanda!

Other than that little brush with ridiculousness, we sang, we danced and had a great time.  The band was in great form and rocked the riverfront for us.  I did have a moment while standing in the "pit" where everyone was jumping up and down when I wondered if I'm getting too old to do that kind of thing, but I finally decided I wasn't as long as I could keep up.  However, I will admit to wondering if I was going to get an embolism from standing in one spot for three hours. 

That wraps up our summer concert tour, and I told Hubby last night we were done driving around the countryside for concerts for a while.  And then? This morning I got an email telling me that Bruce Springsteen is going to be at the YUM Center in Louisville in November.  Sweet!  Tickets go on sale Friday.  I'm tempted boys and girls.  Sorely tempted.  And this one is arena seating.  I won't have to arm wrestle teenagers for a place to stand.  I might have to arm wrestle some middle aged farts like me though.  Twanda!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Random Hula-gen Texts

Teen Angel and I are headed to Louisville for a couple of days to shop and see Mumford and Sons in concert.  She sent me this text Thursday.  I like the way she thinks.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cover Girl Scores Gold

There are two things that happened this week that made me very happy.  There were a couple of news reports that called these Olympic games the year of the woman.  And while you can debate the number of medals won and lost and whether women are really gaining more freedom when some of these athletes will return to countries where they can't vote or speak their minds, the bottom line is that the games have certainly highlighted women's athletic strengths.  There are a few idiot fans who want to focus on Gabby Douglas' hair instead of her wonderful abilities.  Some female athletes have been called too thin, others too thick, and their looks are burning up the twitter feeds by some birds who don't have anything else better to flap about.  BUT.  It is impossible to ignore the performance of strong dedicated women who are showing all those very young girls watching TV right now that beauty is more than a size zero waist and a spray on tan.  There are female athletes of all ages who are dashing across the small screen with power, intelligence and grace.  When they win and lose.  Is there anyone more gracious and honest than Lo Lo Jones when it comes to losing a medal?  And how about Gabby Douglas giving a shout out to God?  That kind of thing takes independence and courage these days.  And I love it.  Such a nice change of pace from all of the reality crap that falsely makes our young people think that success comes in the form of being famous for nothing other than a rich parent or a sex tape.

And then Cover Girl went and named Pink their new, well, cover girl. 

Giddy-up!  I love Pink.  She is smart and talented and has been challenging the popular notion of beauty for a long time.  I think she's beautiful with her spiky hair and funky clothes....and her brains.  Good for you, Cover Girl.  And good for us.
Oh, and Blogger was being turd, so I couldn't post the video I wanted to link directly here.  You'll have to get there this way.  Blogger does not get a medal today.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Seasons in the Sun

It's that time of year when I suddenly start to get a little sad that summer is winding down.  It always slips up on me, perhaps because I enjoy summer so much.  What can I say?  I was born in July. 

It happens every year, the same way it has since I was young.  I look up and notice that the days aren't quite as long as they used to be, and every now and then a whisper of cool air brushes against my skin, foretelling things to come.  I try to ignore the signs, but they're there, niggling at my brain, growing louder and louder until they can't be ignored.  By the time September rolls around, they'll be shouting at me.  And it will be too loud for my ears.
The younger kids go back to school this week.  My teacher friends went back to work yesterday.  Late bedtimes and full days of swimming are over for my little friends who have filled our swimming pool this season.  As one of those little friends dried off and gathered up his stuff to go home Saturday night, he sweetly asked me, "Miss Hula, can we do this again before school starts?"  And I didn't have the heart to tell him we were out of time.  I handed him a homemade snow cone and told him we'd do it again soon.  We'll do it again on the weekends until there is no more warm weather, and the pool has to be covered to keep out the falling leaves.  Hubby and I looked at each other after our company left Saturday night and talked about how boring our weekends were going to seem this winter.  We've had such a full summer, right in our backyard. 

