Friday, December 7, 2012

Snap...Crackle...Pop...

As the garage door started its noisy ascent that morning, the beginning to another scorching-hot summer day was revealed. It was late June, and the southeast was experiencing record-breaking heat and humidity. Unlike many kids who while away their summer days by sleeping late and playing video games, my children spend their weekdays at an adventure camp, where they kayak, hike, bike and swim in the river. That means our mornings are organized chaos, filling water bottles, slathering on enough sunscreen to adequately cover an elephant, and making sure they have both water shoes and hiking shoes. That particular morning seemed extra rushed as we were taking precautions to make sure the kids survived a day in the 100ยบ+ sun.

Our routine was that we all left at the same time each day. My husband would head straight to work, and I would take the kids to camp on my way to the office. We all hurriedly piled into the cars, and my husband pulled away down the street. As I eased out of the garage, there was immediately a loud popping sound, a sound like a gunshot. It was so loud that I yelped. My husband even heard it and slammed on his brakes to see what happened. He told me later that he thought my tire had somehow blown, but my first impression was that an irresponsible kid left a bike or other such plaything in my way, and that we all just missed it in our mad dash out of the house.

As my husband hurried back to make sure my car was okay to drive, I pulled to the end of the driveway and glanced in my rearview mirror to see what toy I would soon be replacing.

OH. MY. LORD.

What I saw in my mirror was not the twisted remains of a Barbie two-wheeler or a skateboard reduced to toothpicks. It was neither an empty Gatorade® bottle nor that large tub of sidewalk chalk that I had imagined. I gasped in horror as stared at the scene. My husband made his way to the garage as I buried my face in my hands. It was bad…blood and guts kind of bad.

“What is it? OHMYGOSH! WHAT IS IT?”

I couldn’t even bring myself to look again. All I knew was that whatever it was, it was no longer in the land of the living. My husband walked slowly to my window and said, “A giant box turtle…well, it WAS a giant box turtle.”

UGH.

I was shaking, and I immediately ordered the kids not to look.

“Don’t turn around!”

“Roll up your window!”

“DO NOT get out of the car!”

I was too late. My 12-year-old son was already at my husband’s side. Even though we were on a tight schedule, you can’t just leave carnage like that by the front sidewalk, and I saw my husband coming out of the garage with the snow shovel. (Note: Yes, we have snow shovels in South Carolina, and now our shovel has been used to scoop snow exactly the same amount of times as it has been used to scoop turtle guts.) My son stood there both disgusted and fascinated by the unceremonious circle of life he had just witnessed.

Back in my SUV, my then seven-year-old began to cry. Even though she didn’t get out of the car, the idea that a “sweet” turtle had just met its maker at the hands of an evil Honda Pilot was enough to cue the dramatics. “YOU KILLED A TURTLE!” (As if I weren’t feeling bad enough about it already.)

I took turns watching my husband clean the mess and burying my face in my palms. I couldn’t get out. My empty stomach couldn’t handle the gore. My son walked back to the car and said, “That’s kind of sad. It would have been cool to have a big turtle around the house.” (Knife in the heart, thankyouverymuch.)

My husband pulled the garden hose out to help with the clean up as I tried to console my daughter. He was scrubbing to no avail. I motioned for him to come to my window and asked, “What’s the yellow stuff that won’t come off the driveway?” He paused for a moment…“Turtle eggs.”

I KILLED A PREGNANT MAMA TURTLE.

The wailing and sobbing from the backseat kicked into high gear.

He said that he didn’t have time to finish cleaning, and I didn’t have the time or stomach to help. He went inside to wash up, and I told him I’d do what I could when I came home from work in the early afternoon. We left the crime scene with my son jokingly calling me a “turtle killer” and my daughter crying quietly.

I knew that I couldn’t leave a grisly reminder on the driveway all summer long. I rushed home and found a steel scrub brush, filled a bucket with soapy water, and put on my big girl panties. I got down on my hands and knees as the harsh summer sun burned my neck and shoulders,  and I scrubbed.

And scrubbed.

And scrubbed.

The remains of the turtle eggs were baked into our driveway like a gruesome omelet left on the stovetop too long. I gagged, and sweat rolled down my face and back like a river, but the stain wouldn’t lift.

I had to have the mess gone before my daughter came home that night, so I quickly drove to Home Depot to see if some ingenious person had created a magical turtle gut stain remover. I was actually desperate enough to ask an employee if they had “a cleaner that gets smooshed turtle stains off of concrete”. (As a mother, you never imagine you’ll be uttering those words as you’re driving your newborn home from the hospital.) I left with some kind of spray cleaner that eventually did the trick.

