Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Spooky and Sweet

Originally published in the Miami News -Record on October 25, 2015

I passed my love of Halloween on to my daughters. Kady has spent weeks decorating our house and we spent several evenings at Abby’s making her house extra creepy. From the bones in our fire pit to the skeleton sitting nonchalantly on Ab’s porch swing, we have represented the skeletal population well. There’s a 5x8 foot spider web in Abby’s yard which I’m sure the mail carriers will be glad to see come down since they have to walk all the way around it to deliver her mail. Our dining room table is host to a skull, a few “potions”, and some ghosts. Last weekend at Sunday dinner the skull was a nice addition to the bowl of hot rolls.

As a kid, we couldn’t wait to buy the quintessential garb that every other elementary school kid had: the plastic smock/coverall that went over your clothes and the plastic mask with eye holes that were never quite right. By wearing them, you automatically assumed risk of corneal abrasion. Whether you were the Lone Ranger, Red Riding Hood, or Casper the Friendly Ghost, you staggered around not seeing (or breathing) well while you paced single file around the Old Gym to show off your costume. There was a boy and girl winner in each grade and if you didn’t win, you were okay with that because: CANDY. And popcorn balls. And Kool-ade. And those rock hard sugar cookies in the shape of a Jack O’Lantern and covered with ¼” of orange-tinted sugar crystals. Oh my stars, I loved the Halloween parties in grade school. As we got older, the costumes got more creative. Lumberjacks were born when a longsuffering mom would slather a prepubescent face in Vaseline and then toss coffee grounds at the well-jellied mug of her offspring. Mummies came to life when moms sacrificed white bed sheets and wrapped her little darling head to toe. And if you had a mom like mine, she would almost always pull an all-nighter sewing a pilgrim apron and bonnet or maybe a witch’s dress.

I know we live in a different day and age now, but I miss the Halloweens of the 80’s. Back then, no one had ever heard of such a thing as a Trunk or Treat or a Fall Festival. We just  trick-or-treated and enjoyed the heck out of the school party that felt like it lasted eight hours – and it kind of did since we all wore our costumes to school and spent the whole day as our favorite cartoon characters, heroes, and creatures then topped it all off with forty-leven pounds of sugar apiece. (Now that I think about it, I’m sure our teachers drank a lot after school on party day. Or at least wanted to.)

Being country kids, we didn’t trick-or-treat in town, but spent the time between school and bedtime burning up a tank of gas going all over Ottawa County to relatives’ houses. First stop was Papa’s farm where we’d catch him before the evening milking. Then it was off to Nana’s house in Picher where there was a brown paper sack for each grandkid waiting on her kitchen table holding enough candy to make a dentist cry. Then on to Aunt Edie’s and Granny Glenn’s, a few of Mom’s elderly friends, and Mrs. Demo at Nine Tribes Tower where we always got her amazing chocolate chip cookies. We’d finish the night at Uncle Tom and Aunt Shirlye’s and by then we were usually fighting sleep because our sugar high had worn off and Mom had snatched up all the candy when we wouldn’t stop fighting.

The kids plan to hand out candy at Abby’s house this year, although I fear most kids will be getting their candy out of random trunks around town. Oh darn. I guess I’ll take the leftover Reese’s Fast Breaks off her hands and dispose of any Fun Size Snickers as well. You know how we moms sacrifice for our kids. 

Spelunkin' (A continuation)

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on October 18, 2015

Back at camp, Lana praised me for passing my free cardiac stress test, but kept a close eye on me. I know she loves me and all, but really didn’t want to do CPR on her friend. I drank a bottle or seven of water, rested my shaking legs, and was excited to hear Tour-guide Lumberjack Barbie say that the cave entrance was “only a minute” from our camp. I was fairly certain I could handle a minute of walking. As we started for the cave I tried to ignore the nagging voice in the back of my head that kept saying, “This path is preeeeeetty steep which means coming back up later is going to finish you off where the other hike didn’t. You better call your mom and tell her you love her.”

At the entrance, the guide warned us about low hanging ceilings, fluttering bats, and slippery surfaces. He cautioned us to not touch anything with our hands and to stay on the path because some of the critters living in there were so small we could knock out an entire community with the toe of our shoe.  “Horton Hears a Who” flashed in my head. He said if there were hand rails we could touch those, but to be very careful to not bump other surfaces with any body parts. I vowed to lovingly make those hand rails my new best friends.

