Thursday, April 07, 2016


Originally published in the Miami News-Record on April 3, 2016. 

I came to a realization this week: I will never be organized.

It’s not for lack of trying, mind you. I just feel like I’m fighting a battle that literally cannot be won. Ever. By anyone. Even the most organized person on earth has that one secret area of their life that is never quite where or how they want it to be or look. And don’t tell me about the award-winning book by Suzy Homemaker or the foolproof method taught by Linda Betterthanyou. Total Organization is the impossible dream. I love FLYlady (check her out at and think her program is amazing. And I get super duper amazingly organized when I’m following her steps. But then suddenly I find myself just…..not. Not doing it, not following it, not trying, not FLYing, just….not. Because my life tends to be a little more out-of-control than her “Control Journal” allows for. Oh, I do have a Control  Journal – I dusted it just the other day. After I found it peeking out from the bottom of a stack of papers and bill stubs that needed to be filed. In 2014.

Just this past week our youngest daughter had her wisdom teeth removed. I cleared my calendar for the week knowing that she’d be convalescing and that was the perfect excuse to not commit to leaving the house for at least the work week. My goal was to get the file cabinet cleaned out to where only the current year’s stuff is in there, get April and May’s school assignments in my planner and begin the countdown to The Last Day Of School (yes, it must be written in capital letters and it must be said with extreme reverence), get the craft cabinet and my sewing stuff cleaned out and organized, and get the kitchen island and the dining room table cleared of anything that doesn’t belong there.

As I write this, it’s nearly 11pm on Thursday night. The file cabinet is cleaned out and my sewing stuff is organized. That’s as far as I got. The school assignments are still in their purgatory of being on paper, but not officially in the book. The craft stuff was partially cleaned out and organized, but then I found some pretty scrapbook paper and a Pinterest tutorial on how to make origami bookmarks and well, let’s just say I need to read more books to utilize all the bookmarks I made. Like, about 126 more books than I’m reading now. And my goal to rid the island and table of things that don’t belong there? Well, it seems that both surfaces have been occupied by all that stuff for so long everyone just assumes that’s where those things belong. I can assure you, though, that the three cans of spray paint, a coupon from the vet for heart worm medicine, four mini candy bars from someone’s Christmas stocking that no one claims yet everyone hollers when I head for the trash with them because they “might want to eat that after dinner”, four broken pencils, roughly four dozen paper clips, a container of bb’s, four opened packages of Juicy Fruit (and oh yeah, my Control Journal) don’t actually belong there. I think.

Funny thing is, though, in the midst of the clutter and apparent disorganization, there is a system, a method to my madness, if you will. If Paul decides he needs the instruction manual on a battery charger he bought in 1998 or a check stub from last year, I can go right to the file (or pile) and pull it out. If Sam needs a copy of his high school transcript, I can tell you immediately that I did not file it the last time he needed a copy of it, but instead laid it on my desk to file it later and can go to the correct pile and produce it for you in less than a minute.

So I suppose that while I’ll never win an award for my mad organizational skillz, nor will I ever be featured in House Beautiful, I do have a very alphabetized DVD collection. And if you need an origami bookmark (or twelve), I’m your girl. 

Oh, Blessed Slumber

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on March 20, 2016. 

Sleep is defined as “a condition of body and mind such as that which typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is relatively inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended.”

Unless you’re married.

I love sleep and I am really good at it. I am at a stage in life where I fall asleep, stay asleep, wake up feeling like a Disney Princess – except the closest wildlife out here is possums and armadillos and those guys are really bad at housework. They work nothing at all like the cute singing bluebirds and squirrels in the movies.  But I digress.

12 years ago Paul was in a motorcycle wreck. He was hit by a car. The car won. As a result, he has some issues with his back. A few years post-wreck we bought a Tempurpedic mattress in an attempt to alleviate some of his pain. We even got the ergo frame. That sucker will fold you up like a taco, sit you up like a hospital patient, or stand you on your head. There is no transfer of motion and it forms to your body. For me, it produces Sleep Nirvana. It used to produce the same for Paul, but after years of sedentary work at the casino and now factory work at his new job, his back muscles are staging a mutiny. The heavenly bed puts him through hell these days. Most nights he sleeps in the recliner because it’s the only place he can get comfortable.

