Friday, October 03, 2014

I Got Problems

I always have been and always will be a words kinda gal. I love the sound of words, the beauty of them on paper and how they sound when spoken. I love the power behind them, the things they can accomplish, the feelings they can evoke. Numbers just can’t do that. Numbers are solid, logical, tangible… and insanely frustrating. Words can’t always be captured by the voice and have many different meanings to many different people. The number five is always going to equal the number five. But say any word – any word you can think of – to five different people and it will likely be interpreted five different ways. 

Numbers are just not the primary language spoken by my brain. It took from 3rd grade to 6th grade before I could finally do multiplication without breaking out into a cold sweat. I took Algebra I my Freshman year and passed it by the skin of my teeth. I started my Sophomore year in Algebra II and after one week of that nonsense I marched into Mr. Lippe’s office with arms crossed, determined look on my face, demanding that he remove me at once from that vile class and put me into something else, anything else. He moved me over to Business Math, a class I passed with an A. I went on to end my high school math career with Accounting I and II, passing both with A’s. It’s not that I can’t do math, it’s that I just prefer not to. The add/subtract/multiply/divide kind of math is do-able. Please do not put letters in there. That’s where it gets all jumbly – like a really sick and twisted can of algebra soup.

Last year our son made it through Algebra I with a resounding A at the end of the year. The program we use is computer-based, thorough, and very easy to understand, but starting out this year in Algebra II has been challenging to say the least. He suffers from the same phenomenon I do: Mathematical Amnesia. If I learn a math concept I can do it all day long. But if I sleep? You can forget about me remembering a dadgum thing the next day.

I’ve been learning Algebra II right along with him this year, a task that has gotten easier in my old age – a fact I find very strange considering I have maternal oatmeal brain and am on medication for nerve pain that messes with my memory. This past week they introduced “distance” word problems. One might think I, a word person, could do word problems. One would be wrong. Oh. So. Wrong.  I loathe word problems. They never, ever make sense to me.  “If Bob is on a subway car traveling at 15mph and Douglas is on a rocket ship to Mars traveling at 27mph, how long will it take the two of them to create a macramé sculpture of the Mona Lisa using only their toes?” That’s how I interpret every single word problem I ever encounter.

It took my son and me nearly 30 minutes to figure out a particularly difficult problem one day and when we eventually got it right, you should’ve seen the high-fiving and hollering that was executed right there at the dining room table. Then we got into my secret stash of chocolate. And soon after that he decided that college didn’t seem like a real fun option for him after all and “homeless street person” sounded safely math-free. I patted his leg, handed him another Reese’s Cup and said, “Or you could always just homeschool your own kids, son. And learn it at 41 like I am.”


I’m really not looking forward to telling my husband that our soon-to-be-homeless son won’t be blessing us with grandchildren. 

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Canned

Published in the Miami News-Record, September 14, 2014

This past week I had my first experience with canning. Well, I say first experience, but I guess I should clarify. I witnessed my mom and Uncle David canning before now, but I was a kid and I was sitting on a barstool in the kitchen at my Papa and Memaw’s farm eating a piece of Roman Meal bread with real butter on it, swinging my legs, chatting up a storm about nothing in particular, not being at all quiet or even remotely un-annoying. So, yeah, this experience really was altogether new.

One of my husband’s brothers has had this amazing apple tree for years now, but this is the first I have ever heard of it. I’m sure proximity has something to do with it, seeing as how we used to live 20 miles away and now we have clear line of sight between our two houses. Paul walked in the house the other night with four Walmart sacks just full of apples and I was like a kid on Christmas morning, clapping my hands and squealing with a strange glee that surprised even me. I don’t even really like apples all that much. I will eat apple pie and apple crisp, but it’s very rare you’ll see me eating a raw apple and you’ll never, ever see me eating applesauce. Why I got so excited at the sight of those apples is beyond me. Maybe it was because I was still feeling adventurous after this summer’s first garden, maybe it was because I felt nostalgic for those childhood days at the farm, or maybe it’s because I’m a glutton for punishment and like to pile my plate as high as I can with as many activities as I possibly can. I’m going with the last one.