And thus we began our descent. Our friends’ youngest son had been very nervous and scared to go in the cave and they had been praying God would help him overcome that fear in the weeks prior to the trip. I know in my heart of hearts that God conveniently placed some salamanders in the stairwell as we entered. Ezra was fascinated with those scurrying boogers and we were 20-some feet underground before the little guy knew it. I, on the other hand, didn’t do so well on the trip down. I am terrified of heights and the stairs were steep. In order to keep from breaking my hip, I had to look down at the steps. Looking down made me light-headed and I lost my balance and bumped the wall….and felt something wiggle. I called down the stairs. “Uhm…..Nathan? I’m pretty sure I just killed a salamander with my butt.” Paul whacked me on the shoulder and shushed me. He said didn’t want me banished before we even got in.

We went 170 feet below the ground that afternoon. We saw all the usual cave offerings: stalactites, stalagmites, bats, lizards, frogs, unknown drippy things and wiggly things. I saw this cool looking stuff on the handrail and hollered to the guide to see what it was. “Oh that? It’s a fungus growing in some guano.”  It was then that I shone my flashlight further onto the handrail and realized that the rail that I had been clinging to was pretty much covered in bat poo. So. Much. Bat. Poo.

Sam entertained us all with random Batman quotes and declarations to save Gotham from the Joker. Everyone over 5’ tall whacked their heads. For once Kady and I felt pretty fortunate that we’re short. We saw a pile of guano that had to have been 12-feet tall. I heard the folks at the head of the line say, “We’re almost there!” and I assumed that “there” meant “exit”. No, “there” meant “as far as we can go and now we have to turn around and walk all the way back out.” It was a half mile in and the same half mile out, but it took a quarter of the time to get out than it did to get in.

It was a really cool experience and I’m glad we did it. I’d even do it again someday. But I’m hoping that between now and the next time, that special cave snail pays for a golf cart and paved pathway to and from the cave. Nature schmature. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Great Outdoors

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on October 11, 2015.

Awhile back, Mike and Lana, the friends that came over to sort-of camp in our yard and go four-wheeling back in the summer, asked us if we would be interested in visiting an underground laboratory in a cave in the Ozarks. How does one say no to such a proposition? Kady and Sam are studying earth and space science this year, so I thought caves would go right along with such a trip and you know us homeschoolers and the constant educating of our children and stuff. We were SO in.
We were only going for an overnight stay and would really only spend about 24 hours on the property, but goodness gracious it looked like we were packing to stay a year. We had lawn chairs, flashlights, coolers, bags, sleeping bags, enough bug spray to kill half of Missouri’s insect population, plus hot dogs, sandwiches, and I made enough blueberry muffins for an army. We arrived, grabbed a bite for lunch and finished up just as our tour guide showed up. He looked like a lumberjack. He had a beard and wore a flannel shirt and very serious-looking hiking boots. His name was Nathan, but in my head I referred to him as Tour-guide Lumberjack Barbie. He was adorable.

He took us on a hike through the beautiful wilds of a tiny dot on the map called Protem, Missouri. He explained about the cave and its impact on the environment. He told us about how the owners were working very hard to protect the endangered species that lived in their cave. He said, “The elaborate septic system that keeps the groundwater free of waste was paid for by the snail.” And rather than wonder why or how a snail paid for a septic system, all I could think was, “Where is this snail and will he pay for stuff for me, too?” Turns out, there is a species of cave snail that is only found in this particular cave in the whole wide world. It’s a VIM (Very Important Mollusk). And apparently when you have a VIM on your property you are a VIP and people pay for your toilets.
Not far into our hike we came across a pygmy rattlesnake. But being homeschoolers, we didn’t run screaming; we all gathered around to inspect it. Tour-guide Lumberjack Barbie nearly had a stroke. “Folks, that’s a poisonous snake. Folks? Rattlesnakes are poisonous. PEOPLE! RATTLESNAKES ARE POISONOUS SNAKES.” Poor fella. Apparently he had never led a tour for homeschoolers before. We are a curious lot.
Little did we realize that our hike was taking us downhill. (Or at least, I didn’t – maybe everyone else did.) When I heard, “Okay, let’s head back to camp for a quick rest then we’ll walk down to the cave,” I was thinking, “Oh, it’s been such a lovely trek so far. I can’t wait to see the rest of the trail.” Then about 10 minutes later after a nearly vertical incline that would make a mountain goat faint, I was sucking so much wind I was seriously considering trying Kady’s inhaler even though I’m allergic to albuterol and it causes my throat to swell shut. I was pretty much just thinking it would bring about death quicker than the heart attack I was certain I was going to have. Lana is an RN and Mike is a firefighter. They both looked ready to spring into action if I keeled over – something I think we all felt was fairly imminent. However, I made it. I survived all 4,270 miles of that hike.
I also exaggerated a few times in the previous paragraph.
You’ll have to come back next Sunday to hear the rest of the story. I know, I know… I’m not one for suspense either, but such a tale requires more than my 650-ish word limit. And believe me, you will all want to read about how I’m pretty sure I killed a salamander with my butt.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Flying Checkbook