Sleep is habit-forming. Not just in its frequency and duration, but also in how we do it. Paul works evenings, I go to bed well before he gets home at Midnight. Most nights he watches TV until 2 or 3 am and falls asleep in the recliner. I only see 3 a.m. if I have to pee. I get up early to see Sam off to vo-tech and start Kady on her schoolwork while we tiptoe around the recliner until mid-morning. It’s not ideal, but it works. On the weekends he tries to go to bed at a normal time and sleep in the bed, but he usually ends back up in the recliner. And typically, I’m glad when he finally goes.

Here’s the thing about my dear, sweet, darling, hard-working husband: he has the boniest knees in the entire history of forever. Oh, to look at him you’d never know he is a freak of nature, but trust me, when he lies down in a bed at night, those knees become lethal weapons. I have dealt with these killer joints of his for 23 years now and I think I have permanent nerve damage to the backs of my legs. 

Because see, not only is he the “big spoon”, he is also incredibly cold-natured. He gets cold, scooches over to me, wraps his big strong arms around me…..then proceeds to jab his killer knee joints into the backs of my legs. I’ve learned to mule kick his legs into submission, but then the other problem arises: I am not cold-natured. I am a 43 year old woman and we are subjected to these things called night sweats. And they ain’t for sissies. So he snuggles in, I think “Aw, this is nice. He loves me and I love him and I forgot how nice this……used….t—OHMYGOSH I AM GOING TO SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUST IF HE DOESN’T STOP TOUCHING ME RIGHT NOW.”

Psalms 4:8 says, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.” I love this assurance and maybe that’s why I usually sleep so well. However, even the Lord may have a hard time keeping Paul safe the next time those knees jab me in the backs of the thighs. We are currently in talks of going full Ward and June Cleaver just in case I can’t find a doctor who will comply with my demands of knee softening surgery. We’re thinking a couple of nice twin beds with matching bedspreads. A fan on my side of the room, a heater on his.  

The Mothers Before Us

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on March 13, 2016. 

This past week after a funeral, as we were standing in the foyer, Sis and I had a moment. And I’ve been thinking about this ever since.

Without taking her eyes off Mom who was visiting with people as they came out of the chapel, Sis said, “You know…we had such amazing female role models growing up. I wonder sometimes if I measure up. Am I being the same kind of role model for our girls? Like the ones we had?”

She spoke out loud what has gone through my head and heart on many occasions. Am I doing a good job? Am I messing up? Have I taught them enough? And if I haven’t, is it too late? Did I ever get around to teaching Abby how to make gravy before she moved out??? (I don’t think I did!)
We both looked at Mom who was presently patting the back of a white-haired woman, smiling her beautiful smile, and agreeing that the service was truly a wonderful tribute. And tears welled up in my eyes.

Granny Glenn was eccentric, but she was the best person to go to for advice on homeopathic medicine and she believed tea tree oil could cure anything. Memaw was sick most of my life, but the stories I have heard tell about a hard working farmer’s wife who endured so much and loved her family. And she always smiled when she saw us, no matter how sick she was. Nana was a staunch Republican who spoiled her grandkids, salted everything she put in her mouth, and would call you on your birthday and sing to you whether you wanted her to or not. There was the aunt who fielded questions about mysterious rashes when Abby was little, and the one who made a bikini out of fabric scraps so I could swim in the wheelbarrow. The aunt who once told me to “never worry about how you look when you’re around family. We all love you and will always love you no matter what.” The three English teachers – Reid, Enoch, and Sharbutt – who instilled in me a love for words as a teen. Ella Lou Reynolds and Helen Merit were ever-present guides at Hudson Creek Baptist Church who taught us that you love the church because God loves you. And you didn’t dare run in the sanctuary when those two ladies were around.

There was a tribe of so many women who shaped my mother into who she is and she – and a whole slew of women – in turn shaped my sister and me to be who we are. And now Heather and I are muddling through this thing called Motherhood. Surely all those women before us had doubts, too?
No mother is perfect, but if Mom ever had doubts about her ability to raise us girls, she never showed it. She was always so confident and always had all the answers. Heck, she still has all the answers. Maybe I am too honest with my girls because I just flat-out tell them: “I don’t have a clue. Call your Gram.” That works for hemming pants. And how to fix decorator icing that won’t hold its shape. And how to handle your child who sometimes cries more than she breathes. Oh wait, that one is ME calling her for advice.