We’re far enough removed from that awful June morning to joke about it now. I’m still the infamous Turtle Killer, and we made sure to do a quick sweep of the driveway every morning after. If my kids took away anything from Turtlegate 2012, it’s this:

1. Life is short and unpredictable, so use your time here wisely.

2. If your turtle buddy dares you to cross a long, busy driveway, make sure the coast is clear.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Don't hate my doll because she's beautiful

 As a general rule, I tend to keep my nose out of controversial topics here on the interwebs. In this ruthless Mom-Eat-Mom world of blogging, if you have a contrary opinion to the majority (or just a mind of your own), prepare to have your virtual eyes clawed out by (ahem) well-meaning mothers with only good intentions of protecting their cause. That’s fine. I have laundry to do, and I don’t really enjoy confrontations with caffeine-fueled strangers. There is an unspoken list of topics that should only be broached if you are wearing your full body armor. They include but are not limited to:
  1. Religion
  2. Breastfeeding
  3. Co-Sleeping
  4. The Bachelor”
  5. Kids throwing tantrums at Target
  6. Politics
  7. Stay at Home Moms vs. Working Moms
  8. Crocs
  9. Merging improperly in construction zones
  10. Vampires vs. Wizards
However, for as much as I try to keep my opinions to myself (cough, cough), there is one subject that has been eating at my brain for a while now, a topic that burns me each time a read about it, and today I’m speaking my mind. I am climbing up on my pink, glittery soapbox and screaming, “Malibu Barbie didn’t turn me into a self-loathing stripper with a raging STD and a penchant for boob jobs and Botox!” Whew, that felt good.

I allow my daughter to play with Barbie dolls. (Insert gasp here.) Why would I subject her to such horror and persecution? The main reason is that I grew up loving my Barbie dolls. I begged my mom and Santa Claus to bring me every new model that hit the toy store shelf. Even though they all basically looked the same, they were different to me. I named them and gave them personalities. These dolls had all of the trappings that a piece of molded plastic could ever desire: a dune buggy, a camper, a swinging bachelorette pad, a yacht, a sauna/bubble bath, and the piece de resistance: a three story luxury townhouse complete with an elevator. Ah, yes…my dolls lived the glamorous life.

I spent many hours engrossed in the lives of Barbie and her girlfriends. Those dolls brought so much joy to a childhood that was far less than idyllic. There is one thing that Barbie never did give me, though – a distorted sense of what my body should look like. Not once did I ever look at that weirdly angled doll nose or the perpetually tangled hair and think, “YES! That’s what I want to be.” I understood that Barbie was a fantasy, and just as I was never fooled by the makers of “Monopoly” into thinking that you could actually be given a “Get out of Jail Free” card, I knew that REAL women had curves. REAL women sometimes had dark, curly hair (like my mom). REAL women had arms that would bend to hold crying babies and eyes that weren’t out of proportion with their head.

I’m confident that my daughter has the same skills to discern the difference between a plastic doll and real life. In fact, she has already shown me that she isn’t buying into the idea that girls who play with Barbie dolls will be warped somehow. When I peek into her room while she’s playing, she has her dolls performing gymnastic routines (like she does) or kicking around a soccer ball (like she does) or doing a spaz dance (like she does). She has yet to erect a homemade stripper pole so that Barbie and the Disney Princesses can put on a show complete with lap dances and tipping. Those ideas aren’t in her head. Those ideas are in the heads of adults who think a piece of plastic in a ski outfit will somehow cause her to forget how to do math. I simply don’t agree.

How do I know that my second grader hasn’t been tarnished by Barbie? I allowed my daughter to pick an American Girl doll for Christmas this past year. (If you aren’t familiar with AG dolls, they are over-priced dolls with over-priced accessories that lure you in because most of them come with an historical back story and book to go along with them.) She has always loved Julie, a beautiful doll with long, blonde hair whose back story puts her in San Francisco circa 1974. She has a groovy wardrobe and perfect skin. When I asked my daughter if Julie was the toy she wanted, she declined. Instead, she wanted one of the dolls that you customize to look like yourself. She ended up with a doll sporting shoulder-length, mousy-brown hair, dark eyes, freckles and braces – a doll that looked like HER, not a Barbie. (Okay, so my daughter doesn’t have braces, but she’s totally obsessed with them. What gives??) In her eyes, THAT was the most beautiful doll.

I am my daughter’s role model right now. She wants to look like me, dress like me, act like me and talk like me. (Do you see why I avoid the potty mouth?) When I head out the door for a run, she sees a strong woman taking care of herself. When I stand up for what I believe in, she sees that a woman’s opinion MATTERS. Barbie dolls don’t scare me at all.

I UNDERSTAND that too many young girls don’t have a positive role model in their lives, and for that, I’m broken hearted. However, to say that the Barbie doll is at the root of what’s wrong with girls in this country is a tad over the top to me. Have you turned on the television lately? Dolls are the LEAST of my worries, and isn’t child’s play supposed to be about fantasy?