Originally published in the Miami News-Record, October 4, 2015

I moved out of Mom’s house and straight into Paul’s. That took some getting used to. I had a checking account for awhile prior to getting married, but when your mom buys the groceries and pays the bills, the only money that comes out of your account is gas money and shopping money. Suddenly I was a wife and the adorable checks with Holstein cows on them (we also had matching return address labels!) were being used for things like food, electricity, phone, insurance, and oil for my car that was burning a quart a day. Paul was the only one working and I was having no luck finding a job. Things were tight and kept getting tighter.
One night, I had tried paying the bills and it just wasn’t working. I had always heard the phrase “Robbing Peter to pay Paul," but it finally rang true for me just what that meant and I didn’t see my Paul reaping any benefits of this so-called “pay.” I was frustrated at my inability to find a job to help out, Paul was working long hours to try to help, we were both tired of eating dishes made with canned beef and dehydrated eggs. He walked through the door after a 14-hour day and I unloaded on him. I had been crying and then it turned to flat-out anger. I was complaining and he stood there with this blank look on his face. How dare he?! So I started yelling. Still he stood there looking at me, blinking. Then he shrugged and turned to walk into the living room. And before I knew what came over me, I lobbed the checkbook at him. Now, in my mind, it was going to really make a point. It was going to get his attention and make him see that I was justified in my tirade. Have you ever thrown a checkbook? They just don’t make good missiles. They kind of flutter… and then flop to the ground. I wanted to hit him and hurt him like he had just hurt me by walking away when I needed him to just listen. Instead, the noise of the fluttering checkbook made him turn around. It landed behind him at his heels. He looked at the faux leather case that showcased my neat handwriting and color-coded register entries, looked up at me, looked back down….then yelled, “DID YOU JUST THROW THAT AT ME?”

Oh, it was on, brother and sisters. I stood up prepared to fight. Or run. He threw it back. And even though he threw it much harder and faster than I had, it still only managed a flutter and a flop. And then we both just laughed. What else were we going to do? The bank balance hadn’t changed one penny in all of our screaming and throwing. We were still broke and we were still going to eat canned beef smothered in cheap bottled barbecue sauce for dinner that night.
“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” (Proverbs 15:1 NLT)
This past week Paul and I commemorated the 23rd anniversary of meeting and our first date. (Commemorated as in “Hey, 23 years ago today you met me and asked me out.” “Oh yeah? Cool. G’nite, dear.”) There have been times when we’ve spoken more harsh words than gentle answers. There were plenty of times when we simply chose to not speak at all because harsh words were all we had for each other. Not every season of a marriage is full of sunshine and roses. Sometimes it’s full of empty bank accounts, sick kids, tired spouses, and other rotten things. But the times where it’s got some “I believe in you” and “I love you madly even though you’re a slob and apparently physically incapable of replacing an empty toilet paper roll” are the times that keep us going.

Happy 23 years of knowing me, babe. And thanks for asking me to go bowling.