And really now, who couldn’t use about 40 pounds of apples just sitting around their kitchen on any given day?

Our oldest daughter had a minor surgery last week and I had cleared our schedule for the days after. I figured it was as good a time as any to try my hand at canning. I was going to can apple butter. I’d never had apple butter, but it seemed like an obvious choice with that many apples in my possession. Mom also gave me a recipe for apple pie filling and I was determined to can that as well. The first thing I had to do was go to Walmart for a water bath, a jar grabber, some seals (I had jars and rings), and some lemon juice. Then I forgot the lemon juice and had to have my sister-in-law pick some up on her way home from work. (Thank God for a Walmart associate in the family.)

The first day got away from me. Then, there was the next day. On Thursday I managed to start. Bright and early that morning, with paring knife in hand, I was determined to show those apples who was boss. Then I saw the recipe for apple butter called for TWELVE POUNDS of apples. I measured out one pound and realized that I didn’t own a stock pot big enough to hold 12 whole pounds of apples. I used my math skills to cut the recipe down by 1/3 and got started.

I referred to my recipe and directions a lot. I consulted the internet a lot. I texted and called my mom a lot. I finally got the water bath to agree to a “vigorous boil”, started ladling my hot apple butter into my hot jars, to realize that four pounds of apples yields… about four measly pint jars of apple butter.
I won’t even tell you how my first experience at blackberry butter went. Let’s just say that after five hours of reducing, I now have two pints of blackberry syrup that is so strong it’ll put hair on your chest, strip wallpaper, and remove corrosion from car batteries.


I might just stick to gardening. 

Sunday, September 07, 2014

When I'm Gone

From the Miami News-Record, Sunday, September 7, 2014

This past week I celebrated the life of Don Hall with his family and friends. I met Don when we attended church east of town and marveled at how many children he could fit in the cab of a pickup truck. (I became much more at ease when I heard he had bought a van – then I learned it only bought him that much more room for more kids.) I stood in that church parking lot and asked my Pops (and pastor), “Why does he bring all those kids to church?” Pops smiled and said, “Because he wants to.” And oh, how he wanted to. He felt a calling, a desire, a mission to introduce as many kids as he possibly could to Jesus and if that meant testing the limits of a vehicle to fit just one more in, he did it. About four years later my husband and I were wet-behind-the-ears youth leaders at a church south of town and had the privilege of seeing again just how many lives “Papa Don” touched when he rolled into the parking lot one night with an even bigger vehicle – a bus – in which to haul kids to church. When he stepped onto those streets of gold last week and had instant knowledge of how many lives he had touched, how many people he had led to salvation, I would imagine he just grinned his shy grin and ducked his head as he heard his Savior say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
I am not a fan of funerals. (I might also ask, “Who is?”) I will avoid a funeral just about any way I can simply because I think too many times we get caught up in mourning and forget to remember. And since I’m a cry-er in the presence of other crying folks, I just don’t subject myself to that if I don’t have to. So often we forget to focus on the good that person did and the way they lived their life and we instead shed our tears in earthly sadness. I guess you could say we get a bit selfish when it comes to someone dying. We will miss them and we can’t stand the thought of life here without them, then we cry. And if you’re me, you cry a lot. So just know this: if I show up to your funeral, I really thought you were pretty darn special.
As I sat in that pew last week waiting for Don’s funeral to begin, I thought ahead to my own passing. (An event I am not planning on having happen for a very long time.) I leaned over to my oldest daughter and said, “Listen to me, young lady. When I die, there had better not be a memorial service held in a church. I want a party.” She looked at me with the strangest look and said, “A party? Like, what on earth would we do at a ….. a party in honor of your…..DEATH??”
So given that she pinned me down right there, I pondered a bit before I said, “Well, you had better eat BBQ. And chocolate cake. Lots of chocolate cake. You guys take turns telling stories about my clumsiness, read some of the stuff I’ve written over the years. Talk about my awful hair. Laugh. Poke a little fun at me – heck, I’ll be gone, so go for it.” I went on to tell her that I’ll be writing my own obituary, so that’ll taken care of already. She seemed relieved at that. She was amused at my party plans and nodded a lot so I hope she intends to honor my wishes.