I never expected to be Tinker Bell when I grew up, and hello, don’t even try to tell me that her outfit isn’t sexy. Where is the outrage over the fairies in Pixie Hollow? What about “My Little Pony”? Should we boycott them because kids might think real horses are pink and purple? Should we start a Facebook page against “Hello Kitty” because real cats don’t wear pink jumpsuits and have sparkly adventures? I think it’s safe to say that my brother never got duped into thinking that he would be “G.I. Joe” or “Stretch Armstrong” as an adult because he played with those toys as a kid. Should I be worried that my son will be a serial killer because he played with Nerf guns?

My friends who played with Barbie dolls turned out just fine. We are doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, stay at home moms, artists, and athletes, just to name a few. I don’t have a single girlfriend who is obsessed with looking like a doll we played with as children.

I say cut ol’ Barbie some slack. If your daughter is anything like mine, that doll is probably crammed in the back of a closet somewhere lying half-naked under a ratty Teddy Bear, some used up coloring books, and last year’s bathing suit. If you really want to make a difference in your daughter’s life, then YOU become the person you want her to be and you won’t have to worry that Mattel is doing that for you.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Bald and the Beautiful


I have a deep and intimate relationship with cancer.  I wish I was admitting to having a deep and intimate relationship with Robert Downey, Jr., but that isn't the hand life dealt me.  Unfortunately, my parents were both ravaged by this ugly disease.  I was given a front row ticket to be a witness as my mom and dad bravely faced this monster in a battle to the death.  Neither of them stood a chance.  By the time each discovered their cancer, it had already riddled their bodies beyond repair, beyond any hope of recovery.  My father lived six months after his melanoma was found.  My mother, a victim of renal cell carcinoma, lived only two and half painful, agonizing months. 

When you watch a loved one suffer and die, it changes who you are.  I will forever feel like cancer took away a chunk of me as I watched them lower my mama into the ground.  It left a raw, open, vulnerable wound that won't ever heal.  It also made me fearful.  Every twinge, every sore throat, every unexplained symptom is cancer.  I live daily in terror that it will get me, too.  I've seen what it can do, and I wonder if I'm strong enough to kick it if it ever finds me.

Even though I quietly donate money regularly directly to the hospice house that took care of my mother and restored her right to die with dignity, I'm not a champion of charities.  There are a handful that are meaningful to me, and I do my best to support them.  It's not my style to be a cheerleader.  I'm more the Booster Club member who donates money so the marching band can get new hats.  There is one organization that has become special to me, though, and I am stepping out of my comfort zone to scream and jump around with pom poms over what they're doing this weekend.

I spent the entire month of September 2011 smiling, weeping and dreading what was to come as I read the story of a precious little girl named Donna.  You see, it's heartbreaking enough when an adult is faced with fighting cancer, but it's unthinkable that a child should ever have to look into the eyes of this demon.  I can't remember how I came across Donna's story, but her mother put their fight into words that touched me deeply.  I couldn't get her out of my mind, this little girl whom I would never meet.  I took those feelings that were still brewing over the loss of my own parents and imagined what it would be like if it were my daughter instead.

Donna's parents set up a charity in her name, Donna's Good Things. (I dare you to click on the link and not smile when you see her beautiful face.)  This weekend in Chicago, Donna's charity and the St. Baldrick's Foundation are hosting an event to raise money for cancer research.  So, what makes this so different?  The participants have not only signed up to raise money for the cause, but they are also SHAVING THEIR HEADS.  That's right.  Folks who have never even met Donna or her family have pledged not only their time and dollars but also their hair. Would you go bald to honor the memory of a child you have never met?  I am in awe of their commitment.

I'm proud to say that three of my blogger friends created a team and are shaving their heads for Donna's Good Things. Deb from The Monster in Your Closet, Chris over at From the Bungalow, and Karin from Pinwheels and Poppies are doing the deed this weekend.  Oh, and as a bonus, my favorite fellow spaz, Katy, from I Want A Dumpster Baby will be there to keep everyone smiling as their locks are falling to the floor.  It's not too late to donate if you are so inclined. I did, and it was completely painless.

I know that no amount of money raised or research conducted will bring back my parents or anyone else who lost the fight with cancer, but if one child is saved, it's worth it to me.  For that reason alone, I choose hope.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Rose

I grew up in a tiny, white house that sat nearly in the middle of a small, Southern town.  Both of my parents worked in the textile mill, and that provided enough money to cover our basic needs (mostly) but not much for extras.  Don't get me wrong.  I had toys and a nice Christmas and food on the table, but even from a very young age, I understood that life wasn't easy for my mother and father.  They sweated the bills.  Checks bounced and many prayers went from my mom's mouth to God's ear that we would somehow make it to the next payday with enough gas in the car and dinner on the table for our large family every night.