Monday, September 28, 2015

One Hundred

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on Sunday, September 27, 2015. 
Right now your eyes are experiencing the monumental occasion of reading my 100th column in the Miami News-Record. Do you feel the excitement? I do! It’s a little bit staggering to me since that means I’ve come up with 100 ridiculous stories to tell you folks. This whole thing started when I was asked to write about homeschooling for National Education Week or somesuch something or ‘nother. After that, I was asked to make it a weekly thing and well, here I am 2 ½ years later. Yes, I know that if you do the math there should be more, but have only eked out 100 because hey, I get busy sometimes what with teaching my children proper comma usage and how to become productive members of society, drinking stupid amounts of coffee and Sonic sweet tea, and other really crucially important things like that.
My writing started with a blog back in June of 2004 back when the internet as we know it today was merely a toddler. Blogging was very new and not many people did it. At first no one read the blog. Not even my mom. I didn’t know what to write about and in looking back at the first few posts, they’re rather embarrassing. Then when I realized that no one was actually reading them except my sister, I relaxed and stopped trying to perform and started just telling my stories about the kids, about growing up in Oklahoma, about the insane stuff that happens around here. Then, a funny thing happened: people started reading. And before I knew it I had an audience. I had followers. I had fans. My mom was convinced I had stalkers. (I didn’t.)I was nominated for the Okie Blog Awards and won Best Humor Blog two years in a row and beat Pioneer Woman for Best Rural Blog the last year of the awards. The kids say it’s my claim to fame. I haven’t told them yet that she won Best Overall Blog. Shh. They still think I’m famous.

Mom’s gotten a little more comfortable with me putting my life out there for all to read. I dare say she’s my biggest fan; she’s very proud of me, my momma. She still cringes from time to time, especially when I write about poop or farts, but she’s probably figured out by now that my stories just NEED a certain amount of poop and farts to be what they are. (Mom, I know I said both words twice. Please get out from under your desk now. No one holds you responsible.)
I’ve been recognized in Walmart more than a few times. My Junior High English teacher reads me every week. (Hi, Mrs. Reid. I love you. You’re the reason I love commas so much.) Few things make me happier than for someone to come up and tell me I made them laugh on a Sunday morning. I hear I’m even read before the obituaries in some households. I feel like if I can beat out the obits, my life hasn’t been for naught.
My family has, for the most part, adjusted to having parts of their lives printed in black and white for the entire world – okay, all of Ottawa County – okay, a good portion of the Miami area – to see. They really have no choice in the matter simply because those crazy people help make me who I am and add so much to this silly life of mine. Stories of sisters and brussel sprouts, of woobies and hamsters, of ups and downs, of love and of loss – these are the stories I love to tell and I am thrilled that you all love to read them. At least, you all keep telling me you love to read them. If you’re fibbing to me, I am going to be SO embarrassed and then I’ll really have to apologize to Mom for all the poop and farts.

Thank you, Constant Reader, for, well….for reading. I am honored to be a part of your Sundays.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Beards and Man Buns

Originally posted in the Miami News-Record on September 20, 2015

Last week I had the privilege of volunteering at the county’s Man Up conference. This was my second time to help out with Man Up and I gotta say….a lot has changed in two years. Now, keep in mind Paul and I have been out of youth ministry for over a year and a half now, and our kids are not in public school, so I guess that puts me at risk for being out of the loop when it comes to what’s going on with young dudes these days.

My husband graduated in 1982, back when moustaches were all the rage. You know, the moustaches I’m talking about – the ones usually worn by the creepy guys in movies who own cameras with telescopic lenses and drive vans with no windows. I graduated high school in 1991. Not one single guy in my glass walked the stage on graduation night with hair on his face. The guys of the early 90’s were more interested in the hair atop their noggins, not on their faces. Anyone remember the re-emergence of the bowl cut? How about shaving their jersey numbers into the sides of their heads? Oh and we can’t talk about guy hair in the 90’s without mentioning the frosted-tips on a super spikey, so-much-hair-gel-it-was-downright-dangerous ‘do.

Last week, if I hadn’t known I was at Man Up, I’d have sworn I was either at a lumberjack reunion or a Duck Dynasty convention. The beards on those boys! I was absolutely in awe of these 16 and 17 year old guys with more facial hair than Professor Dumbledore or Abraham Lincoln. And in doing “research” (read: I searched the Google) for this column, most men don’t really have the ability to grow serious facial hair until they are in their mid-20’s. So what is in the public water supply around here? Straight up testosterone mixed with a little Propecia??  

I also saw more than one man bun. If you haven’t seen one of these things yet, Google it. Or better yet, don’t. That is one trend I do not understand nor will I ever be able to embrace. I keep seeing these things here and there and I just don’t get it. I recently had about six inches cut off my own hair, so I know the value of a good messy bun day. When your hair is so long you can’t do anything with it other than bun it, it’s time for a trim. But if you want long hair, guys, let it hang gloriously down your back or gather it into a neat ponytail. Please don’t wrap it up strangely on top of your head like a little nubbin of keratin and protein and expect the vast majority of women to compliment you. Especially here in Oklahoma. I guarantee you, you probably can’t fit a John Deere or Realtree cap over that strange little bun so seriously, what’s the point?