And while y’all are at my memorial party crying only because you’re laughing so hard you might wet your pants, I will have already hit the gates of Heaven, hopefully hearing the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” and not, “Girl, you’ve got some explainin’ to do.”

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Nostalgia and School Supplies

From The Miami News-Record,  Sunday, August 31

When I was a kid, school supply lists consisted of: Pencils – fat in lower elementary, skinny in upper – two of them, no more. A Pink Pearl eraser – these weren’t used for erasing, just pegging your neighbor in the back of the skull. Elmer’s glue – one bottle. This was used to glue construction paper to manila paper (most kids called it “vanilla paper” – FYI: it didn’t smell like vanilla) and was also applied in thin layers to the backs of your hands then peeled off when dry in order to gross out your classmates with your “skin”. Crayons – a pack of 16 was all that was required, but there was always some kid who showed up with the fancy pack of 64 with the built-in sharpener and that was the kid you wanted to sit next to. Colors were Indian Red, Prussian Blue, Maize, Raw Umber, etc. “Burnt Sienna” was the weird brown that baffled everyone. What was a sienna and why was it burnt? Scissors – metal, blunt-end scissors that rusted by Christmas break. The purpose was to cut paper, but was usually just used to cut chunks out of your hair – or your Pink Pearl eraser. Colored pencils – these were only required in 5th and 6th grade because that was when they taught map skills (and we all know maps cannot be colored with crayons – just ask Christopher Columbus). Kleenex – two boxes. No one brought Puffs; they were too expensive. 

All of the above supplies were to be contained in your cardboard school box. The school box (and your metal lunch box) was a direct reflection of your interests at the time – Strawberry Shortcake, Dukes of Hazzard, Bugs Bunny, etc. School boxes started out with square corners and a lid that closed squarely as well. By year’s end most were covered in elementary-grade graffiti, the lids were held on by that really good tape the teachers kept in the locked drawer, the corners were torn, and the lid was kept from caving in by a pushpin (said pushpin stolen from the bulletin board). Throw a Big Chief tablet into the whole mix and your school supplies maybe cost a whole $10 - more if you were the kid with the 64 pack of crayons. These things were stored in your desk with the squeaky lift-up tops that slammed at deliciously loud decibels – and pinched countless fingers.

Now, all pencils are small because the big ones hinder small motor skills. Scissors must be kept out of the reach of the children until they are brought out and carefully monitored, saving many a head of hair I’m sure. Glue is in sticks and you must equip your child with roughly 4,823 at the beginning of the year. Crayon colors are politically correct and exciting – Wild Blue Wonder, Cerise, Fuzzy Wuzzy, Jazzberry Jam, Smokey Topaz, and others that to me sound more like stripper names than crayon colors. Manila paper has given way to iPad apps and antibacterial gel is liberally applied to the children throughout the day. Ziploc bags, paper towels, wet wipes, and acetaminophen/ibuprofen make the supply lists these days due to dwindling budgets. If we had a headache we got a wet brown paper towel from the bathroom for our foreheads. And the only thing we had for germ containment was the stuff the janitor sprinkled on puke when someone got sick after riding the merry-go-round. Today’s kids must stay home if they have fevers, but back in my day you were given a baby aspirin and told to tough it out. Skinned knees got “the spray” – a yellow aerosol that burned like the fire of a thousand suns. Pounding erasers was the biggest honor a kid could get and the white residue that covered you was a badge of honor. And probably caused asthma and dry eyes, too, but we survived. We survived it all.