My daughters and nieces are wonderful. Sure, they act goofy sometimes. Sure, they sometimes decide to get married and give you seven days to plan it. Sure, they sometimes run out of gas, forget to unload the dishwasher, and can never, ever, EVER make it out of the house on time, but they are good girls. They’re smart, kind, respectful, honest, trustworthy, and so much more.

I hope Mom is proud of how we are raising our girls. I hope she’s proud of them as women. I hope she’s proud of me. Even when I take my crying 14 year old to her and “suddenly remember that I need to go to Walmart.” 

A New Beginning

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on March 6, 2016.

“Momma? We want to get married next Saturday. Can we make that happen?”

That was the Sunday before the proposed wedding date. And I, being the pleaser and task-conqueror that I am, in a moment of what can only be described as maternal insanity said, “Absolutely!” They only wanted immediate family, nothing fancy, very simple. I assured them it could be done. I sent texts to Mom and Sis and asked for their help. They were all in.

I hit the floor before the sun was up on Monday morning. I had lists going on multiple pieces of paper; I was drinking coffee as fast as humanly possible. I was one determined mother. Once 8:30am hit I was checking prices, making calls, sending texts. I was in the zone. By the time Monday evening rolled around, Kady, Mom, Sis, and I had secured the church, the preacher, flowers, food, photographer, and guests. If we hadn’t been so exhausted we’d have patted ourselves on the back. Instead, we all just collapsed into bed.

The next day when Abby got off work we headed to Joplin to shop for a dress. She is a pale little thing and has said for years she didn’t want to get married in white or ivory lest she look like a bottle of glue. She wanted pink. Very light pink. And that was all well and good – a bride should have what she wants, right? Well, this season’s colors consist of aqua, salmon, or burn-your-corneas HOT PINK. In the first store, she tried on a pretty aqua dress and we set it aside as a last resort. We scoured the mall from stem to stern. There were no light pink dresses. Well, there was one at Macy’s, but it nearly revealed her bum and we decided it wasn’t appropriate for a church wedding. Or any wedding. Or for wearing in public. We were headed back to buy the aqua dress when Kady ducked into a cutesy little dress shop we never even glance at because their prices are so high. Then we saw her arm shoot out into the doorway with THE. PINK. DRESS. And it was 20% off! Abby tried it on, fell in love, it was purchased, and we made a mad dash to look for ivory shoes. Apparently to go with the burn-your-corneas hot pink, only white shoes will do. We were again discouraged. Then, little sister to the rescue once more, Kady found THE ivory shoes. We exited the mall fifteen minutes before it closed. The bride was happy. I was happy. And tired.

 She had tears in her big brown eyes as she came down the aisle on her daddy’s arm. In my mind, I saw him holding her, swaddled and black-haired, mere minutes after she arrived. She smiled at me and blinked the tears away. Standing at the altar she looked at the same time a child and a woman. She is the same age I was when I said, “I do” to her daddy, yet wasn’t she only born a few days ago? I sat there feeling what I am certain my own mother felt 23 years ago: hope, joy, wonder, pride, excitement, and not the least bit sad. But probably just as tired. I am proud of who she is and love her endlessly. Her daddy feels the same way, too. She was a vision in that pink dress, her auburn hair nearly shrouding her face as she prayed with her husband’s hands in hers. God was in our midst.

Their Pops married them, their pastor prayed over them, their family was there to witness their beginning. We all love them. These kids have no idea the support system they have. Or maybe they do. Yeah, I think they do.

Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” Matthew 19:6 (NLT)


Originally published in the Miami News-Record on February 28, 2016. 

We recently discontinued our satellite TV after about 20 years of being pretty much infinitely entertained 24/7. We were rather attached to our DVR. We hardly ever watched live TV and we rarely watched a commercial. Gone were the days of everyone jumping up to race to the bathroom on a commercial break. We binge-watched a lot of shows and hoarded movies like Gollum held on to his “precious”.

The price seemed to creep up almost every month and we just couldn’t justify the expense any longer. When I called to see about lowering the bill, a friendly fella named Jeremy knocked $5 off our bill permanently as a “long-time customer courtesy” and another $5 for six months “until you get back on your feet.” I laughed and said, “Well, while that’s certainly generous of you, I think you’re going to have to do better than $10 to keep us. What else can you offer me?” Jeremy assured me that was the best anyone could do. Paul and I talked it over for a few days and just decided we could no longer justify $100 a month for TV. When I called back to set up the disconnection, Audra, a Customer Service Specialist, offered to drop our bill $40 a month for six months. But then said that after that six month period, the package price will have increased another $15 a month. That cinched the deal. 
We were going to be caught in a never-ending, vicious cycle of rate hikes until we’d be forced to hand over one of our offspring as an indentured servant. And since I have grown quite fond of the children, I had the disconnect set up for the last day of the billing cycle, a mere four days away.