At the risk of sounding like I have found a soap box on which to stand and shout, I will just end this with some friendly advice. As the wife of a redneck man and the mother of a nearly 17 year old guy, I have been in two barber shops multiple times over the last 23 years and never once have either of my boys come out with a man bun. Nick Koronis gave Sam his first haircut on his first birthday and over the last 17 years if Nick hasn’t been available, Larry Linthicum has stepped up and taken care of business. My husband has grown quite attached to Mr. Ed over the past few years as well and in my opinion, if Mr. Ed can’t take care of your hair cutting needs, you are entirely too high maintenance.

Keep it simple, fellas. Leave the buns to the baker.  

Monday, September 14, 2015

Emptier Nest

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on September 13, 2015.

Last weekend we moved our oldest, Abby, into her own house. I didn’t shed a single tear the entire day. In fact, I have yet to cry over the whole thing. Now, her daddy on the other hand has had a significantly harder time with this than I have.

While I’m usually the cry-er, that wasn’t the case this time. So even though I didn’t “get” his sadness, I just patted him awkwardly and said, “Geez, it’s not like she moved to China. We’ll see her again next week. Good grief.” Apparently he viewed this as a bit cold. I tried. I really thought that was comforting. But he pats me awkwardly when I am hysterically crying over an episode of “Downton Abbey” even though he thinks I’m silly beyond measure. This time it was simply my turn to awkwardly pat him even though I didn’t understand why he was so upset. I suppose I should expect him to be a little less sympathetic the next time I’m crying while the Crawleys celebrate Christmas at the abbey. (And if you’ve ever watched “Downton Abbey” you know the Christmas episodes are absolute tear-jerkers.)

I have been nothing but elated for Abby since she first started talking about moving out on her own. When I was 19, I moved to Stillwater with a friend from high school and lived there all of six weeks. I was so homesick I ran back home with a bruised ego, feeling a bit of a failure. (It all worked out  – I met my Pauly a month after moving back.) So really, I have never lived on my own. I went from living in my momma’s house, a short stint with a roommate, back to Mom’s, to living in my husband’s house. And 23 years later, I’m still living in the midst of this glorious circus with these crazy monkeys I married and gave birth to. Abby’s getting to live monkey-free for awhile and that’s very cool.

I’ve had so many people console me and tell me “it’s going to be okay” and I’ll “get through it” and I’m like, “Yeaaaaaah … *blink blink*… I know. I’m excited for her….should I not be?” and then I usually get stared at like I’ve suddenly grown tentacles or something.

She’s learning that it’s okay to be alone. She’s paying her own bills, cooking her own food (mostly chicken strips and mac and cheese), going to her job every day, and has decorated her house the way she wants to decorate it. (The plethora of Eiffel Towers in virtually every room is testament to that.) She and her dog are settling in to this grand thing called Life on her terms, in her own way, and I am THRILLED for her. When she tripped a breaker the other day, she had to figure it out on her own. (Of course, she called her Daddy to help her, but she fixed it on her own while he talked her through it.) She is also fighting an ant invasion and has figured out that if she lets the dishes sit in the sink that is a very bad thing. She is potty training a year and a half old dog, proving the adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” wrong. She is decoupaging every light switch and outlet cover in the house pink and silver and polka dots. I am so proud of her, living this chapter of her life quite bravely and awesomely.  

Oh, don’t get me wrong – I miss her something fierce. But for now, she can’t afford cable and we can, so we know that every Sunday night she’ll show up at our house for dinner that is definitely not chicken strips and macaroni and cheese and to watch “The Walking Dead.”  I’ll get my Abby fix and zombie fix all in the same night. Life is good. Even if our nest is a little emptier. 

The Woobie

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on August 30, 2015

They were just cloth diapers, however we didn’t use them for that. I bought them second-hand from my boss at the time. His boys were out of infanthood and I was a newlywed with dreams of a family. So they were tucked away in the spare room until the blessed event occurred.