Ahhh, nostalgia. I hope someday our kids develop an app for that. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Well. That's a Problem.


From The Miami News-Record, July 6, 2014

Growing up we lived in a house in the country with rural water, so when the electricity went out and all our neighbors on wells were without water we were still drinkin’ water and flushin’ toilets with wild abandon.  Paul and I lived in town for 5 years on city water then moved to our Hudson Creek house which was again on rural water. There was only a short 10 month period as newlyweds that we had a well. It took a section of pipe with a hole in it to throw us into a waterless two day span marking what this spoiled girl thought was the seventh level of Hell. Fast forward to one day last week at our Wyandotte house when the kids and I were happily washing dinner dishes and the water just kind of fizzled out then …. stopped. I turned the water off and turned it back on, as if that magical routine would fix the problem. It didn’t. So then I did what I always do when something goes wrong: hollered for my husband.

He called the brother that lives closest. They both crawled under the house, scratched their heads a few times, then they called the other brother. Then they called a neighbor. Well, called the neighbor after Paul came in and asked if we had any money. I said we did, but not to get all high-falootin’ with that notion. He nodded and rushed back outside. Not long after that it was declared that some wires or something or ‘nother was shorted or burned or cut or possibly sabotaged by garden gnomes, heck I don’t know. Regardless of the actual problem, there was a bigger problem: by this point, all of us girls had to pee. The boys take advantage of Nature’s Toilet quite frequently out here, but we girls are a bit more delicate. Actually, I used to be quite adept at the ol’ pop-a-squat, but age and short chubby legs make it a bit more challenging these days. I mean, if I want to do yoga, I’ll ju—oh, who am I kidding, I’m never going to want to do yoga. Anyway, my girls just screeched at the thought of going outside even though their daddy told them to just get over it and go. I was going to, until I got out there, got myself all limbered up and then the coyotes that I’m pretty sure were attracted to the whites of my thighs started in with the howling and I vapor locked.

It is in times like these that I am glad I am a worrier with doomsday prepper tendencies because, see, I’ve been hoarding water in jugs since we moved out here. We moved in the middle of the winter to the top of a hill where the power lines run through the jungles of Wyandotte. The threat of ice storms periodically through the winter had me planning ahead for power outages. I’d nearly tackle a family member heading for the trash with a milk jug or juice bottle. Those were the precious receptacles of flush-water, I told them. They scoffed. I stood firm in my hoarding. When no ice storms came, I told them to just wait until the spring storm season. And even that has been mild. So turns out, I was just preparing for a shorted something or ‘nother in our well pump.


Because the well guy obviously had a life outside of coming to fix our well at 9pm, we were left with no choice but to employ the motto “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down,” further into the next day than any of us wanted. To be honest, you just don’t realize how pampered you really are until you are forced to piggy back your – ahem –efforts with family members and flush your toilet with hoarded water. We are definitely spoiled and incredibly fortunate, but more than anything, glad that’s over. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Of Sister and Sprouts