I learned that it was in my best interest to stay out of my parents' way. While my dad parked himself in front of the television with an Old Milwaukee watching "Wild Kingdom" and my mom sat at the sewing machine moonlighting as a seamstress for extra money, I disappeared into my fantasy life, a life that was full of songs, and I was the shining star.

I have always loved music. I come from a very musical family whose members are a singing and instrument-playing bunch.  We may have had a dirt driveway and a ripped screen door on the front of the house, but we also had a piano.  It was crammed into a little corner of our crowded den, and I spent untold hours banging out tunes from my little red beginner's piano workbook. "Up a row, to and fro, to a birthday par-ty".  I remember it so well.

I spent most of my time in our backyard putting on a show for my adoring, imaginary audience.  I would sing as loud as my eight-year-old voice would carry, unaware if the neighbors were cringing and honestly not caring if they were.  I had quite a large repertoire of songs that were not exactly in the same genre as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" that my peers were perfecting.  This tune by Three Dog Night was one of my favorites:

 
Even though I sang in the church choir and truly believed that I was the second coming of Judy Garland, it wasn't until I was in the sixth grade that I had a chance to prove how I had the pipes to be a star.  It was the end of the school year and the end of our elementary career.  A Field Day was planned, and the finale of the event was to be a talent show.  Finally!  I couldn't wait to show my friends what I had known all along - that I had the talent to be on Broadway one day.
I signed up to sing, and the choice of song was a no-brainer for me.  It was a song that I sang until my throat was dry.  I carefully played it on the piano until my parents sent me out of the room.  It was a hit that year, 1979.  It was..."The Rose" by Better Midler from the movie of the same name.
I was too young to see the film or even understand fully what the lyrics meant to her or anyone else for that matter.  I just loved the plinking piano keys and the almost painful way she sang it.  When I was listening to this song, I became Bette.  I became a star.
The night before the talent show, my older sister carefully wove my damp hair into dozens of tiny braids for me to sleep on, and when I awoke the next morning and removed them, I saw a pint-sized, kinky-haired Bette, ready to set the world on fire.
At the end of the day, the sixth graders all piled into one classroom for the show.  Unfortunately, I can't remember the talent of any other kid that day.  I guess my mind was on the song.  When my turn came, I walked up to the front of the class.  Nervous, with the room so quiet that I could hear my heart pounding, I took a deep breath and began an a capella performance of "The Rose".
"It's the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance. It's the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance. It's the one who won't be taken, who cannot seem to give, and the soul afraid of dyin' that never learns to live."
Decades have passed since that warm May afternoon, but I remember it like it was yesterday.  I never left that small town.  My dream of making a living with my voice was just that - a dream.  I was too afraid to leave my family behind for the big city and lacked the confidence to even try.  So, that was my moment, my moment in the spotlight.  It wasn't Broadway but brick school house instead.  Yes, I do understand the irony of lyrics that beg you to take a chance and the fear that held me back.
I didn't give up singing, though.  If you're lucky, you might catch my next gig...coming from my car at a stoplight near you...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Who peed in my cornflakes?


I have worked for the same company for ten and a half years. My job is so completely boring and technical that I never bother to even explain it to anyone who asks what I do for a living.  A portion of my responsibility is coordinating training for employees both local and in our branch plants.  (Are you snoozing yet?) Each month we have a class that lasts three days, which means hungry people needing something good to eat to take their minds off the fact that they're sitting in uncomfortable chairs for eight hours straight, their heads being stuffed with information that sounds like some strange, foreign language to industry outsiders. It's not uncommon for me to call in catering companies to provide lunch for the students since we usually have large groups from out of town.  Today was one of those days, and little did I know that our delivery guy was planning on leaving more than just food in our conference room.

My phone rang at 11:45am, and the receptionist let me know that my order had arrived.  Our department and the training center are on the second floor of the building, so I quickly ran downstairs to guide the guy with lunch in the right direction.  The man was older, probably in his sixties, and he had a dolly full of food for fifteen - baked potatoes, chili, salad and all the trimmings to go along with it.  He took one look at the intimidating set of steep stairs leading to the room and said, "I can't get this food up there." Ugh.  I knew he was right.  Usually our delivery guys are strapping young men who don't even blink at carrying such a heavy load, so I ran upstairs and assembled a team to do the job for him.

The food came from one of our favorite caterers. Not only do they have good grub, they also go out of their way to make the presentation memorable for even take-out orders like mine.  They carefully wrap the wicker baskets in cellophane and tie them up with ribbons.  The hot items in chafing dishes are shrink wrapped to keep them from spilling.  For a germophobe like me, this extra effort is comforting. 