Abby was our most prolific puker. We ran the gambit of formulas in attempts to quell the fount of ...stuff that emitted from our baby. Those cloths were put through their paces her first year. While the burp cloths were ever present and actually a part of my wardrobe that first year, (seriously, every picture of me taken during Abby’s first year shows me sporting a cloth diaper on my left shoulder – it’s comical, really) she had no particular attachment to them.

Then her brother came along and once again we dragged out the burp cloths. It was a force of habit to start wearing a burp cloth on my left shoulder even though he wasn’t the projectile spewer his sister had been. But a funny thing happened when he wasn’t very old – we noticed that when we picked him up, he found that ever-present cloth and grabbed it up in his tiny little hand. He would clutch it and love on it and soon, he was our own little Linus. We started tying a knot in the end of one so we’d know not to wipe up slobbers, boogers, or spits with it. And it wasn’t long before it had a name: it was The Woobie. He went to bed with it, woke up with it, drove it around in his Tonka dump truck, and ate with it in his lap. After he was weaned off the bottle and no longer needed a burp cloth, Woobie still hung around. He had about three dozen to choose from and we just rotated them out when they started smelling weird or I felt they might start standing up on its own. I mean, they were all identical, so they were easily interchangeable.

Then SURPRISE! We found out we were going to have a Kady! And while we tried to convince brother that the new baby was going to need the burp cloths for actual burping, he didn’t buy it. We finally reached an agreement – he would keep three for himself and the rest had to go to his new sister. And because he was in the throes of stinky boy-ness, I promptly dyed them all bright pink so he would want nothing to do with the ones he donated. It worked. He said pink was gross.

Then a new generation of Woobie was born, all pink and girly. It wasn’t long before we were tying a knot in the end of one to keep it goo-free. And that sweet girl carried those pink raggedy hunks of cloth everywhere, even more than her brother did. By the time Kady was born, those burp cloths were in the neighborhood of 23 years old. They held up well, I think.

Tucked safely in their keepsake boxes are many things – locks of hair, birth announcements, etc. In Abby’s is a paci with no end (creative habit-breaking on my part). In Sam’s is a very dingy Woobie with a knot in the end. And in Kady’s, a tiny 4x4 piece of the palest pink, ratty, threadbare fabric that is all that is left of the very last Woobie. Sam’s was washed before I put it away and in my tenderest of Mommy moments, I will breathe deep into it and reminisce of the scent of his little boy noggin. Kady’s, however, was in such bad shape it could not be washed before it was put away. It would have disintegrated for sure.  I don’t sniff around on that one. I think it’s better to remember the smell of her little head without partaking of the Woobie. It’s probably just safer for my nasal passages. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Shifts and Changes

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on August 23, 2015

 Paul quit his job a few weeks ago. It was a scary life event, I have to admit. In the nearly 23 years we’ve been together, he’s had nary a day of unemployment. He committed to being our breadwinner all those years ago and has worked very hard for us over the years. He’s worked in a factory where he was exposed to lead on a daily basis and got a monetary bonus if his blood tested in the “safe” level. (“Here you go sir. You get a bonus for not poisoning yourself stupid this week. Have a nice day.”) He’s worked in an auto garage where temps would hit upwards of 115° in the summer and well below freezing in the winter. He’s mowed many a lawn. And he’s most recently been in a casino where he was miserable. He’s always worked hard for us, even when it wasn’t fun or remotely enjoyable.

So when he called me one day on his lunch break and said, “I think I’m going to quit my job,” I know it took a few minutes for my brain to register what he had said. I said, “Oooooookay….” and even though I was doing a mental freakout like one of those cartoons from that new Disney movie, I added, “I support you.” He didn’t quit that day and I was secretly thankful. And he didn’t quit the next day or even the next week. And I continued being thankful all while I stockpiled groceries and laundry detergent – just in case.

Then the day came when he called me once again on his lunch hour and said, “When I leave today, I’m not coming back,” and I found myself once again saying, “Okay, “ and I took a deep breath and added “and ….. I support you,” all while my little cartoon Panic guy was doing this crazy parcour ninja routine all over my brain in full-on meltdown mode.

I want to be a good wife and a good mom and I would do anything in the world for this crazy clan I call my own. And sometimes being the good wife or mom means just saying, “I love you. I support you. I don’t necessarily understand you, and I’m more than a little freaked out, but I support you.” And then you pray. A lot. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16 KJV). I’m not saying I’m overly righteous, but lately my prayers have been pretty fervent in hopes of availing.