Then we proceeded to watch as many of the programs on the DVR as we could. An entire season of “Supergirl” we’d been saving for snow days (that never happened) had to be sacrificed. We abandoned the last four episodes of “The Strain”. (I’m pretty sure the vampires won, but I guess I’ll never know.) “Legends of Tomorrow”, “The Flash”, and “Arrow” could be picked up online. We deleted about 75 movies and around 30 of our favorite “Doctor Who” episodes, making ourselves feel better by saying that we will eventually own The Doctor on DVD.  

Paul’s brother gave us a digital converter. Paul hooked everything up, turned on the TV, stood back expectantly waiting for the free TV channels to roll in…..and they didn’t. With some tweaking we managed to snag 12, 16, three public television channels, but if someone walked through the dining room, we lost signal altogether. We bought an outdoor antenna. He hooked it up, turned on the TV, again stood back expectantly ….only to find we had mystically lost the three public television channels. I informed him that the final season of “Downton Abbey” was the ONE THING I refused to sacrifice. Words were said. Threats were made. Prayers were lifted.

And finally Pops came to the house, found the problem, saved our marriage, and assured me that I will indeed get to witness the final episodes of Downton at the same time all of the other cool people will. Kady has discovered the retro game show network and is mesmerized by old black-and-white episodes of “To Tell the Truth” featuring a very young Betty White and Johnny Carson. I also heard her holler “NO WHAMMIES!!” the other day, so I think she’s discovered “Press My Luck” as well. 

Personally, I’ve discovered I am a much more productive person now that I’m not financially obligated to watch as much TV as I can in a month to justify the cost. I ran the vacuum twice last week and even dusted. Paul says not only are we saving $100 on the TV, it’s like we’ve gotten a free housekeeper and cook, too. He’s precious that man of mine. And practical, if nothing else. 

Operation: Fun

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on February 21, 2016.

I mentioned that our youngest, Kady, has been having some stomach issues and we have been on a months-long quest to find the culprit of the pain. After many tests and bloodwork and x-rays this past week she finally went in for an EGD (upper GI scope).

She has always been our most rambunctious child, is rarely still for any length of time, and will talk your leg off at 90 miles an hour and barely stop for air while she chatters, but she is also our most chilled-out child. (Talk about an oxymoronic enigma.) She pretty much just rolls with life and doesn’t get too stressed out about much. She wasn’t the least bit nervous prior to the test and the only real issue she had was the fasting. Girl likes her morning coffee. And wanted Taco Bell. Or a giant burger.

We checked in at St. Francis Children’s and after a hard-of-hearing senior volunteer finally figured out I was shouting “HOOVER” as our last name, we were given our surgery passes and sent upstairs. We got settled in and Mom and I took advantage of the free wi-fi by playing Words with Friends back and forth in a furious, never-ending cycle. Kady just took selfies. When we were called back to a pre-op room we met the sweetest nurse named Tammy. She told us about her grandson, how she put together his plastic ride-on Police car with only a screwdriver. And since her daughter didn’t have a hammer, “Sisters, I just used a garlic press!” She told us how she prayed over that baby before he was born, that he would be a “gentle gentleman.” She was precious. And even though she is 14, brought Kady a stuffed panda. Then the next time she came into the room was carrying about 12 urine specimen containers and told her “I need all these filled up, sweetie, so get busy!” The IV team was wonderful and encouraged Kady’s desire to become a respiratory therapist. We joked and laughed and before she was wheeled off for her scope we had become the “fun” family all the nurses wanted to come see. That’s just how we roll.

Mom and I were both hungry, but I refused to leave the waiting room and Mom refused to leave if I didn’t leave. So the Words with Friends frenzy continued. Every time the waiting room phone rang this woman would just get up and answer it. (Which was good, I suppose, since the adorable white-headed senior citizen manning the desk had gone AWOL. She was probably getting a snack. Unlike my mother.) And every time it rang it was for her. Until one time she turned around and bellowed, “Kady Hoover? Is there a Kady Hoover here?” I resisted the urge to tell her she might think about refining her receptionist skills and instead just took the phone from her hand. She sighed impatiently. I suppose she thought she might miss an important call. I secretly wondered if the guy who was trading stocks in the waiting room a few weeks before was who kept calling her.