Once we got the food on the buffet table, my manager Krissy and I left the room while the delivery guy fought with the Sterno, trying to get it lit. We figured he would unwrap the food, put out plates, and prepare the meal to be served, as is customary for this caterer. Time was of the essence today.  It was the final day of training and the students needed to be tested and on their way to the airport.  We peeked into the room and the food was still on the table, wrapped like Christmas presents.  What the heck was Old Guy doing?  Quickly, the two of us went back in to get the food ready ourselves, a little frustrated that we were doing his job.

I noticed that one of my co-workers, Mandy, was having a private conversation with one of our out-of-town students.  They were talking in hushed tones and looking at the delivery guy.  It didn't register at the time as being strange, so Krissy and I finished preparing the meal and left the room.  Mandy followed quickly behind us, and she rushed Krissy into her office.  Okay...now THAT was strange. 

A few minutes later, I walked over to our sink to wash my hands before eating, and Krissy, Mandy, and the student, Justin, came out of the training room together.  Krissy said, "You really need to tell Lynda what happened.  She'll freak."  (Apparently, I have a reputation, huh?) Justin, it seemed, had witnessed something that left us all with our jaws hanging open in shock.  He then proceeded to tell me a story I simply could not believe.

The students were out of the room when we brought in the food.  If you'll remember, we left Old Guy to himself for a few minutes to get lunch ready.  What we didn't know was that while he was in the room alone WITH THE DOOR PROPPED OPEN AND PEOPLE MILLING ABOUT OUTSIDE,  Justin walked in and saw him standing in the corner.  He said that he did a double-take because he couldn't believe what he was seeing.  The delivery guy was by the food table peeing into an empty jug!  Justin cleared his throat and made noise to let the man know he wasn't alone.  He heard the "zip" of Old Guy's zipper going back up, and then he quickly put the pee-filled container into a nearby box. 

NO.  HE.  DIDN'T.

Justin was stunned but casually walked over to the box to see if there actually was a pee-filled jug in there because really...who pees in a public place?  Oh, yeah...it was there.  He told Mandy about what he had just seen, but luckily, the Old Guy was so pre-occupied with lighting the Sterno that he didn't even touch any of the food.  Krissy and I did it instead.  It doesn't really matter though because THE OLD GUY HAD HIS WEENIE OUT IN OUR TRAINING ROOM AND PEED IN A FREAKIN' WATER JUG!

Mandy was so completely grossed out that she passed on the lunch.  What could we do?  By the time Justin told me the story, Old Guy was gone.  We had a room full of people to feed, and we certainly didn't want to announce to the class that the catering dude just took a piss beside the buffet table.  Completely confident that the safety of the food was not in jeopardy, lunch was served.  

Yes, we planned to report this man to the owner that afternoon.  Honestly, I feel a little sorry for the Old Guy.  What normal, sane human being whips out his privates and pees in the middle of a conference room?  

So...I guess you're probably wondering what I ate for lunch?  I had a tuna sandwich that I brought from home.  Seriously??  You thought I'd eat that contaminated crap?  Come on...you know me better than that... 


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Does this pink slip clash with my hair?

For the last three years or so, my husband and I have had a running "joke" every time he calls me from work.  I always say, "What?  Did you get fired?"  Maybe it was our way of making light of (and dealing with) the fact that on any given day, it could really come true.  We would frequently have conversations revolving around the likelihood of his being given the proverbial ax and what he thought his chances were each week.  I always knew we were teetering on the edge of being a one income family, my income.  So, when he called last Monday afternoon to say that he was on his way home a little earlier than usual, of course I asked, "Did you get fired today?"  His answer..."Well, they're calling it a layoff, not a firing."

BAM! The ax just fell.

There were no dramatic tears or pacing the floor or cries over the horror of it all.  I simply said, "Well, hurry home so that you can change your clothes before taking H to gymnastics practice."  And that was it.  He unceremoniously joined the Between Jobs Club.

My husband has been gainfully employed since he graduated from college in 1989. (That was one of my pre-nuptial requirements - a steady paycheck.)  Never once in those twenty-three years has he been without a job.  I know, I know... he's lucky.  We're both lucky that we've never had to sweat over how we're going to pay our bills or provide for our kids.  I realize now what a gift it has been that we weathered the economic hard times with our heads above the water.

Until now.

The last week has been a firestorm of emotions.  In the beginning, I was almost relieved.  It happened.  Fine.  Move on to something new.  There are millions of people who are waking up each day without a job.  Our situation isn't special...except it is to me.  MY family is the one who has to cut corners until something new comes along.  MY family is the one who is holding off on any and all spending until further notice.  MY family is the one who is now a statistic, a scary, this-isn't-happening-to-us statistic.

Even though "optimistic" and "hopeful" have never been words that anyone would use to describe me, I thought I would take a few minutes to explore the positive aspects of being unemployed.  Mainly because if I didn't laugh at our predicament, I just might cry.  So, here goes...

