Thursday, July 16, 2020

The First Half

In case you've been hiding under a rock on planet Xenon474, it's kind of been a shitshow since 2020 started. I shan't go into all the worldwide details because I'm preeeeety sure you've actually been here living it like the rest of us. 

The program I work for hosts a cultural trip for the students each semester. Sometimes it's a play or the ballet, but this spring semester it was a several-day trip to Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX, over Spring Break. I don't particularly like to travel and I was also in the final weeks of my own final semester of college, so I opted to stay home from the trip and also took the week off work just to kind of chill a bit. There were mutterings and small news blurbs of a virus teetering on the verge of epidemic, but honestly nothing alarming. Then every day there were more reports and that tiny broken part of my brain where OCD lives took that information and started crocheting a little granny square of panic. Then it started to become more of a tea towel. When I felt like we were reaching afghan of doom territory, I decided to use one of my precious days at home alone to go shopping. I went to Sam's Club, Aldi, and Walmart in Joplin that day. My little red Camry was loaded to the hilt simply because I rarely ever make all three stores in one fell swoop. I didn't overbuy or hoard a thing - the cases of water and toilet paper were just my usual purchases when I shop. I've always been a toilet paper stocker-upper because -- well, I don't know why. It's just security to me. I know, I'm weird. I mean, ya'll pretty much knew this from the start, right? If you didn't, that's probably just on you. I text my coworkers a joking text about how I was shopping and people were kinda crazy, shopping carts were full, crowds were busy and rude. They said Texas was totally normal, you'd never know there was talk of a virus there. 

By the time they got back from the trip things were different. In a matter of a few days it went from quiet murmurings to borderline panic. I went to work that following Monday after Spring Break sick at my stomach, nervous, scared, unsure. Paul didn't want me to go. Hell, I didn't want to go. We had a meeting that morning with the college president who said, "This meeting is out of CDC guidelines and will be our last of this kind." That didn't help my anxiety. I spent the whole meeting trying to focus on his words but instead looking around noticing how many people were touching their faces, how close we were all sitting to each other, and wondering if anyone in the room was infected. It was very surreal. Not long after the meeting our department director called us each in her office individually and asked if we wanted to work from home. I nearly jumped across her desk to embrace her, but thought better of it. When I left that day I didn't return to campus for 10 weeks. My stash of Slim Jims in my desk expired and my trail mix went stale. 

About two weeks into lockdown Paul and I talked and then talked to Abby and Dakota and made the decision to quarantine the girls here with me while the guys hunkered down together at Abby's house. Both guys were essential and were going to be working the whole time and with Abby and Wemberly having asthma, we just didn't want to risk exposure. In a matter of hours, she packed food, clothes, and toys while I did a quick child-proof on the house, packed Paul's bag of clothes, food, and medicines, then sat on the porch crying until they got here. We did that for six weeks. I regret nothing. We existed on Walmart grocery pickup, two Aldi runs by me where I basically wore a beekeeper's suit and sprayed a cloud of Lysol around me the whole time. It wasn't until a month in that we felt brave enough to ev3en do a Sonic run. 

The first week of June the four of us in our department at work started going in and covering the office one day a week each. We mask up, stay to ourselves, and just do our time. School is scheduled to start on-ground mid-August and we've been advised to leave each day like we won't be coming back. I doubt we keep the entire semester on-ground, but given current numbers Oklahoma and Missouri should both be back in lockdown and that hasn't happened yet, so who knows.  

I'm sick of the phrase "new normal," I'm tired of being asked what the semester is going to look like, I'm tired of wondering if every time I get a tickle in my throat I am infected, I am sick of being scared all the time. I'm not tired of not going to Walmart, though. Grocery pickup was my best friend well before this whole shitshow began. Too people-y for sure on any given day. 

Now for cuteness:

Her apples always look like a mouse has gotten hold of them. She just nibbles them to death. 

Wemberly found this rock on Pa-Paul's nightstand the first day they were locked down at my house and she carried it everywhere for a few weeks until she lost it. She slept with it, it took a bath with her, it sat next to her plate while she ate. 

We had many many bed parties while in quarantine. While the mom I was always said no to jumping on the bed, the grandma almost always says yes. ;) 
Running off some energy! 

Every morning while I would work on school work, the girls would get the color. They liked their morning activities much more than I liked mine. 

Family Zoom meetings kept us from feeling completely alone in the world up here on the Mountain. 

Petal's speech therapist was a rockstar on Zoom! Petal hated it and screamed a lot, but they managed to make it through with very little regression. 

Wemberly got a teal streak in her hair just like Momma and Kiki! Is that face not the most precious? 

I told them if they could be responsible and not push any buttons they could
Facetime their Tatty all by themselves. <3 

The wasps coming out when it started warming up kept us inside most days, but occasionally we'd get lucky enough to get to spend some time out on the porch without being under attack. 

While it was certainly not how we had intended to spent six weeks of our spring, I will always remember the time I got with three of my girls. 

My nap buddy every day during quarantine. I loved having that time with just me and her, snuggling, giggling, marveling at the miracle she is. I didn't get to do that with Petal because Petal is a tiny tyrant and pretty much hates me lol. I'm working on her. 

Tatty and Zach surprised us with a window visit one afternoon! 

The Easter Bunny came to the Mountain this year! The candy is always the best part. 

Pa-Paul came up to mow the yard and we had a window visit! 

It was a big deal to get her to pick the pizza up by herself! 
We had a Zoom birthday party for Sammy's girlfriend Maegan since she couldn't party like normal. 

Best helpers! 

So serious

I was editing student papers and watching this insanity unfold before me. 

We pulled Momma's old dollhouse down off the shelf and it was a perfect "new" toy to play with and keep them occupied! 

Petal had never had her toenails painted. She smiled the whole time! 
Wemberly was VERY excited! 

First car ride in over a month! 