We walked back to recovery to find Kady eating a popsicle. She was cold so I asked Tammy if she could have a heated blanket. She said, “That baby girl can have anything she wants! Does she want goldfish crackers? Animal cookies? A pony? Sprite? I will get it for her!” After recovery she nearly knocked over another nurse so she could be the one to wheel Kady out. After she made sure Kady was safely in the car, she grabbed me and hugged me tight, and said she would pray for us. And I believe she will.

By the way, the Sprite that Tammy brought Kady was apparently “real” Sprite and according to Kady, and “not the cheap stuff you buy, Mom…. No offense.” I’m going to blame that grocery-shopping critique on the anesthesia. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Seriously Wicked

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on February 14, 2016. 

Last week I saw a post on Facebook that the musical “Wicked” was going to be in Springfield. I have wanted to see if for years, but last year when it was in Tulsa I wasn’t able to justify the expense. I couldn’t this year either, but just for fun I shared the post and said something to the effect of “If someone could tell my mom about this that would be great.” Mom is adamantly anti-Facebook and I knew she’d never see it and never did I dream someone would actually TELL my mom what I said. But lo and behold, one of her high school friends sent her a text message with my post copied and pasted in it.

About two hours later I got a phone call from Mom asking if I had plans for the following Thursday. I looked at the calendar and said I was free. Then she asked if the kids could take care of themselves. I said that yes, they were quite capable of that these days. Then she said, “Okay, well, I am taking you to see Wicked. Clear the whole day.”

I literally busted into tears right there in my office chair. It was probably pretty ugly, but I didn’t care because I was so dang happy. When I hung up the phone I ran into the living room where I screamed to my husband and kids, “I’M GOING TO SEE WICKED NEXT WEEK!” Paul just looked at me blankly and said, “Okay. (pause) Uhm. What’s Wicked?” Then I went into this babbling mess of words that somehow tried to convey the story. He just shook his head then asked, “Do I have to go? Because that sounds pretty awful.” Then I told him no, he wasn’t invited. He was totally okay with that. The kids were offered the opportunity. All three turned it down. I all but begged them to relent and just allow themselves the indulgence that is musical theatre. They politely and repeatedly declined. I am pretty sure I have failed them as a mother.  

In the week before the show I downloaded the entire soundtrack and listened to it ad nauseum. I worked diligently on hitting the high note at the end of “Defying Gravity”. On Saturday while putting the final touches on Paul’s birthday dinner I was doing a dramatic lip sync in the kitchen. At the end, standing there with arms outstretched, head thrown back, mouth open, I was totally in the zone. I opened my eyes to see Abby and her boyfriend staring at me, Dakota with this horrified look on his face. Abby just shook her head, looked back down at her phone and said, “Get used to it. If you think she’s bad now, wait until she actually sees the show. She’ll be SO much worse.” Dakota replied, “Well, I’ve been around her when she’s watched ‘Chicago’ so I know what she’s capable of.”

My sister, her two oldest kids, Mom, and I packed into the Prius at 9am the day of the show. Before we got to Joplin my mascara was in danger because I had already been laughing so hard. We discussed Super Bowl commercials, growing up, and the price of gas. We ate lunch at Lambert’s where the rolls were flying and the okra was hot. We finally trekked our way to the theatre and found our seats. I was in awe. Heck, I still am. In fact, as I write this I am still on a bit of a giddy high. As I write this, it’s nearly 11pm and I am not ready to go to bed and end this amazing day.

I cried when Elphaba defied gravity. I cried during the entire finale. I was probably the happiest 43 year old woman in the entire building. Then I teared up again the parking garage as I thanked my momma for making me wickedly happy. My mom is kind of the best. 

Waiting (Room) Game

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on February 7, 2016.

Our youngest daughter Kady has been having some health problems for a few months now. We have been visiting Tulsa frequently to see a doctor there and he is running a lot of tests to get to the bottom of this mystery. It has been a long, frustrating process to say the least. The reason I mention it is to get to this point: all of this doctor’s office-ing we’ve been doing has given us so many opportunities to people-watch. And oh, have we experienced some real doozies along the way.