Without really planning it, we've had company almost every weekend.  Aside from a planned family get together and a pool party we scheduled way back in January, everything else has been spontaneous.  We told friends that we get in the pool every Saturday and that they are welcome at any time.  We told them they didn't need an invitation, to just call ahead and make sure we were there.  And they have.  Every Friday or Saturday, I'll get a text or a call, and before you know it, Saturday has turned into a party of sorts.  We don't make a big deal out of food.  We simply keep the Man Cave stocked with paper supplies, sodas, beer and drinks for the kids.  By now, they all make themselves at home.  The kids know where their drink cooler is.  They know where the pool toys are, and they know where we keep the scissors to cut open those little frozen popsicle sticks we stock in the freezer.  The parents know where the towels and adult beverages are, and we all just float and swim and take it easy for hours at a time.  If meal time rolls around and we get hungry, we pull some hot dogs out of the freezer and grill or we order pizza.  The pizza delivery people all know to come around to the back of the house by now without us telling them when we place the order. 
It has been a very fun, pleasant summer with a lot of laughter and good times.  We will miss it when it ends.  I'll missing the swimming.  I'll miss the homegrown tomatoes and the sunshine.  And I'll miss the casual clothes, the bare feet and the smell of a neighborhood grill roasting something good to eat.  I'll miss all of the little sights and sounds of summer.  The whir of mowers, the shouts of the neighbor kids playing basketball until long after dark, the feel of the warm ground under my feet, and the laziness of long days.  Iced tea in a sweating glass, the crunch of crushed ice in between my teeth and the burst of sweetness from biting into corn on the cob. 

It's been a long hot summer here.  Temperatures have hovered around 100 degrees for weeks, and a lot of the crops have burned up.  The grass is brown, and most everyone else is looking forward to cooler weather.  And while, it will be a relief to run in cooler temperatures, I will be sad to see summer go.  As always, I am reluctant to turn it loose.  I'm not sure why I love it so much, other than I hate cold weather.  Perhaps, because it reminds me of the joy and freedom I felt during summer vacation as a kid.  Whatever the reason, summer warms my soul, and it is hard for me to turn loose of the joy it brings me.  We still have about a month and a half left of what I call summer weather, and we'll make the most of it.  We'll  squeeze as much out of the weekends as we can, and when I finally stow away my flip flops, I can say it was a blessed and beautiful season.  We will do it again, my little friend.  That we will.  And the memories of this summer will tide me over until the season of sun and laughter rolls around again.      

Friday, August 3, 2012

Photo Friday Challenge-"Luminous"

I do love a good dew fall.  For all of the other luminous, you can head over to here.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I didn't manage to write a post yesterday evening because I couldn't seem to muster up the time or energy.  I really need to start getting to bed a little earlier but last night there was volleyball and swimming and diving and sister mercy, what about the gymnastics?  I laughed.  I cried.  I wanted to hug John Orozco when he had such a bad day and I just wanted to hop on a plane and pinch the cheeks of Missy Franklin 'cause she' s the cutest thing that side of the Atlantic right now.  Well, aside from Gabby Douglas.  And who knew there could be so much controversy in badmitten?  Anyway, the Olympics drama and the need to finish editing 6,293 wedding pictures kept me planted on the couch with Photoshop, a remote and a big glass of iced tea until I watched Dannel get his bronze medal.  Yea, Dannel! And THEN I dragged myself to bed.  Oh, and I didn't mean what I said Tuesday about the Japanese men's gymnastics team.  I was just uber excited for the British because what's not to like about the British?  And gosh darn it, they're way behind in the medal count.  I was a little cranky then, but now I'm all Kumbaya.