From The Miami News-Record, July 13, 2014

My sister, Heather, is three and a half years younger than I am. We didn’t get along very well when we were kids and to this day, Mom still tells teary tales of lying in bed at night, crying, wondering what she did wrong to make us hate each other so much. The thing is, we didn’t hate each other, we were just….annoyed and annoying. I being the annoyED one, Sis being the annoyING one. It’s an ages-old tale, the one of siblings and the eternal cycle of bickering, pestering, fussing, and downright fisticuffs on occasion. My own kids do it. Sometimes it’s nearly enough to drive me to drink. However, I can’t think of bickering siblings without remembering the first time Sis and I had a “sister moment”, an unspoken reconciliation of sorts. We were probably 14 and 17 and it was the first time we realized we were on the same team. Of course, we still fussed from time to time after that, but it was just … different from that moment on.
We were sitting at the bar in our kitchen in the usual configuration and scenario: Dad at the end, Mom on the short side, Sis and I across from her on the long side. As usual, elbows were jabbed at each other, Sis thumped her feet against the cabinet, I exasperatingly squealed my disgust, insults were slung under our breaths, various other antics were displayed. Mom had made brussel sprouts for dinner and I DID NOT (still don’t) like brussel sprouts. The rule was we had to try new food once and if we didn’t like it, we were cleared from having to eat it when it was served. But every few years or so, we would have to re-try the foods to see if our “taste buds had changed”, as Mom put it. I always thought that to be a load of bull, but it was the rule. For some reason, that day Mom decided I needed to re-try the sprouts and put one on my plate. I whined. She added another. Before I got wise and shut up, I ended up with three of the nasty things on my plate. I ate everything but those tiny orbs of revulsion and Mom said I should get busy. I sat. Humor was a big thing in our house, so I tried that, making jokes about being allergic and did she want the possibility of my death hanging over her head for the rest of her days, but she didn’t buy into my cuteness. You would think that at 17 I’d have just eaten one and been done, but no, my mouth got me stuck with three and there seemed to be no way of getting around it.
Mom got up to refill her tea, her back to the bar, and quick as a flash, two sprouts disappeared from my plate and were in my sister’s mouth. She gave me a look and through a mouthful of green mumbled, “Chew!” When Mom turned back around, she saw her darling oldest child chewing away and her youngest intent on her own plate, shaking. Dad just stared. Mom asked, “Are they good? Do you like them?” Still “chewing”, I just nodded and made some noises I hoped would convince her that I was chowing down. I don’t know if it was my cartoonish “swallow” or the fact that Sis was about to have an aneurism from holding back her laughter, but I was found out. Then Mom did what any good mother would do: she force fed me the remaining sprout on my plate. All of us girls were laughing hysterically and before it was said and done, I had brussel sprout in my eyebrows and ears, green vegetable was slung all willy nilly and Dad just sat shaking his head.
But suddenly, annoyED and annoyING became friends. And we still are today.


Monday, August 11, 2014

I Got the Point

From The Miami News-Record, Sunday, August 10, 2014

In 1983 I was in fourth grade, smack in the middle of my awkward stage. I had a Little Orphan Annie perm (not as cute on me), was chunky, and none of my shirts ever fit quite right. I quickly learned to deal with awkwardness by using humor – I loved to make people laugh. I still do.

For PE we would trek to the old gym (that still smells like wet wood and pre-pubescent angst) to play kickball, dodgeball, jumprope, or tag. On really good days we got to play with the scooters. On really bad days we had to climb the rope. On this particular day, Kristy Fink was sitting on the bleachers alone. She looked glum. I decided to cheer her up. I trotted toward her and when I got close, lowered my backside to the bleachers and slid, my intention being to slide into her and make her laugh. Instead of making her laugh, though, I instead felt this intense pain in the back of my leg, just under my ….cheek. I immediately jumped up, holding my bum, jumping around and screaming, “I have a splinter in my leg!” I think people thought I was again using humor, what with all my dancing and butt-holding, but I was seriously hurting. Coach Phillips looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Bass, calm down. Splinters aren’t that bad.” I assured him it was indeed bad. Not knowing what else to do, he instructed “Fink” to escort me to the office.

At the office, Mrs. Gatewood, the secretary, had me lower my britches and show her the splinter in question. My escort, Kristy, was very dark-skinned and upon seeing the splinter, blanched as white as the white girl showing her bum in the school office. Mrs. Gatewood gasped. The “splinter” was as big around as a toothpick and twice as long. It had gone in right under the skin and was sticking out about a half inch. It. Was. Horrible.

Because my mom cleaned houses during the day and cell phones hadn’t been invented, I was stuck in the office until she got home. Because the wooden skewer lodged in me was perilously close to my bum, there was no way I could sit. All they knew to do was put me face down on the faux leather sofa right in front of the principal’s desk with my pants around my ankles, my lower half draped in the principal’s jacket. Why no one thought to remove my pants from my ankles I’ll never know. That day I heard several teacher/principal conversations, listened to a kid get reprimanded for shooting spit balls, and was witness to a kid getting swats. That poor kid was mortified I was in there watching him get busted; I was equally mortified that I was there with my pants around my ankles.