1. I finally have a valid argument for getting rid of cable.  Do we really need RFDTV?  Is it the end of the world if we don't have seven different versions of ESPN, HBO and Cinemax? What do I hate more than having twelve hundred channels that keep my family glued to the television?  Having twelve hundred channels and not a dang thing worth watching on any of them.


2. We get to live like we're in college again.  Ah, the golden days of ramen noodles, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and those giant bags of cereal that weigh seven pounds but only cost a buck fifty.  Heck, I even remember the time we drank swill beer out of soot-covered cans because they were free from a bar that burned to the ground.  We sure knew how to stretch a dollar back then.


3. NO CARPOOL LINE FOR ME.  Okay, folks, this is huge.  If you hang out with me on Facebook, then you know that the afternoon school pick-up line is the bane of my daily existence. My husband now gets to enjoy thirty minutes trapped in a car as the mom in front of him leans out of her door every sixty seconds or so to spit her tobacco juice onto the pavement.  I will not miss those Dads cranking "Feel Like Makin' Love" from their car stereos while I try to avoid eye contact with the PTO ladies in line beside me.  I just hope there isn't another Mom laughing at my husband because he's fist pumping every time he gets a strike playing the Ten Pin bowling game on his phone.


4. I will not be doing laundry or emptying the dishwasher until further notice.  Period.


5. My kids get to hang out with my husband.  They're riding bikes.  They're going for walks.  They're playing in the mild, winter sunshine in the middle of a February afternoon.  Yes, he needs a job, you know, ummm...NOW, but my second grader said to me this week, "I really like having Daddy home."  He won't be out of work forever (PLEASE don't let it be forever), but they are enjoying living in this moment with him while it lasts.

We're going to be fine.  What else is there to be?  There is no giving up or throwing in the towel.  Whatever comes our way, we'll deal with it and make it our own. (I have lots of experience with that.) It may not be in the house we live in now or the town that I have called home for forty-three years, but I've come to realize that money isn't what matters to me any more.  I'm just looking for peace and happiness, and you can find that anywhere. It won't even cost you a penny.

Friday, January 27, 2012

I hope you dance...and other cliches for my daughter


My daughter is seven years old.  I can already tell that she is growing up to be everything I'm not, and that scares the crap out of me.  She's funny, adventurous, popular and a risk-taker. Those characteristics are fine unless you are a mother who is fearful, shy, and an extremely anxious hermit.  With her bubbly personality and penchant for wanting to be the leader of the pack, my husband and I nervously joke that she will either be the President of the United States of America, or the President of a high-end call girl business.  It could go either way.  While I've read the many letters floating around the internet from moms to their daughters, I felt compelled to impart some of my forty-something wisdom to my little girl on the more practical aspects of growing into a woman.

So, without being too sappy, these are some of the truths I want my daughter to know:


1. Don't start wearing eyeliner.  Trust me on this.  Once you start, you can never stop. You'll think you look weird and sleepy without it.  If applied correctly, it looks great. If not, you look like Lindsay Lohan on a bender. Your girlfriends are going to start smearing it on around the age of fourteen because they think it makes them look older.  It does make them look older...like an older slut. If you must use it, for the sake of all that is good in this world, do NOT use blue or purple.

2. Study your math.  I hate math so much, and so does Barbie.  You aren't Barbie, though.  You are smart and strong, and if you want to be an astronaut or a bridge builder, you're going to have to suck it up and show calculus who's the boss.  If you decide that you would rather style hair or teach yoga, that's great, but you still need math, if only for shoe sales.

3. You should never have to work to keep a friend.  We ALL know this friend, the one who makes you work to like them.  The one who never smiles or has a kind word or offers to drive or tells you how happy they are for you when you score a great job.  They sap every ounce of energy, and they'll drink your last Diet Coke. I have two words for "friends" like this: Move on.

4. Stop saying "like" so much.  This is an easy one.  Notice how many times you say the word "like" on any given day, and then say it about 99% less than that.

5. Don't be the mean girl. The truth about the mean girls is that they only get their way for a short while, usually until graduation.  Don't judge people by their clothes or how much money is sitting in their parents' bank account.  That geeky  wallflower that you kick to the corner in junior high school may be quietly taking notes so that she can anonymously slam you on her blog one day.  (Not that I would know anything about that, of course.)

6. Stay away from bad boys.  Yes, they're hot.  Yes, they make you feel like you're hot, too.  I speak from experience when I say that bad boys will break your heart.  While they're breaking your heart, they will also convince you to buy their groceries and pay their car insurance (if they have a car).  Your best bet is to only have a poster of a bad boy in your bedroom and have a good guy in your heart.

7. Don't take naughty pictures of yourself.  This is how it works - if you take a great picture of yourself, it may very well end up on the internet.  If you take X-rated pictures of yourself, they will be on the internet before you get your shirt back on and buttoned.  When that bad boy-boyfriend (that you shouldn't have) tells you that he will keep it to himself, he is defining "himself" as everyone on his friend list. Don't do it.