The week after the girls moved back home, I finished school and while I didn't get regalia or a ceremony, I dug around in my hope chest and found my mortarboard from high school graduation and plopped it on my head for a selfie. It was a lackluster celebration for a degree that was 29 years in the making, but I still did it and FINALLY finished! 

So here we are, halfway through July, numbers spiking, people arguing, the future very unknown. I'm reviving the blog, writing for the newspaper again, focusing on going back to work and staying safe. I spend a ridiculous amount of money on masks that coordinate with my outfits, and try not to spend every moment of every day in a panic attack. 

Thank you for sticking with me and my sporadic posting. It's a work in progress. I have had this beautiful home on the internet since 2004 and I am ready to come home and settle in again. Blogging is probably a dead art form - or at least the way it used to exist, but I've never been one to do what's "normal" so here I am. Blogging again. Like a boss. 

Sunday, January 12, 2020

2019 - a (mostly crappy) year in review

January: Paul and I celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary. Sam and I started the year out on a nearly holy level by seeing the Broadway tour of Book of Mormon in Tulsa. I was fairly certain during one song that the entire theatre was going to be struck by lightning, but aside from that underlying fear, we laughed our asses off and I am hoping to go see it again this year in Arkansas. I turned 46. woot.

February: Paul turned 56. A friend in Tulsa gave me two tickets to see The Play That Goes Wrong at the PAC. Sam couldn't get anyone to cover his call, so I took Mom. It was cute and I plan to see it again this year in Springfield with Sam.

March: Paul, Kady and I got the flu during spring break. That was super fun. Mine went into pneumonia. That was also super fun. Abby, Kady and I went to NEO to see Frank Warren of Post Secret fame. It was spectacular, especially since I was reading Post Secret when it started.

April: Paul started a new job with the City of Miami. We continued our years-long journey into trying to find out What's Wrong with Kady™. Mom, Pops, and I rode to Tahlequah together to see my niece in a Greek thing for her sorority. It was on that car ride that I verbally announced to the first people on the planet my intention of going back to school to pursue a degree in Journalism/Public Relations. My anxiety went through the roof. Speaking it makes it more real. Later in the month Mom, Sis and I dressed up in 1980s dayglo and went out in public. Mom was adorable. Sam dumped his motorcycle and we spent all night in the ER getting him sewn up and a CT done just to be safe. He took a few years off his momma's life.

May: Paul bought a motorcycle. My anxiety went through the roof even more. I attended my first nerd-themed wedding. It was spectacular and the most fun I've ever had at a wedding. Sam and I continued our theatre adventure by seeing Something Rotten in Springfield. It was entertaining, but I'm not sure I'd see it again. Kady graduated from high school (a year early). Most of Ottawa County flooded.

June: Paul, myself and the kids journeyed to Silver Dollar City for the first time in ages. I rode a roller coaster for the first time in over 10 years. It. Was. AMAZING. The day after SDC I began summer classes online. We began construction on turning half the house into an apartment for Kady. The week after classes began there was a crackhead on a crime spree in our neighborhood and a high speed chase that ended up going literally through our front yard. Kady suffered some serious trauma from it. It was the first time in my life I ever pulled a gun on a person with the intent of shooting in self-defense. At the end of the month we went our our every-other-year traditional Big Family™ vacation. 18 people, one house, much chaos. And food.

July: Wemberly turned 3. She wanted a "birthday party [themed] birthday party" so that's what she got. Kady finally got into a GI doc who listened to her and agreed with our suspicion of Ehler's-Danlos Syndrome.

August: Celebrated my one year anniversary at Crowder. Started another semester of college - one online class (World Religions) and three seated (Journalism, Public Relations,  and Quantitative Reasoning - math). Kady also started her first semester of college at Crowder while Sam began his final one. At the end of the month a very crazy storm rolled through the area - 80 mph winds which took out trees and power lines everywhere. Our power was out for four days. We ran a generator to keep the fridge and freezer going and showered in various places, including a state park. During that time I started having some abdominal pain (and honestly just thought I was constipated because of the fact we'd had no water and I'm a shy pooper lol). Also, Sam and I reached the pinnacle of the year's theatre experience when we saw Hamilton in Tulsa. I was so sick, running a fever and in so much pain, but wasn't about to miss out on the experience. It was absolutely phenomenal!

September: Sam and I got home from seeing Hamilton around 2am. I was in tremendous pain, so I took some Aleve, got a heating pad and slept horribly for a few hours. Paul went up to a neighbor's to work on his trailer. After some googling and a few phone calls, I decided to shower and pack a bag for the hospital. Paul had left his phone in the truck while he was working on the trailer, so Kady had to run up and get him. He careened into the driveway, ready to carry me in his arms if that was needed. I made him shower and just drive me instead. We went to Claremore Indian Hospital since I didn't have insurance. A CT showed diverticulitis with an abscess. They said they were admitting me and planned to do surgery in the morning, however the surgeon took one look at the scan and said, "I'm not touching her." So I took my first ambulance ride in about 40 years in the middle of the night to OSU Medical Center in Tulsa where I spent four days with three teams fighting over if I was going to have surgery and what kind. I was septic and miserable and scared and two hours away from my family. I ended up not having surgery, thank God. Abby drove in Tulsa her first time in order to get herself, her daddy, and sister there to see me. In order to not have to drop classes altogether since I was slipping behind in the journalism classes, I switched my major to General Studies, dropped the journalism classes and added a couple of second-eight-week online classes (Philosophy and Music Appreciation) to allow me time to heal and also keep me enrolled full time. I got home from the hospital just in time for Petal to turn 2.