Finally Mom got home and came to get me. Because my pants were still at my ankles, I couldn’t walk (again, not sure why they weren’t just removed), so the principal carried me to the car -- which wouldn’t have been so bad if third graders hadn’t been coming in from PE at the precise moment we entered the lobby. There I was, dangling from the principal’s neck, pants-less, draped in a Wyandotte Bears jacket, crying from embarrassment while all the kids were whispering, “Oh my gosh, what’s wrong with her?”, “Is she dead?”,  “She’s not dead! She’s crying!”, “Why is she crying?”, “What happened to her??” It. Was. Horrible.


The doctor had to cut my skin and create an “exit” for the spear embedded in my leg. If he had pulled it by the piece sticking out, there was a chance it would splinter back and create a big ol’ mess right there on my backside. But by day’s end I had a new stuffed dog, a bottle of pink bubblegum antibiotics, and a bandage on my backside. Oh, and an intense fear of wooden bleachers.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bliss

Any of you who have more than one child knows what sibling rivalry is and how it sucks your will to live most of the time. On the other hand, though, as a parent of more than one child you also probably know that when they get along, that time is fricking golden. GOLDEN, I'm telling you.

When my kids were little, they'd fuss over who was breathing whose air, whose bum was getting more of the backseat, who got more spaghetti at dinner. Those things were just a part of my daily - nay, hourly - life as a mother of toddlers, preschoolers, elementary-aged kids. While I was silently suffering on the inside, breaking up fights without even realizing I was doing it, and even becoming so adept I could change the youngest's diaper with my hands while keeping the other two from ripping out jugular veins with one leg extended behind me, my husband had far less patience with the harping, nagging, fussing, squealing, arguing, and sometimes downright caterwauling. He'd go from completely detached from the universe to threatening bodily harm in 2.1 seconds. I could endure for days. And I did. Maybe it was because I was young. Maybe it was because motherhood had been my lifelong dream. Maybe it was because I knew if I stopped being a stay-at-home mommy I'd have to get a job that involved wearing a bra on a daily basis.

So now I am the mother of teenagers. Two are full-fledged teenagers, one is mere months away from being there officially, although her attitude argues otherwise. (Girl is rockin' those teenage hormones and eyerolls these days. Ugh.) The fleeting moments of shining parental happiness when your children get along is no different when they become teenagers. In fact, I think it's even more precious. Now that they are older, the arguments are more in the range of who is louder, who is more obnoxious, who is my favorite, who gets all of our money when their dad and I finally kick the bucket, and those kinds of things. And with taller bodies, apparently comes longer vocal cords and increased lung capacity with which to throw insults and slams at much higher volumes than when they were little, compact, and cute. Days where the insults fly from sun-up to sun-down are exhausting for me. Since we homeschool, there is very little opportunity for me to ever get a break. I love them all dearly and am so happy that God has given us the chance, blessings, freedom, and grace to educate them at home, but I am being completely honest when I say this: there are days I have considered tying them all three together with duct tape and kicking them out of the car in front of the school, driving on with a smile on my face and going straight home to just sit on my couch in the complete silence. Not taking a nap or a hot bath. Just sitting. Where it's quiet. Never mind that our oldest child has graduated high school and would have no need to step foot on a high school campus - but that's the least of what I'm thinking of when I'm daydreaming.