Kady is always armed with an iPad or book to keep her entertained when our waits stretch out too long. Most of the time she’s engrossed in either of those, but sometimes the conversations around us are too much for even her to miss. We have learned about virtually everyone’s political views. It’s amazing how when one person starts in, everyone else in the waiting room suddenly becomes a political analyst. We have encountered Democrats, Republicans, a few Libertarians, and a LOT of know-it-alls. We have heard all sorts of views on polls, primaries, candidates, platforms, and I have to say, folks around here are pretty adamant in their stances. To the point I wonder if some are bordering on treason. Eek. Those are the conversations where we just bury our heads in our books and hope we get called to an exam room soon.

I am well versed in the most popular conspiracy theories, including Area 51, and the assassination of JFK plus so many more. I know all about the benefits of apple cider vinegar, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and essential oils. There was one particular exchange between two WWII veterans that brought tears to my eyes because one of them reminded me of my Papa. We’ve seen our fair share of sleepers over the past few months, too. Some snore. Some just lean until they wake up, then doze back off, slowly, slowly leaning again and again. Some don’t care of you notice, some wake up and look around to see if their doze was detected. One particular fella decided to take a snooze while his infant son took his own little snooze in his carseat. That one made me a tad nervous. When another guy got a little too close to the snoozing father and son, I almost tackled him. No one was getting abducted on my waiting room watch.

A few weeks ago the conversation turned to favorite breakfast foods. Virtually everyone in the waiting room was fasting for their tests and that always makes for some great recipe exchanges and reminiscing about comfort foods. One woman said she was getting bacon and eggs when she got done, even if it was 3 in the afternoon. One guy wanted a big platter of biscuits and gravy. I just wondered if any of them were having cardiac testing done.

My favorite character so far was the elderly Russian woman in the nearly-floor-length mink coat who was trying desperately to make someone, anyone understand that she was “WERY WERY SEEK” and would only speak to male employees because “Wimmin zey do not know enny-zing”. Although I did get a giant kick out of the guy who the redneck-iest redneck I’ve seen (and that’s saying a lot considering who I’m married to), covered in piercings and tattoos, wearing shorts and socks with sandals when it was 29* outside and spent over an hour trading stocks over the phone. Loudly. And he made a lot of eye contact to be sure you were listening.

That was the day Kady, while sitting in the chair beside me, sent a text that said, “Dude is totes obnoxious. But I think he’s got the inside track on some IBM stock. Better call your broker. Or the FBI. He MIGHT not be legit.”

We sure hope the doctor gets us a diagnosis soon. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hot Flash

Published in the Miami News-Record on January 31, 2016 

I have a lot of confidence in my cooking and baking abilities and know my way around a kitchen quite well, thank you very much. But last week, I was a hot mess in the kitchen. Kind of literally.

I had decided to boil a chicken for a few meals over the next few days. I wanted a lot of broth so I used my big pot and filled it kind of full. Once the hen got to boiling in her hot tub full of onions and celery, the broth would occasionally splash out a little. I tried to keep things cleaned up on the stove as she boiled, but apparently, I missed some. Okay, like, a whole lot of it.

Since Paul works evening shift now, we eat our biggest meal of the day at noon when the four of us are home together. It has taken some adjusting to and even still I find myself busy with laundry or school or housework, will look up and realize it’s nearly time for Sam to be home from vo-tech and I haven’t started a thing. I guess I’m a slow learner.

And that was the case last week when I looked up from taking down that last Christmas tree. Oh, who am I kidding. That tree’s still up. Anyway, when I looked up from my crossword puzzle, I realized it was way past when I needed to start the chicken pot pie for lunch. I peeled my potatoes and put them on to give boil a little to soften them up before putting them in the pie. I was rolling out my pie crust, my back to the stove, when I heard this “WHOOSH!” sound – you know, that unmistakable sound of something catching fire. Apparently, while I did a great job cleaning the stovetop the night before, I kind of forgot about checking the drip pan underneath the burner and chicken broth has just enough fat in it to be dramatically combustible.