He was only unemployed two weeks before he found a new job that so far he really likes. It’s not day shift, but that’s okay. It’s hard work, but he’s no stranger to it and he’s willing to do it. His first night, he called me on his dinner break to tell me “They’re doing everything they can to make this old fat man sweat!” but he said it feels good to DO something, not sit behind a desk. It was a significant pay cut to start and we have some budget adjusting to do for the next few months, but we can do it. I am a coupon clippin’ fool and my sister guides me in the ancient Way of the Ad-Matches. My mother has sworn that we will not starve and asks me about every other day if I need butter or coffee. (The woman knows what is really important.) My mother-in –law has said she’ll help with bills if we need it. We have a great support system and pretty amazing kids who know that while things might be tight around here for awhile, we’ll be taken care of and that their daddy is a diligent provider for us. Plus, right now they’re digging the fact that we eat cereal or popcorn for dinner several nights a week and we can watch “Doctor Who” and “Downton Abbey” rather than “Cops” until bedtime.

Sometimes change is scary, but I do love a good adventure sometimes. Not too often, but sometimes.     

The Manager

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on August 16, 2015

While I was given supernatural mom-munity a few weeks ago when my entire family got the vile stomach bug that’s going around, apparently my super power wore off and I succumbed this past week. Instead of getting up on a sunshiney Tuesday morning to start our fourth year of homeschooling with my two beloved, smiling-faced, school-aged children I instead spent the entire day sleeping and barfing. Sam and Kady are both very independent learners and do the vast majority of their work on their own without too awful much from me, but I just couldn’t turn them loose on a new school year without being present. I like to call it responsible parenting and schooling. It might also be that I have control issues. But I digress.

Finally, after 14 horrendous hours of the worst stomach virus I’ve had in probably 20 years (No, I’m really not exaggerating) I managed to regain some semblance of consciousness. I wearily pleaded with my husband to bring me a Coke. We don’t normally keep soda around the house and the last I had bought as a treat for the 4th of July was gone. Bless his heart, he valiantly drove to Turtle Stop to not only get a 12-pack, but also a pre-chilled bottle for my immediate consumption. I tried really hard to not think about how much he spent on convenience store soda and held back my desire to tell him that he could have gotten it cheaper somewhere else. I just sipped the dark, carbohydrate-delivering liquid that normally would never touch these lips and tried not to see dollar signs before my eyes nor dwell on the chemicals entering my weary body. After nibbling on some saltines and polishing off my Coke, I left the bedroom to seek the company of my family, who I was absolutely positive had missed some something awful during my hiatus.

It looked like they’d hosted a rave right in the middle of our double-wide.

There were blankets strewn about the living room like they’d made a veritable blanket fort mansion. There were Eskimo Joe’s cups in every cup holder – one with milk that was bordering on a state I can only describe as “thick”. The TV volume was on approximately 492 and they were watching “Storage Wars”. Actually, no. No one was actually watching the TV. It was just on. Apparently entertaining the blankets.

The kitchen counters looked like a family of rabid raccoons had been turned loose to scavenge and had done so quite successfully. The Hostess cakes I had bought as a treat just the night before (with a coupon!) had been all but obliterated and nary a crinkly white wrapper had found a home in the trashcan. Someone had made tea – and those who had consumed it had wantonly set the pitcher down repeatedly on the actual counter top. We have white counter tops and I always set the pitcher on a paper towel to avoid stains. People, there. were. stains. So many stains.  The clean dishes were still safely housed in the dishwasher and dirty ones were piled so very high in the sink. There were crumbs EVERYWHERE. I don’t handle crumbs well. I stepped on something questionable – I think it was raccoon poop.

And that was when I lost it. Still in my pajamas from the previous night, my hair in the worst bed-headed state imaginable and pale as a ghost, I’m sure I looked slightly crazier than I actually was, but that’s okay. I like to go for dramatic effect. I think I made my point, though. The makings of the blanket mansion were transformed into neat folded piles. Wrappers magically danced to the trashcan. Crumbs disappeared. There were voices mumbling “Sorry, Momma” and “Glad you’re feeling better, dear” any time they got in my vicinity.

I think they need me. They need me to manage them. And keep them safe from scavenging raccoons. And possibly themselves.