But oh. There are days that I see their sibling relationships developing right before my very eyes, the dynamics of sister/sister, sister/brother, and all three together. I see how big brother looks out for little sister. I see how little brother asks big sister for advice. I see how big sister steps down from her lofty heights of being nearly 18 to help little sister with an outfit or hair. I try to focus on those precious, stolen moments when little sister is invading her older siblings' personal space or when brother is tormenting the dickens out of his sisters with stinky socks or his retainer. I see them taking selfies with each other, making stupid faces or being serious either one. I see how little sister looks up (literally) to big sister with little stars shooting out of her eyes. I see how little brother looks down (literally) on either sister with a grin of mischief and dare I say it - love. I hope and pray with all that is in me that their relationships only strengthen as they get older. They are going to need each other when they get out there in the real world. They are going to experience heartache that they won't want to come to me or their daddy about, but a phone call to big sister is going to make it better, perhaps put things in perspective. They are going to call each other as Paul and I age to share stories about how we're losing it or something senile we said or did. And they are going to become aunts and uncle to my amazing future grandchildren, telling the new offspring about their growing up and stories to embarrass and laugh over.

So I am taking these little moments of bliss and filing them away in my mind and in my heart. I pull them out and remember them on those days when a math lesson has left littlest sister crying and oldest sister rolling her eyes in disdain at such a display. I pull them out on other days as well. The days when I feel like I am the worst mother in the world. On the days I forget to make French toast even though she asked me four times, but I got busy. On the days I snap at someone for not understanding something the way I teach it the first time. On the days the new Pinterest recipe is a great big fat fail. On the days I feel like I am fat, ugly, unloved, un-special, unwanted, unimportant and so much more "un"everything.

Because on those days, the days I have a hard time loving myself, I just look at those three crazy, prayed-for kids and see the perfect combination of their father and myself, the ultimate expressions of our insane love and roller coaster marriage, the fulfillment of so many hopes and dreams, the proof that God loves me enough to entrust these three humans to me to mold, shape, teach, lead, and love on until He's ready to call us home.

And then on other days? I lock myself in the bathroom and go back to that daydream about duct tape and a drive-off.





Thursday, June 26, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

From the Miami News-Record, June 22 (with a few extra pics!)
I have never been a gardener, nor been interested in gardening. It has been a long-standing rule around our house that I am not allowed to touch any potted plants or hanging baskets because when I do, they die. I moved to Stillwater at 19 and my mom sent a philodendron because, as she said, “You can’t kill a philodendron. Anyone can grow them.” When I moved back home six weeks later, along with a new collection of Eskimo Joe’s cups and t-shirts, I also brought my poor, dead plant. Last spring I received a hanging basket of beautiful pink flowers. I tried not to touch it, but I also didn’t want someone to think me rude by asking them to keep it away from me and whisk it off to the safety of my car before I had any effect on it. But I politely admired it and carried it myself and ….yeah, it died.

When we moved and I got this idea to plant a garden, my husband said it was a bad idea. He reminded me ever so gently of my plant-killing background. He was sweet about reiterating to me the fact that I do not have a green thumb. Yet I kept insisting, so he just went along with it and started tilling me a garden. He picked up some tomato and pepper plants and I excitedly called my mom from the seed aisle at Walmart because I didn’t know the first thing about what types of seeds to get - you know, because of the whole not-being-able-to-grow-stuff thing. Upon her advice I settled on yellow crookneck squash, okra, cucumbers, zucchini, peaches and cream corn, and green beans, then some jack o’ lantern pumpkin and watermelon seeds for the youngest (who actually does have the ability to grow things). I wanted eggplant and radishes and broccoli and lettuce and all the really tasty and wonderful things garden people grow, but no one here likes broccoli but me. And you can forget about eggplant – no one is actually sure they hate it seeing as how none of them have ever tried it, but they’re all relatively certain they do.
So. Hott.
We planted late because we were garden novices and had no clue what we were doing, but in our ignorance we saved ourselves some work because of the chilly spring freezes that took out a few gardens. Then when things started growing we had week after week of rain and things started looking pretty bleak out there. Enter the usual veggie-loving bugs and we all but threw in the towel. I didn’t check it for about a week, and then to my surprise one night we had pole beans in need of poles because they were attacking each other. After telling them to play nice while I unwound vine after vine, we drove in a few stakes, realizing quickly we needed more than a just “few” stakes. Paul took off for the shop while I pulled weeds. When he came back I could only laugh – he was carrying a cattle panel. Like for a corral. It actually works great and just kind of completes the redneck atmosphere we’ve got going on around our entire place.