October: On his way home a weekend with his girlfriend in Arkansas, Sam hydroplaned in his truck and left the roadway. The truck came to rest about 1000 feet into the brush. It took the tow truck 4 1/2  hours to get him out but there was ZERO damage to the truck. His mother's nerves, however, were another story. Mom had a tumor removed from her bladder. I followed up with the surgeon in Miami who suggested getting some insurance and considering a surgery to remove a significant portion of my intestines. I scheduled a colonoscopy with him for the next month. Abby turned 23. Paul and I went to a Halloween party dressed as Ladd and Ree Drummond (aka Marlboro Man and Pioneer Woman).

November: Sam turned 21. I had my colonoscopy. I woke up during it. That was bizarre. The doctor found some hyperplasia and said the diverticula were vast and widespread and the surgery should be even more highly considered than before. We had pizza for Thanksgiving because Momma wasn't up for killing herself to cook a giant meal in the midst of ...... well, everything.

December: The whole family went to see Polar Express in the theater. I passed all my classes with As. Sam finally graduated from Crowder with his Associate degree in Journalism/Public Relations. The whole family (minus the babies) saw White Christmas in the theater. Kady turned 18. We took her gambling. We sang Christmas carols for our 80 year old Uncle Tom. We had our annual Christmas Eve Mario Kart tournament. I made chocolate gravy for the first time. Kady saw a rheumatologist who shrugged his shoulders over her and referred her to a geneticist. So that saga of What's Wrong with Kady™ continues into the new year.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

2019 wasn't great. Pretty crappy, if you want me to be honest. Yes, pun intended. Sure, we all survived. It could've been worse. But if you asked me to rate it, I'd likely not give it five stars.

2020 will see me finally graduate college with an Associate degree in nothing special in particular. This will mark 29 years since I took my first semester at NEO right out of high school. What should've taken four semesters took 29 years. I mean, I did it my way, right? I'm still working in Project NOW at Crowder and still love my job very much. I work with amazing people and I love helping the students. I hope to see better health and wellness - physical and mental - for us all as a family.

Kady has decided to take at least a semester off college to see what full-time work feels like being all grownup and stuff. She has a fast food job, but an interview with a bank tomorrow. She's still living in her little apartment next door and has been sharing it with her brother and his girlfriend since early December.

Sam and Maegan just moved into their new apartment today in Neosho. She has an interview tomorrow and Sam's working parttime at Crowder with hopes of a full time position soon.

Paul's still with the city. He still has his motorcycle much to my chagrin. He still leaves his little red beard hairs on the sink. We just celebrated our 27th anniversary.

Wemberly and Petal are in occupational and speech therapy respectively and are making great strides. W has Sensory Processing Disorder and OT is helping her with that so much. Petal is largely nonverbal, but speech therapy is helping her communicate. Abby and Dakota are amazing parents who absolutely devote all their energy into helping those two little girls thrive. Those two grandgirls just thrill my Kiki heart to no end.

At the beginning of last year I claimed a word for 2019: Wellness. see how that worked out.......

I have adopted no word, no theme, no claim for 2020. We'll just see what happens.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Day of Thankfulness

It’s Thanksgiving morning. I'm on my bed with my laptop, supposed to be studying and listening to "Music Since 1945: Eight Representative Pieces" but ew. 

We had all of the kids and the people they created and the people they belong with over last night. We had the First Annual Pizzagiving, a tradition I hope continues for all of perpetuity. The only things I put in my dishwasher last night after everyone left were three coffee cups. We used some Thanksgiving paper plates I bought last year on clearance and styrofoam cups. (Sure, we harmed the environment, but it was just for one night.) I ordered the pizza last Sunday morning from the Pizza Hut and Domino’s apps, paid for it all with my debit card, and Kady’s boyfriend picked it up when he left work yesterday. Yesterday I cleaned house and made some pies and cookies and a sheet cake for Sammy’s birthday since we weren’t all able to be together on the actual day. (He's 21. My baby boy is TWENTY ONE YEARS OLD.

I sat down to do some quick homework about an hour before everyone arrived. I was irked at having two discussion boards due on Pizzagiving (do these instructors not know how historically important Pizzagiving is??) but I also didn’t want to take the hit of a late grade, so I worked on the World Religions post first, posted, then moved on to Music Appreciation. I hadn’t read the chapter, so it was all literally me bullshitting about musicals and Louis Armstrong. I hit post on that awful discussion board with a three-year-old grandgirl on my lap with her Trolls blanket in my face, yelling “Bushel and a peck, Kiki! Bushel and a peck!” At that point singing Bushel and a Peck to her was way more important than music of the stage and screen. And music of the stage and screen is kind of my love language. It’s all about priorities. My classmates will probably read that post and wonder if I had smoked a little before I hit that submit button. I don’t even care.

And now it’s actual Thanksgiving day. Abby and Dakota and the girls will be heading to his family’s gathering. Kady has already made her mac and cheese and is getting around to go be with Zach’s family for the day. Sam and his girlfriend Maegan are here since she’s just in town for a couple days. They’ll have lunch with Paul and me. She’s in college in Arkansas and we don’t get to see her much now that basketball season is in full swing. 

And since it’s a few hours until I have to start fixing lunch, I figured I’d make use of the time to knock out some homework. I’m honestly so tired of homework. Sam paid for a year’s worth of Disney+ for the family and I have watched seven whole minutes of Disney+ programming. I watched the short, “Float” (a must-watch if you love someone with any kind of neurodiversity - seriously, go watch it right now, I’ll wait.) while I was looking for “Frozen” for Petal. Once finals are out of the way I intend to watch every Disney and Pixar movie ever made and also reacquaint myself with Netflix and watch episode after episode of “Victorious” for days on end. I will wear pants only the bare (heh) minimum of time required over the break. I will cook for my husband who has fended for himself quite a lot this semester. I will do very little thinking. I will love on my family and laugh a lot. 