I turned to see my lovely red Guy Fieri saucepan engulfed in flames. You know when you see something you can’t believe you’re seeing and you just stand there in a state of stupefaction and incomprehension as chaos just kind of happens? Yeah. I did that. And suddenly I was transported back to the Home Ec kitchen at Wyandotte High, standing there in my tight-rolled, acid-washed jeans, my bangs reaching to the heavens, while the stove flamed right before my eyes. And in that memory I saw Mrs. Johnson calmly reach for the baking soda and smother the flames like it happened every day of her life. (Truth be told, it probably did. She was a Home Ec teacher, after all.)
My brain kind of did a mental face-slap and I came back from 1988. As I bolted to the cabinet with the baking soda I hollered, “Pauly? Uhm….fire. My stove is on fire. Fire! FIRE! PAUL. MY. STOVE. IS. ON. FIRE.” I don’t think that man ever came up out of a recliner so fast in his life. And as he hit the kitchen he, too, did the whole deer-in-the-headlights freeze. I brushed past him, tossed baking soda at the flames, and we both just stood there staring at the powdery disaster that was now my stove.

 Once the mess was cleaned up I went ahead and continued on with the pot-pie-making. And it would’ve been Paula Deen perfect had I not opened the scoop-y part instead of the shake-y part of the paprika.

At lunch, while poking at it with his fork, Paul asked, “Why is the pot pie goop pink instead of the usual kind of…. yellow-ish color?”

It’s funny how one raised eyebrow can say so much and a query about pink pot pie goop suddenly becomes a non-issue.  It was a very quiet and peaceful lunch that day. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Another Year

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on January 24, 2016. 

I am writing this on my 43rd birthday. By the time you read this I’ll be 43 and three days. Remember when age was able to be broken down into increments? “I’m 15…and a half.” Or when your kids were little you’d proudly say, “She’s two and three quarters.” At the age I am now, 43 is 43 for an entire year and there is really no point in halving it or quartering it. It is what it is: old.  

Being a January baby, it usually snows on my birthday. Sometimes it’s just rain. I think I can only recall maybe three years out of 43 that it hasn’t precipitated on my birthday. This year, as I look out the office window, I see…..bleh. There is  just enough moisture in the air to glaze the world with a dangerous sheet of ice – a scary thing for a woman who is at a stage in life where she is genuinely concerned about breaking a hip.

The first time I met one of my best friends in the world, the girl who would be my sidekick (and I, hers) for many a year, was at my 5th birthday party. Mom opened the front door to behold a brown-eyed neighbor girl named DeLisa who was standing under a yellow umbrella with her mom in a torrential downpour.  We remain friends to this day. 38 years. I haven’t even known my husband that long.

It was probably my 8th or 9th birthday that school was canceled due to a major snow storm. I was devastated because school birthday parties rocked. You got to skip that last subject of the day, your mom brought cookies or cupcakes and Koolade, and you usually got to be the first “doggie” in a game of “Doggie, Doggie, Who Has the Bone?” To soothe the disappointment of having to stay home, Mom sat me up behind the loveseat at the sliding glass door with all of my Strawberry Shortcakes and gave me a present every hour. By day’s end, I was getting individual outfits for the dolls, a shoe here, a hat there (they were probably part of a multi-pack, but I think Mom had to get creative after about ten hours of presents), but it remains one of my most memorable birthdays.

For my 11th birthday, my parents decided I was old enough to have a slumber party. Stacie, Chloe, Necia, the ever-present DeLisa, and I stayed up suuuuuuuper late (like, MIDNIGHT!) and began a tradition that lasted for many years: we drank soda from baby bottles. Do not ask me why. My kids have asked repeatedly and I cannot even begin to tell anyone why on earth that became a thing.  But I have photographs that seriously amuse my children regaling the entire weird thing. Thankfully, by the time we got to 9th grade we let that one go. Whew.

Birthdays have lost a little of their excitement as the years have gone by. When the kids were little I was showered with crayon drawings on construction paper, kisses, hugs, and promises to not fight with each other and pick up their toys. Paul has been good to try and always take me to dinner, even during the lean years when money was tight. Those were the years when McDonald’s was a treat. He’d even let me Super Size. I don’t find myself struggling to fall asleep the night before anymore – in fact, I was dozing in the recliner by 9:30 last night. I intended to slouch around the house all day long, but am on my way to put on a little makeup because Mom is insisting I have dinner out. And I was thinking that maybe later, I’ll round out this special day by taking down my last remaining Christmas tree. Hey, don’t judge me. We old folks forget things. And sometimes it’s things like 6-foot tall Christmas trees in their dining room.