8.  Don't fall for every fashion fad you see.  I did, and now I have a trunk full of school pictures from the 80's that should be burned.  Jelly shoes, shoulder pads, stirrup pants, asymmetrical haircuts - you name it and I tried it.  Since fashion seems to have a way of repeating itself, please remember this: if someone tries to talk you into wearing rainbow-colored suspenders or a Member's Only Jacket, run!

9. Eat junk while you can.  I hate to break this to you, but the "skinny gene" flew off the diving board and completely missed our gene pool.  Eat what you want now because around the age of twenty-five, you will become very good friends with skim milk, running shoes, and Special K.  Sorry, sweetie.

10. Your brother loves you.  You may not be able to tell it now, but it's true. He thinks you're funny and smart, but he would never tell you that.  Be good to each other because family matters.  Believe me when I say don't EVER let each other drift apart.

One final note...more than anything, Sweet Girl, I want you to know that from the bottom of my heart, I hope you dance....just not around a stripper pole.

Friday, January 20, 2012

They've got the fever...

As I sat in the carpool line at my son’s middle school the other day, I had a startling realization. This country’s tween and teen boys are facing an epidemic that is being largely ignored. I watched as the sea of primarily brown-haired kids poured out of the doors, each looking nearly identical, necks twitching in an almost syncopated rhythm to a beat that we, as adults, can’t seem to hear. I can pick out my son from the crowd thanks to a recessive gene that gave him blond hair, but that doesn’t make this affliction any less damaging. He, too, is a victim. If left unchecked, this syndrome is going to leave a huge chunk of middle-aged men with arthritic necks like no plague in our recorded history.  Not even the methodical head bobbing while stoned and listening to Pink Floyd from a couple of generations back can touch it. I’m talking about the dreaded Bieber Hairdo and the stranglehold it has on our boys, causing them to flip back their bangs every thirty seconds or so, resulting in lasting damage, no doubt, to their developing necks and spines. I’m calling for all parents to take a stand, grabbing your torch and  pitchforks hair clippers to end this madness now.

This is a cause that is close to my heart. When I see my son carefully brushing his way-too-long bangs over to the side, I am reminded of how I fell for the hype of the “celebrity hairdo” as an adolescent. Remember the Shag? Oh yeah, I had that cut. It was less of a style and more of an “Oh My God Is My Hairdresser On Crack” kind of look with its mish-mash of varying layers that seemed to be in no particular pattern. We looked like a legion of young people with perpetual bed head, carefully styled bed head, mind you. Unlike the Bieber ‘do, the Shag was completely gender neutral, affecting boys and girls alike.

To my knowledge there has only been one human to successfully rock the Shag style, and her name is Joan Jett, but this was long after I succumbed to this seventies 'do.
 
 After the shag, I moved on to the harder stuff – the Dorothy Hamill bob. This was a lovely hairstyle for world-class figure skaters possessing extra thick, smooth, shiny hair that was styled in a high-end salon. It was a disaster for a kid like me with thin, limp, lifeless hair that was styled by an older southern lady named Lurlene who was more accustomed to fashioning the beehive up-do for her customers instead of the trendy, shorter cuts. I looked like I had been abandoned by my family and left with nothing but a pair of dull scissors and a comb with missing teeth to style my hair. Of course, my mother did her best to right this massive wrong by giving me a home perm. The hair that didn’t fall out during the processing really did make me look like an orphan – Little Orphan Annie to be exact. The only things missing were a red dress and a loyal dog. I can’t say for sure, but I believe this is when my infatuation with hats began.

My high school years were a blur of bangs and feathered hair and hot rollers. I walked around with a cloud of Aqua Net hairspray following me which may explain the hole in the ozone layer. (Sorry, Al Gore!) I spent the better part of the eighties checking my reflection in any mirror or piece of glass available. The deeper I fell into my addiction, the bigger my hair became. There was seemingly no end to the amount of product and time I would put into my hair to achieve a massive, glowing mane. To this day, I attribute the pain in my right shoulder to Blow Dryer Syndrome caused by the repetitive motion used to create the perfect winged look.  

So, you can see why this cause is so near and dear to my heart. Let’s save our boys. It would break my heart for this generation to grow old with a drawer full of school pictures too embarrassing to look at and a chronic pain in the neck.  And to Justin Bieber I say this: Dude...take care of yourself.  Have you seen Leif Garrett lately?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Don't dream it. Be it.

This is The Book.  It's beautiful, really.  In May of 2011, my husband commissioned an artist to create this one-of-a-kind journal for me.  It's rich.  It's luxurious.  And...it's empty.  I can't touch it.  For the last eight months I have not been able to bring myself to write even one, single letter in it.  Why?  It makes me feel guilty.  It's for a writer, and I never believed that person could be me.  Until today...