So Happy Day of Thankfulness, Constant Reader. I hope your turkey is whatever you need it to be - smoked, moist, brined, deep-fried or however you prefer. I hope your ham is deliciously hammy. I hope your mashed potatoes are as good as my momma’s. I hope your pumpkin pie is that perfect shade of orange and your pecan pie isn’t runny in the center like mine was yesterday. I hope you see some of your favorite people today or in the days to come. I hope if you have homework to do, it comes to you easily and you don’t have to stress over it. I hope you get a nap. I hope you don’t have to wear pants all that often. 

I hope you are thankful. I am. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Abscess Much? Part 1

The last week of August a big storm rolled through our neck of the woods that Monday night. I hadn't really heard much about it and y'all know I'm a weather nerd, so I figured there wasn't much to be worried about. Well, turns out, there were tornado warnings and 70 mph winds and so. much. rain. The storm uprooted trees and knocked down power lines all over the place. Our power went out at 12:30 in the morning on that Tuesday morning. I wasn't able to go to work that next day because our hill washes out super bad, plus there were trees blocking the roads every way out. It took Paul over an hour to get out of the neighborhood and onto the highway. So Kady and I just hunkered down and took naps all day. Well, after we moved the food out of both fridges to the garage fridge (aka the beer fridge) and hooked the garage fridge and deep freeze up to the generator. Abby and Dakota were without power as well.

By that evening (Tuesday), the roads were clear so we all loaded up and trekked to Mom and Pops' house on the north end of Miami. It takes almost an hour to get there, but we needed food and showers and it was worth the drive for Mom's mashed potatoes alone. The next day I took my flat iron and makeup to work and got ready there. The next night Kady went to her boyfriend's house to stay because their power had been restored. Paul didn't want to impose on anyone although we'd had multiple offers to come stay various places, at least come shower and eat, etc. but he's weird about stuff like that and wouldn't let me accept a single offer. So he and I showered at the public shower at the state park 15 minutes from the house. It wasn't as horrific as I had imagined it was going to be and I gotta be honest, I was kind of disappointed there wasn't a raccoon in there to greet me. I got ready at work again Thursday.

Also by Thursday morning my belly was hurting. Kind of down low, kind of achey and just present enough to make me wanna go to bed.

Y'all, I'm a shy pooper. I have a really hard time pooping anywhere but at home and maybe my momma's if I'm super desperate. The fact we are on a well means that when the power goes out, we have no water. There is something in my DNA that automatically shuts down my entire digestive system when the power goes out. I might even be linked to the electric co-op's main source at the dam for all I know. I mean, it's kind of coincidental if you ask me. So, after a few days without power and water and being just generally displaced and inconvenienced, I hadn't pooped and I had just resigned myself to the fact I had done gone and constipated myself. I took a "Women's Gentle Laxative" (Correctol in my Nana's day, but I'm cheap and always go generic) and hoped for the best. Around 4 that afternoon my sister-in-law called to say the power was on. We spent the evening moving things back to the proper fridges and cleaning the house.

I don't work on Fridays and had a hair appointment scheduled. I still didn't feel all that great and the pain was more present. I took another of those lovely "gentle" laxatives. I gotta say, the cute pink tablet that clearly states its gentility right on the box is oh so less-than-gentle when you take several a day because you're just that desperate to stop hurting. But even with a horrible case of diarrhea at this point, we watched the grandgirls that evening while Abby and Dakota went to a football game. They didn't feel well themselves, so it was kind of a rough evening all the way around. I didn't sleep well that night because I hurt so bad and tried to sleep in a little the next morning. I had Paul get some gas pills from the local Dolla Gentral to see if that would help. It did not.

Back in June, Sam and I had bought tickets to see Hamilton in Tulsa and had been anticipating it SO HARD for months. I could've been vomiting blood and I'd have still gone to the show. I loaded up on Tylenol and off he and I headed to Tulsa. We parked across from the PAC and walked 4 blocks to Dilly Diner. He got a spicy burger, spilled the pepper juice on the table, wiped it up with his napkin, then wiped his face with his napkin. It. was. hilarious. For me anyway. Him, not so much. I got half a sandwich and half a salad and ate most of it, even though I didn't feel like it. We walked the 4 blocks back to the car, made it through security, got our merch, then waited about another 30 minutes for the doors to open.

The show was utterly and absolutely amazing! I got home around 1 am and crashed, hoping to sleep off whatever devil was inhabiting my gut. I went to sleep with a heated corn bag, but got no relief. I laid around the house all day, worked on a little homework, tried to nap again. After a nap I was chilling and running a fever. I finally decided I'd had enough. I took a shower then did some Googling, called my dad for his opinion then decided it was time to go to the emergency room. I called Paul but he was at the neighbors working on a trailer and didn't have his phone. I asked Kady to go get him because I was in so much pain and kind of just wanted to cry and scream and possibly OD on some Oxy. He came flying home after she rounded him up and was ready to drive on. I told him he was dusty and smelled like the outdoors and I wasn't riding in a truck over an hour with him. I'm still kind of bitchy even when I've nearly lost the will to live. He took the fastest shower in history and off we went.

It was about 95* out, but I rode all the way to Claremore covered up and shivering. I tried to sleep. Every bump in the road was excruciating. I cried a little. I prayed. I text my mom and sister and kids and asked them to pray that the ER was devoid of crackheads and seekers that seem to really love holiday weekends. We walked through the doors to an empty waiting room. The nurse called me back before I was even fully registered. That was the only glimmer of hope in the entire thing to that point. be continued...

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Oh How Things Have Changed

Growing up, we always went to Nana's on the 4th of July. Always. There was no option, no variance, it was always to Nan's for the noon meal. We took day-works - firecrackers, snakes, sparklers, poppits, jumping Jacks, and the like. Lunch was burgers and hot dogs. There was always watermelon and homemade ice cream. When my cousin Russ was alive and still mobile, we cousins would gather around him in the living room floor before and directly after lunch and play dominoes or Boggle. The women cleaned the kitchen and visited, the men dozed off in the post-meal tradition.  Then finally! We'd climb the chat pile out back (hello, lead poisoning!) and Dad and Uncle Mike would oversee the explosives. That was Dad's side of the family. Mom's side of the family was fairly fluid in their plans. Sometimes it was our house, sometimes it was Uncle Larry and Aunt Sue's, occasionally we gathered at Papa's farm, it depended on where he was with harvesting or mowing or how sick Memaw was at the time. They were the evening festivity people. More sparklers, plus fountains and all the other fun, booming, high-in-the-sky stuff. It was always a day of cousins and food and stickiness and dirt and fun.