You may be asking yourself, "I wonder if there's a point where Hula will get burned out on the games and go back to eating bon bons and filing her toenails?"  And the answer would be no.  I can eat bon bons, file my toenails and watch TV all at the same time.  Although, I did bail on some of the synchronized diving last night in order to half heartedly clean the kitchen.  (I never clean with a full heart.  It's just not in my DNA to get ANY pleasure out of cleaning.)  It's not that I don't like synchronized diving.  It's just that I had to miss SOMETHING in order to get some chores done, and it sure wasn't going to be Ryan Lochte.  And I did have to spend a little time on the internet booking a hotel room for our quick trip to Louisville in a couple of weeks.  Score!  In a blind buy on Hotwire last night I got a room at the Galt House in downtown Louisville for $70, which is much less than half price and puts us close to the concert venue.  Slap my bottom and call me baby.  That's a far better deal than when the Nashville downtown Holiday Inn Express tried to plunder me booty for $383 last week.  I toyed with the idea of calling the HIE up last night and shouting, "Boo-ya!" into the phone, but I figured I'd probably just get a very bewildered operator in Fargo, North Dakota.  Sorry, Fargo.  You were the first out of the way place I could think of when typing this.  I'm sure you have a very nice city. 

Ogling the Italian swimmers prompted me to check, for the heck of it, prices for flights to Italy, and they've dropped about $700 in the past month or so.  If they stay that way, we might actually be able to go in May when Teen Angel wraps up the spring semester of school.  My fingers are crossed.  In the meantime, we keep saving.  I put some photography money and some of Teen Angel's tip money from the restaurant into the trip account yesterday.  I felt the need to apologize to the teller for all of the $1 bills.  Or at least clarify that I'm not a stripper.   I also had to apologize for the random pennies stuck in the roll of dimes because SOMEBODY in my house didn't roll change properly.  If we ever get to Italy, I'm going to dub it the George Tour after all of the $1 bills and quarters we saved to get there.

I had to report for jury duty yesterday, which was interesting.  I've done it before, and I don't mind doing it, but because of all the goings on they had at the courthouse yesterday morning, there were no parking spaces at the courthouse, which is unheard of.  Our town just isn't big enough for that kind of traffic issue.  Or I didn't think it was.  It would be like Barney Fife not having enough room in his gun for all of the bullets he carried.  And that's NOT some kind of political statement about gun control.  I'm clarifying that because you can't make a comment in the US about guns, cookies or chicken these days without someone assuming it's a political stance on a social issue.   Anger...it's what's for dinner.  With rainbow Oreos for dessert.    

I managed to avoid getting picked for the grand jury, which normally I wouldn't mind having to do, but they were meeting on every one of my extra days off in the next two months.  In the summer?  When the number of swimming days are dwindling?  Um, I'd rather not.  As it is, I'm in the pool for trial duty for all of August, and they have a busy court docket this month, so it will be interesting to see what I have to do.  I've never minded jury duty.  It's a civic duty, and I'm enough of a legal nerd to enjoy being a part of that process.   Or maybe I just read too much Grisham.  The bottom line is that I'm fine with having to sit on a jury if it comes to that. 

The last time I had to do this I was chosen for a child abuse trial, which actually surprised me because by the time the voir dire was over, I'd admitted to having a brother who was a police officer, a husband who was a retired parole officer, a former career in journalism and being the chair of the board for the local child advocacy center.  I wanted to pull the defense attorney aside, and go, "Dude, are you SURE you don't want to exercise a strike against me?  I don't seem to be your type."  In the end we had to acquit the defendant, even though we felt like he was guilty.  The prosecution just didn't prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.  While we were following the law, it sure made my stomach queasy to let that guy off the hook.  As daddy would say, somebody needed to take him out back and give him a good arse whippin' for breaking that child's arm.   Our justice system is pretty good, but it's not perfect.

And neither is our society.  We're not perfect, my fellow Americans.  I think Time Magazine got it right when they said 2011 was the year of the protest.  Stand up for what you believe in, but remember, freedom of speech is for everyone, not just those who agree with you, and we're all in this together.  The Olympic games are a reminder of what we can do when we work together for the good of the team.  Can't we all just get along and share our chicken sandwiches with one another?