It seems as though every other person on Earth and their Grandma have a blog these days, and every other person on Earth who actually writes regularly on their blog will proclaim that they are "working on a book".  I guess I was different.  The only thing that I've been working on is finding a new way to style my hair and to have someone else feed the dogs and clean my house.  Sure, I write my stories but actually visualizing, plotting, and sitting my sorry butt down to write a real book?  Hello?  Who do you think I am, Erma Bombeck?  I happen to really love my couch, and we have a solid date every night of the week.  To quote a favorite song of mine, "Don't expect too much from me, and you might not be let down."

So, I have left this beautiful book made exclusively for my words to sit on the credenza, mocking me, reminding me that other people have higher hopes and aspirations for me than I have for myself.  I touch it only when I dust, telling it to "stop looking at me like there might be a tiny writer inside waiting to get out." (That book is such a bitch sometimes.)

But something has been tugging at my heart brain for a while now.  A story has been slowly unfolding over the last two years that needs to be told. (It isn't about me...shocking, I know!)  I have watched with awe as a family I know took a situation that could have easily torn them apart and turned it into nothing short of an inspiration for anyone who grew up in the South (or anywhere for that matter), proving that skin color is irrelevant when you have unconditional love and faith that is stronger than a rock.

A few days ago I decided to approach my friend and ask if she would allow me to write a story about them for my blog.  She quickly agreed, but I knew in the back of my mind that this was big, too big for one entry.  Maybe two?  Maybe five?  Maybe make it into a saga that would string along for a year?  There was so much to say that one brief article could never do it justice.  Not one to ever work too hard, I kept turning this idea over in my head.  "I can't write a book.  I'm too damn lazy.  Who am I kidding?  I never finish anything."  Then another thought kept pushing its way to the surface, replacing all of the others: "You HAVE to write this book.  People need to know this story." (There was probably another voice in there telling me to stop watching so much TV and to log off of Facebook, but I'm not sure...)

So, I am...writing a book, that is.

My friend, who couldn't get the idea out of her head either, called me this morning, and we knew we were on to something.  This young man and her family have changed the way that I - a Southern child born during the heat of the Civil Rights movement - view race relations in my small hometown.

I'm hoping that once I finish this major feat that may or may be on my bucket list, I will feel like I have earned the right to open this beautiful journal and write.  For now, that book is looking at me and whispering, "Come on, girl...you can do it."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fa ra ra ra ra ra ra ra ra


This is the first year in the history of my life when there will be not be a single relative who lives outside of my house celebrating Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with me.  Nada.  No One.  Zilch.  No invitations were extended our way, and none from us were accepted. I'm not expecting the "We love you so much and hate that we can't see you this year" phone calls either.  They won't come.  They never have. Don't feel sorry for me, though.  I'm looking at this Christmas with a new set of priorities.  I'm considering it a gift, really.  It's the gift that keeps on giving because this is the year that I have decided to finally let go.

I have always been jealous of your Christmas.  I was jealous because your house is full of bear hugs for relatives you've missed all year.  I was jealous of how you linger at the table over coffee while reminiscing about the days when polyester pant suits and bee hive hairdo's were all the rage.  I was jealous of how your heart swells when you look around your crowded, messy house and close your eyes for that brief moment while thanking the powers that be for your blessings.  Most of all, I was jealous that in your family, gathering at Christmas is a time-honored tradition that no one wants to miss.

That all changed a few months ago, though.  On a blistering summer afternoon, I found my car pulling into the graveyard where my parents are buried.  I never go there.  Cemeteries are dreadful places that bring me no peace.  However, as I stood there staring at the names of my Mama and Daddy etched into that stone, I had an epiphany.  It was time to move forward because the years are never guaranteed.  I have always said that you don't have to like to the people you're related to, but now it is time to cut them loose.  I know my mom would hate that our family is irrevocably broken, but deep in her heart she would understand why.  You shouldn't have to beg for love...and I won't any more.

So, this Christmas as families are loading up their plates with turkey and trimmings, washing down their pumpkin pie with egg nog, and laughing with delight at a bounty of gifts, I will be thankful that there are at least a handful of people who truly love me and want me around.  These are folks who don't need me to beg and cajole for attention and companionship.  This is MY family, MY people, the four of us, and to hell with the rest of the self-absorbed world.  We're making a new tradition this year, taking a cue from Ralphie and the Parker's from "A Christmas Story".  We'll dress in our Sunday best and head out for Chinese food this year.  I finally realized that with my real family at my side, who needs a sweet potato casserole served with tension and drama when you can have peace in your heart and lo mein noodles.

And...if we're lucky...maybe they will serenade us, too.  Fa, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, ra!!