Then we grew up and as soon as the meal was over, we left whatever house we were at with our respective boyfriends and girlfriends to go see a movie or go to their family's shindig. I dated a guy in high school and they had a lake house and a pontoon boat and a lot of money. I hated the whole scene (they were *gasp* Republicans) and I really just wanted to go back to my family where we had cheap hot dogs and not filet mignon for lunch.

When Sis and I started families of our own we were just excited to have reason to buy fireworks once again. Paul and I were so broke when the kids were little, but starting in June we would scrimp and save up $100 for fireworks. It seemed like a lot until we got to the tent, then it seemed paltry and like it never bought enough. Sam always picked out something that pooped, Abby like the screaming chicken laying a fiery egg, Kady usually cried and whined that one of her siblings picked out the firework she wanted and the world was surely coming to an end. Most of the time the gathering was at our house because Mom lived in town and Sis did until she briefly lived in the country for a few years. One year we caught the field on fire. That was scary and fun all at once.

When we moved to Wyandotte I forced Paul's family to get together for the holiday. They are definitely not like my Big Family™. They don't actually like getting together. Mine anticipates the next one before the current one is over. My family lingers in the kitchen, there is always noise and laughter and eleventy-seven conversations at once. His family gets a plate. Quietly. Then some sit in the living room, some go outside, some sit at the picnic tables, some sit on the porch. There is rarely conversation and if there is, it's quiet and short. Mostly one syllable replies. Some nodding. That's just how they are. 

But the ONE thing I always anticipated with Paul's family coming up on the 4th - blowing shit up. We would trek to Academy the week before to buy a stupid amount of Tannerite and unfortunately, it seems there is always an appliance to go out some time during the year to provide the explosive entertainment. We've blown up a washer, a dryer, a dishwasher, and I think a hot water tank. It was always a good time.

Last year I had surgery on the 3rd, so our 4th was quiet. I came home from the hospital that morning and just rested the rest of the day. Apparently it would usher in a series of quiet 4ths.

This year we are empty nesters. Kady has an apartment attached to our house now, but she's her own person. She cooks for herself, pretty well stays to herself these days. (Although she still relies on us some since she STILL doesn't have her driver's license.) I slept until 8 this morning and when I woke up Paul was gone. He had gone up to Abby and Dakota's on the tractor to fix their perpetually washed-out driveway. He wanted to get up there and back before the humidity got to swimmable. I made coffee, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, made some breakfast, checked Facebook, and just kind of marveled in the fact that we bought ZERO fireworks this year, no one is coming over, we aren't going anywhere (unless we decide to venture to Lowe's for some trim to finish the dining room later), and how different our life has become. The grandgirls are still too little for fireworks of their own, although Petal likes the noise where Wemberly HATES it. My Big Family™ will be over on Saturday, but even then we aren't doing any fireworks. We are volleyball obsessed, so there will be a pool and slip-n-slide, much food and MUCH volleyball. We don't play by many rules and there is a lot of smack talking and laughing and even more of Abby and me avoiding the ball at all costs. But we will be together and that will be the best part.

As we got onto the interstate last week headed for Branson for Big Family™ vacation, Paul kind of sighed and reached over to pat my leg. "It's pretty strange.....looking back and seeing your kids driving their own cars, following you to vacation, when just a few years ago they all three were right there behind us in the backseat, with us." He is far more sentimental than I these days, so I just squeezed his hand and said, "Yeah, but they're still with us, there are just more of them now. And besides, when they were in the car with us, it was much louder. And I was usually reaching back to smack someone at any given moment along the way. It's not bad, the way we are now. Just different. Enjoy, Mr. Hoover. We've earned this. This quietness, this calmness, this getting to watch them now instead of being immersed in it nonstop." He shrugged. He's seeing this part of life much differently than I am. I was in the trenches, doing most of the work when the kids were little. He worked, I stayed at home. I never got a day off. I was on the job 24/7. He had a 30 minute drive to and from work ALONE and if the house got loud, he just went out and mowed the yard or piddled in the barn. And now that my work is mostly done, I am enjoying the break, the quiet, the calm, the spectatorship of it all. Maybe he feels he missed out. I can't say for sure. I know I didn't miss anything. I was in the trenches, covered in blood, guts, gore, sweat, tears. It was exhausting. Rewarding as all get out, but also exhausting.

However, I do know this: I am enjoying the hell out of my empty nest right now. Maybe I'll get lonely? Maybe I'll get bored? I doubt it. For right now I'm still Kady's Uber driver, I find myself drowning in hours of homework every day, I am learning to cook for two rather than the NINE we had in the house just a few short years ago. I like my clean and tidy tiny little half-house. I like it when the kids come to visit and bring the noise and chaos and I like it when they go home again, back to their own homes where they now do their time being young adults, growing families, learning how to be adults, getting educations, becoming the amazing individuals we raised them to be.

And if they need us? They know where to find us.  ❤️

Friday, June 07, 2019

Back to the Blackboard

I am 46 years old. I have been out of high school for 28 years. In 1991, fresh out of the hallowed halls of WHS I took one semester of college at NEO. I hated it. I enrolled in 18 hours. Whoever let me do that was a total moron. My parents didn't really support me. I mean, they didn't not support me, but they sure didn't cheer me on and tell me it would all be worth it. I think if someone wanted to analyze me from a psychological standpoint there's a whole shitload of baggage thumping around inside my head, but what that dreaded first semester taught me was: college is hard.