Our little garden won’t win any awards, but we’re excited every time we find a new tiny veggie. I didn’t even bother with a scarecrow this year – I just grab my daughter’s pink Red Ryder BB gun and shoot the birds from the back porch window. I’m making a list of all the stuff we did wrong and things I want to try for next year and I’m finding that I actually like this new adventure and don’t mind the dirt and sweat too much. I find a strange peace while pulling weeds (and on evenings I’m particularly frustrated, it makes for a great stress reliever) and am in awe of seeing God’s handiwork firsthand in my little redneck garden with a metal cattle panel right in the middle.


Gardening ain't for sissies - or those who dislike dirty piggies.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Daughter, Myself

From the Miami News-Record, Sunday June 15
Of my three kids, I have two daughters. The oldest, Abby, is 17 and a half. She’s quiet, introverted, reserved, and sarcastic, doesn’t emote much, rarely cries, and would rather go through life just observing and blending into the background. She looks like, and is very much like, her father. The youngest daughter, Kady (or Bugg), is 12 and a half. She is loud, talkative, outgoing, boisterous, and emotional, loves being the center of attention, doesn’t know a stranger, and prefers her world to be full of fanfare, excitement, and noise. She looks like, and is very much like, me.

It took me years to fully appreciate our eldest’s quiet demeanor. She would rather be subjected to root canals sans anesthetic than speak before a crowd. This blows my mind. Why would you NOT want to speak in front of a crowd? Now, know this, I am an introvert – an outgoing introvert (Yes, we exist; look us up - we’re fascinating), but an introvert all the same. Our introverted personalities, scathing wit, ability to spin a yarn, and our utter intolerance for grammatical errors are pretty much the only personality traits we share. She hates chick flicks, I love them. I like sci-fi, geeky, nerdy, comic-bookish things, she laughs at me and all of my fellow nerds. I talk a lot, she does not. The list of things we do differently goes on awhile. We get along fabulously.
The youngest child is my mini me. We both have a strict policy that no one cries alone in our presence (something I inherited from my own mother and passed on to her – you ought to see the three of us watch “Steel Magnolias”). We love to hum, sing, talk, and communicate. We can read for hours on end and become totally lost in the story. We both have big feet. When we are mad and frustrated, door slamming seems to make us both feel better. We are both simultaneously scatter-brained yet strangely organized all at the same time. We fight. Constantly.
I knew we were a lot alike, but it wasn’t until this past week when I was helping her pack for church camp that I realized the depth of our similarities. She asked if I would help her organize her suitcase, a task she was more than capable of handling on her own, but she asked for my help and who was I to turn down quality time with my youngest before she headed off to camp? And as she whipped out note cards, color-coded for each day of the week of camp, each containing a list of the day’s outfit, color of flip-flops, bracelets and earrings, I busted out laughing. As a tween and teen myself, I would start weeks before camp, writing lists and making tags and labels for different pieces of an outfit. It was a bit of déjà vu. I mean, if listening to her cry over math on a daily basis wasn’t enough to make me realize she’s my spiritual doppelgänger, this freakishly organized packing ritual certainly was.
We do fuss a lot. Because we are so very, very much alike. We are both sensitive and emotional creatures and when you put that much passionate energy together, sometimes bombs go off. I slam doors in her honor and she slams them in mine. And after a particularly rough math lesson last week, as I fumed behind a firmly closed door at how infuriating she had just been to me, I was hit with a revelation: I used to infuriate my mother just as much. Because we, too, are so very, very much alike.
So while the relationship with one daughter has been easy from the start, I am now holding on firmly to the hope that the relationship with the other will get easier and stronger as we both age. Much like the relationship between my own mother and me.