I was a stellar student in high school. I always got good grades and they came easy. No one warned me that college was going to be the actual opposite of high school. They didn't warn me that the instructors were going to have different opinions than I did AND that they could actually argue (some quite angrily) with me about them and there was no penalty for that. The work was harder and while I still got good grades, I worked a lot harder for them. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be successful in college as I was in high school and before long I was having migraines almost every day. I stopped going to class. I. Hated. It. And so I quit.

Fast forward to 2007. I had three kids - 10, 8, and 5. I had a husband who didn't want me to go to college. My advisor was a neat guy, but I met him once and he didn't really give me what I needed from an advisor. (Let's face it, some of us are more high-maintenance than others. Me being the most high maintenance you can get.) I took ALL online classes that fall. I took algebra online. Whoever let me do that was a moron. (Oh wait, it was me.) However, I managed to enroll in another semester that spring and took classes for my actual major, I wrote for the campus newspaper, I enjoyed my classes. However, at that time we only had dialup internet and online classes were only getting harder and harder to do with internet that slow. I couldn't just go to town every day and use someone else's - that kind of defeated my purpose of staying home to do school. And so I quit. Again.

Over the years I convinced myself I didn't need the degree. I worked at DHS as an aid/secretary. I worked for a mom-and-pop small business as a secretary. Both jobs were not degree-worthy. But then I was asked to apply for a job at the other junior college in the area. I applied. I interviewed. I felt really good about the interview. They said they'd call the next day. They didn't.

So I had all weekend to stew over it. I was in crisis. I don't like disappointing people. I had all but decided not to take it, no matter how much I had vibed with the people who did my interview (my future coworkers) and no matter how much I longed for a change. I just didn't want to let down my then current employers and leave them in a bad spot. But I also had some issues with them over my husband's employment there. Yet still I felt loyal. I wrestled with the decision for a whole weekend and had pretty much decided to not take it if it was offered to me. And I was also deep down 100% convinced they were not going to offer it to me.

Then Julie called on Monday, just as I was getting in my car to go to town. I leaned against the hood as she started with pleasantries and how they all thought I was so funny and "one of them," then she said, "Okay, so all that to say, we'd like to offer you the job!" I was speechless. I was quiet as she talked about pay and scheduling. And my heart sunk as I realized that I was going to have to turn her down, she was so nice and bubbly. But then she went on to say, "Oh and as an employee, you get free tuition if you choose to enroll, plus Sam will get his tuition free and you husband and any of your other kids!" I literally just kind of flopped down into the seat of my car and sat there stunned. I told her I needed to think about it and she was kind and gracious and said, "Absolutely! Can you let me know in a day or two?" I told her I'd let her know the next day, hung up and just sat there. Free college. F R E E  C O L L E G E.

I called my mom, sister, husband, daughter, son, basically everyone just shy of the Governor of Oklahoma. They all said basically the same thing: "You're stupid if you don't take it."

And so here I am, 10 months later, a very happy employee of Crowder College and also a full-time college student once more. I am currently taking two online classes this summer and will take 12 hours this fall. I am a Journalism/Public Relations major. I'm not sure I will ever do a thing with that degree because honestly, I'm very happy with my job as the secretary for ProjectNOW, (where it's true, I am definitely "one of them" and we are all just a little twisted and weird and that seems to be what people love most about us.) but in a few semesters I'll be able to say I have a degree. My sweet little Kady With a D is also enrolled as a full-time student at Crowder in the fall as well. We have math together. I offered to switch to a different class, but she said, "No, stay. That way I know I won't be the only one crying in class every day."

If I wanted to take more than 12 hours a semester I could finish by May 2020, but I don't want to, so I'm not gonna. It will work out to where I'll take one final science class in the fall of 2020 and graduate in December. I haven't decided if I'm going to walk yet. I doubt it. But we'll see. The more blood, sweat, and tears I put into this, the more I may decide I want to.

I had a proper meltdown on the first day of classes. But I feel like I got it out of my system and should be good from here on out. I still put a lot of pressure on myself to be nothing less than 100% perfect, so I feel my stress levels rising quite often. All self-inflicted. It's just who I am. But this time I have support. I have colleagues who are cheering. Friends who are cheering. Family who is cheering. And I'm kind of cheering for myself this time. That's a new one.

And now I have written my first post in six months all while waiting impatiently for Blackboard (the website where all of my college sits and awaits my attention) to stop being broken. IT sent an email assuring they were on it. I took yesterday evening off to just watch some TV ("Westworld" - go watch it. It's amazing.) and did zero homework. Today I haven't been able to do any. I told Kady I was being punished for being a slacker. She assured me the universe doesn't give two shits if I take an evening off to watch a weird robot cowboy show. Always the pragmatist, that Kady.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018


Originally published in the Miami News-Record 

Growing up, we had a fireplace. A smoke-belching black box encased in red brick that guarded the south end of our living room. There were blowers to circulate the air, but it still never seemed to get much past the living room. The blowers were great for drying our hair, though. Mom would sit on the hearth with a round brush and we’d stand whining in front of her while she curled and smoothed our little bob haircuts, sister’s blonde, mine brown. We wore flannel granny gowns or footie pajamas that the bottoms snapped to the tops with a row of snaps around the waist – which were fine if you didn’t have long legs. If you did have long legs, you felt like a sausage in a casing during a growth spurt until Mom finally just cut the feet off so you could stand straight once more. The fireplace was so hot we couldn’t hang the stockings from the mantle at Christmas. They usually got tacked to a wall, but Santa knew where to find them because Christmas morning they’d be leaned up against our mountains of toys, full to the brim.

When we had Abby we lived in town in a crackerbox of a house with no fireplace. Her stocking just kind of ended up with her toys, I don’t even think I hung it. It wasn’t until we moved to the country and once again had a fireplace, that stockings were tacked to the wall because we, too, now had a black-smoke-belching fireplace. When we replaced it with a pellet stove we discovered we could hang the stockings safely from the mantle without fear of burning down our house. Now we have gas logs and the stockings have been tacked to the wall again because the open gas flame leads me to envision casualty and destruction. This year I hung them from a curtain rod in my utility room doorway. Oh and by the way, are you wondering why I’m telling you about our Christmas stockings?

Traditions. Time-honored things we sometimes do for no reason other than…..we just do. Kady has been very upset with me this year because she claims that we are honoring zero traditions this year, nothing is the same as it’s been, and everything is wrong. “The stockings are on a curtain rod, for crying out loud, MOM.” Since we moved to Wyandotte we’ve always done Christmas Eve at home, everyone requests a food that I cook/bake/fix, we play Mario Kart and Guitar Hero, then we watch the Christmas DVD with the Weimaraners dressed like humans and laugh until we stop. Paul and I buy ridiculous amounts of gifts for everyone and it’s a two-day run of absolute chaos. This year we are having Christmas Eve brunch. We have had a hard year financially due to surgery and unemployment and then new jobs for us both, so we drew names among the adults rather than buy for everyone. Abby and Dakota will spend Christmas Day at their own home where Santa will bring toys to their girls and they will start forming their own Christmas traditions. It’s easier for me to drag out my teenagers rather than them drag out two toddlers. We’ll go to their house sometime on Christmas Day to see the haul from the North Pole. Kady has a boyfriend, Sam has a girlfriend who lives in Arkansas, so we work around their schedules as well.

So yes, while it is factual that we are basically doing Christmas completely different this year, we are keeping one thing the same. We are together. We are family. We still love, rely on, annoy, worry over, care about each other in crazy big amounts. Things do change, of course. Whether the stockings get hung by a thumbtack from the mantle or in the bathroom over the toilet (by the way, that will NEVER happen, just for the record), the love in this house remains. That won’t change.

Have a blessed Christmas, Constant Reader. Go hug your people. And if you don’t have people to hug, come hug me. I’ll even let you watch that Weimaraner DVD with us. It’s a classic.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Wicked Day

(Originally published in the Miami News-Record)

A couple of years ago my mom took me to see the musical “Wicked.” Back in the spring I saw that it was coming to Tulsa in the fall and basically gave my children no option but to see it with me. I told them I’d pay for the tickets, I’d drive, and I’d buy the food for the day if they would just accompany me to the theatre and let me experience it with them. Sam nearly did cartwheels. Abby said, “Sure. A free trip to anywhere out of my house is fine – even if it has to be the theatre.” Kady pretty much said, “I’ll give my ticket to a hobo or traveling snake oil salesman – or heck, I’ll pay YOU if it means I don’t have to go.” These are the personalities of my children in a nutshell: Super Eager, Sorta Eager, Non-Compliant In Every Way.

So I bought the tickets in May and wondered if I’d be able to contain myself for an entire four months until Wicked Day finally arrived. Before I had my surgery in July I told all three kids where I had the tickets stashed just in case something happened and I died on the table; I wanted them to still go in my honor and to take their Gram. Kady asked if she could just sell them and split the money with her siblings and buy something nice in my honor instead. I ignored her. And made sure her responsible, level-headed older sister knew she needed to get to the tickets before Kady did.

Finally the day arrived. I’d been saving a new outfit for Wicked Day and Kady even donned a new outfit she hadn’t worn before. Abby borrowed her little sister’s cute gingham pants because she said all of her clothes were too “Mom-ish.” Which makes sense since she’s a mom and all. (I guess my wardrobe would fall somewhere in between “Slightly Netflix-Addicted Grandma With An Aversion to Exercise” and “Middle Aged Secretary Who Hates Eating in the Cafeteria Because It’s ‘Too Cold’.”) (Hint: it’s a lot of leggings and sweaters.) Sam donned a vest he breaks out for only the most dressy-casual occasions. When we headed out Sunday morning we looked GOOD. Kady played DJ and the music was diverse the whole hour-and-a-half drive. The plan all along had been to eat at Hard Rock in Tulsa. We didn’t know it was a buffet. We are all averse to buffets. So we had Freddy’s burgers and ended up with enough time to stop at a Ross for some shopping.

We made it downtown, Kady marveling at the buildings and declaring she wants to live in a big city someday with her dog and her husband and her no children. Sam said he thought he might like to, but would be okay with staying close to home as well. Abby just sat in the backseat clutching her purse and jumping every time there was a human on the sidewalk next to the car because she was certain we were going to be carjacked. (Again, notice the vast differences in my children’s personalities.) We paid to park in a “secure” parking lot – Abby said she wasn’t sure the guy patrolling it looked secure, but he definitely looked shady. In the theatre we swam our way upstream to mezzanine level, found a restroom, Kady asked if she could have a mixed drink, we laughed and I said no, we found our seats.

I, of course, cried when Elphaba defied gravity and again during the entire curtain call. (I *really* enjoy the theatre.) Abby and Sam loved it, Kady said it “wasn’t horrible.” Kady found a rolled ice cream place on Memorial so we trekked across Tulsa to it, which was a fascinating thing to watch. We drove home with bellies full of ice cream – and my momma heart full of memories. It was an amazing Wicked Day.

I Mom So Hard

(Originally published in the Miami News-Record)

I am not a perfect mother.  I freely admit this. My mom made it look easy; I however make it look like a herd of rabid, radioactive ferrets have taken over my circus and have eaten the ringmaster and all the other acts. So yeah, you could say I’m doing GREAT. Granted , the house is quieter more often now that they’re mostly grown, but when they’re all here, it’s back to the chaos and insanity. I created them, so I have no choice but to sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labors. (Heh. Literally.)

About the only thing I ever really shone bright in when they were little: I rocked Valentine boxes. I was mediocre on Halloween costumes (the bag lady complete with shopping cart was my moment in the sun), but dudes, I killed it at Valentine’s Day. It’s my least favorite “holiday” (it’s not a real holiday, by the way - it’s commercialism at its pinkest and glitteriest and syrupy sweet awful-est), but something triggered me come February 1st and I became one of those moms, determined to outdo everyone else on the planet. Fortunately, by the time we started attending homeschool co-op, my kids had outgrown Valentine boxes. Homeschool moms are apparently ALL. ABOUT. VALENTINE. BOXES. I felt like shoebox-with-stickers-on-it-mom at homeschool co-op – and there is nothing wrong with shoeboxes and stickers mom, but my TV with real cord and hand-painted color bars paled in comparison to the to-scale ice castle that looked like it came straight from a frozen Norwegian village a la Disney.

But back to me being less-than-perfect: I dropped Kady three times when she was an infant. I told Abby to suck it up and finish her gymnastics class after she stubbed her toe on a chair. Turns out the toe was broken. And the list goes on of all the things I’ve done to thoroughly mess up my kids. I Mom pretty hard, but not perfectly.

Awhile back I found some cute string lights for the porch, which I asked Paul to put up repeatedly, to no avail. So Monday, since Kady and I had just cleaned and decorated the porch with mums, we decided to hang the lights ourselves. Until we realized we needed the big stapler. Which was somewhere in the disaster of Paul’s shop. After a few phone calls to him during which he directed us repeatedly to “one of those DeWalt tool bags over by the fridge,” we gave up due to anaphylaxis setting in. Oh, not from anything we’re allergic to, but the mess was just giving us hives. I grabbed some hamburger from the freezer for dinner and we decided to just wait until he got home

As we got back to the porch where we planned to just sit and relax, I heard Kady shriek, “OH GOSH NO MOM NO!!!!!” I turned to see her, arms in the air, spider crawling on  her shirt. She was frozen in fear and apparently, as the adult who was present, she looked to me to remove it before it ate her spleen or something. I love her and all, but no way was I touching a spider with my bare hands. I briefly considered kicking it off her, then remembered I am old and fat and not at all flexible.

So I did the only thing I knew to do: I whacked my child with a pound of frozen ground beef. Right in the ribs. She made a little “oof” sound as the tube of frozen meat made contact, but I was now committed to spider annihilation. And….of course, I missed the spider. I whacked her again. Success! She should’ve embraced me in a thankful hug, but instead she just stood there a few seconds before she finally said, quietly, but fiercely, “Mom? Did you just hit me with HAMBURGER???” before she just turned and walked in the house.

I’m telling you, few women achieve this level of Maternal Greatness.

Dot Com

(Originally published in the Miami News-Record) (edited a smidge)

This past week I posted to my blog, something I hadn’t done in a long time. My last post before then had been almost exactly two years prior and even it was just one of my columns from here reposted there. And for pretty much all of 2015 it was the same thing as well. What can I say? I’ve been busy.

June 7, 2004, was my very first blog post. So that means 14 years ago this month I decided to jump in with both feet and tell the world apparently everything floating around in this brain of mine. That first post is so cringe-worthy. I mean, I literally cringed when I read it just now. Thank God I got better at it. June 7, 2004, is also when my mother doubled up her worrying about me because she was (read: still is) 1500% sure that some crazed lunatic was going to read my blog, become insanely obsessed with me, kidnap me, chop my body into pieces, stuff said pieces into a barrel and bury them in his backyard. I think she is precious for thinking that. One, because a mother’s love and concern doesn’t stop when her child becomes an adult and she’s just doing her job. And two, my mother thought I was still wonderful enough at age 31 that she believed someone would find me so irresistible they’d want to kidnap me. She’s truly my biggest fan. Need a morale boost? Ask your mom. See yourself through her eyes for a bit. Chances are, she finds you kidnap-able. And I think that’s sweet. In a scary, obsessive way, but still sweet.

So those early blog posts were inane and boring and they droned on and on about my children, my sister’s children, laundry, the weather, and how I never got enough sleep. I still write about all of that, but again, thank God I got better at it. In 2006 and 2007 I won Best Humor Blog in the Okie Blog Awards. In 2009 I won Best Rural Blog. In 2009 I beat Pioneer Woman in that category. Yes, THE Pioneer Woman, the one who has a show on Food Network and a four bazillion acre ranch and now owns a Mercantile where people stand in line outside all day just to get in to browse her line of housewares and eat from a menu that probably doesn’t have a single solitary recipe made with commodity cheese. THAT Pioneer Woman. But y’all, I BEAT HER back in 2009 and that means at that point in life, I was “more rural” than a wealthy ranch lady who says “y’all” a lot on her TV show and actually owns a pair of cowboy boots. So there’s that.

I renew my domain faithfully every year because I am selfish and cannot stand to think of another woman out there calling herself Redneck Diva. I little craft shop opened up on Highway 43 a few years back and her sign said “REDNECK DIVA CRAFTS AND STUFF” and y’all, it took everything in me to not wheel my car into her driveway and inform her that I alone am The Redneck Diva and that my fans (my mom and like ten other people) and I didn’t appreciate her calling herself by my name. However, I then realized I don’t have a copyright on the name and I’m also insanely non-confrontational and she’d probably have beat me up or something, so I let it go. She’s no longer open, so I think that was just the universe’s way of saying, “I got you, Diva. It’s all about you, babe.”

I plan to keep the ol’ blog rolling. It will take dedication and effort (dedication I have, effort I lack a bit) but I’m gonna give it a whirl. Come visit. Please. There are pictures here, something I can’t give you in my newspaper column I also cuss a little more over here, so don’t tell my mom. She still thinks I’m pure and wonderful enough to be kidnap-able.

The First Half

In case you've been hiding under a rock on planet Xenon474, it's kind of been a shitshow since 2020 started. I shan't go into al...