Wednesday, May 06, 2015

My First Ride

Published in the Miami News-Record on May 3, 2015 

My first car was a gold 1986 Chevy Cavalier. I drove her until I was nearly 21. I ran her completely out of oil once. I also wedged her driver’s side rear door into the tailgate of Jerry Friend’s truck in the school parking lot one morning. By the time we traded her in she was using a quart of oil a day (turns out, running a car out of oil is a bad thing…who knew?) and you couldn’t go up a hill with the air conditioner on because her four little cylinders were apparently very tired, but she got me where I needed to go. Sometimes it took me awhile, but I got there eventually.

I turned 16 in 1989. It was a glorious time of permed hair and giant bangs that jutted awkwardly off of our foreheads like unicorn horns, though far less pointy but no less rock solid. My bangs were so high-in-the-sky back then I had to drive slouched down in my seat because my bangs touched the headliner and I couldn’t have anything encroaching upon their airspace. Apparently the slouching weakened the seat support. One day, as I leaned back to smooth my skirt underneath my rear, the seat gave way and completely came loose from the car. I found myself looking up at the ceiling of my car, legs smashed into the steering wheel, rocking back and forth, in complete and utter shock at the abrupt change from vertical to nearly horizontal. It was then I also noticed faint shoe prints on the backseat ceiling. Turns out, my sister and best friend thought it would be completely hilarious to put those up there and then watch my mother have a full-blown conniption fit right there in my car if she ever saw them. After I righted my seat and found my way out of my car (all while making a mental note to scrub that ceiling ASAP), I retrieved my father who was coming in off of a night shift. He was exhausted and I was going to be late for school, so he did what any other Oklahoma father in his situation would’ve done – he propped the seat up with a brick and sent me off to get my daily dose of public school education. It worked far longer than it should have and it wasn’t until I was a newlywed that the brick broke and my new redneck husband drilled a hole through the floor of the car and bolted the seat right to the frame.

The seats of that car were particularly quirky and the passenger front seat would lie completely flat. One time while dragging Main in Miami, Sis and I were smack dab in the middle of downtown, cars in front, back, and to the side of us when she said something really funny and made me laugh out loud. While I was sitting in the passenger seat laughing like a loon, tears streaming down my face, she released the seat and laid down making it look like I was entirely alone in that car, laughing for no reason. When my laughter subsided and I opened my eyes to see her out of the view of every other teen on Main that night I then began trying to make her sit up, begging her to stop making me look crazy which only succeeded in making me look even more so because now I was talking to myself as well.

One day Mom said she had a headache and was going to lean the seat back and close her eyes while I drove us to town. About halfway to Miami she quietly asked, “Kristin Dawn, is there something you need to tell me…like why there are shoe prints on the ceiling of your back seat?”

And then it was Sis’ turn to laugh hysterically in that sweet little gold Cavalier. And I had some splainin’ to do. 

The Sisterhood

Published in the Miami News-Record on April 26, 2015

Girlfriends are a necessity of life. I have had the same core group of girlfriends since 1st grade. Over the years our numbers waxed and waned, people were ushered in, some faded out, some moved, but the same fundamental group is still among my dearest friends. The kind you can go awhile without talking to, but when you see each other again you pick right back up like you just saw them an hour ago.

When I was in college I had work friends. As a newlywed I got couples friends. Then with children came new people – other parents with kids my kids’ ages. Now I have homeschooling friends, too. But these ladies from grade school …. well, we are the ones who know each other’s darkest fears, secrets, wishes, dreams, and as we get older, health issues as well. Goodness knows we commiserate about gray hair, aching backs, sneeze pees, and bone density more and more as the years go by.
Last week I got together with this group of four other ladies for dinner. Three of us started Kindergarten together, one joined our merry band in 7th grade, and the other was my little sister, who didn’t attain “cool” status until she was 15 or so and was then allowed into our circle. (I was so gracious, I know.) One of our crew was missing, but we’ll wrangle her in next time. We sat at a table at Los Dos Amigos for a ridiculous amount of time – well, until they turned the “Open” sign off. (To the staff there, you fellas are a patient crew and very gracious hosts. To the other diners that night, I hope we weren’t too annoying with our laughter and reminiscing. My apologies if we were. Truly. You have no idea the therapy that was going on.) Then after we paid our tab (and left big tips) we stood in the parking lot talking until 11:00, well past my elderly bedtime these days.

We had slumber parties starting in the 5th grade. Most of us were in band together. We have so many blackmail-worthy photos of each other it’s not even funny. We fought passionately, cried together, and shared a boyfriend or two. We attended weddings, mourned the loss of babies, went camping together, babysat each other’s kids, and two of us still send letters and cards in a time of email. 

We’ve comforted in times of divorce and congratulated on graduations and grandbabies. Now we are all in our 40’s (except my little sister who isn’t far behind) and all of us are coloring our hair purely out of necessity now. We all wear glasses and several of us are in the dreaded bifocals. While two of us are still driving sportscars (lucky!), the rest of us are in minivans and SUVs that will haul our broods around. One of us has a baby, one has a toddler, and one of us is a new grandma. We all cross our legs when we sneeze now.

A woman who knew all of us from our days back at Wyandotte High, stopped by our table to say hello. She remarked at how we had stayed friends for so long. DeLisa, my first friend from age 5, said it best with her reply: “We’ve loved each other, hated each other, and now we love each other again.” I don’t think we ever hated each other, but man, did we fight back in the day.  Thankfully we’ve moved past all that and found our way back to the sisterhood.  

That night of chips, salsa, shared pictures, stories, laughter – so. much. laughter. – was balm for my soul. I didn’t know how much I needed those girls at this very point in my life until I drove away that night still giggling all the way home over “muddy chewbaccas” and how we all got tickled and simultaneously crossed our legs while we laughed until we cried.  

Oklahoma Strong

Published in the Miami News-Record, April 19, 2015

It was 1995. I was 22. Paul and I lived in a cute little rental house with hardwood floors, a giant kitchen, and a front porch that I still miss. He was working at Eagle-Picher in Seneca. I had a home daycare. We were young, eager to start a family, and content.

As per the usual morning routine, my daycare babies had finished breakfast and Sesame Street and it was my turn to watch TV while they played in the living room floor; my favorite show at the time was Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee. It was a world without flat-screen TVs and our teensy TV didn’t even have a remote. It was a small console TV with dials. We had a folded-up piece of paper wedged in behind the bottom dial to keep it from drifting off of UHF. The antennas had wadded up balls of aluminum foil on the ends.

My usual morning’s entertainment was interrupted by an “ABC News Special Report”. I was annoyed. I only had one hour of TV to myself each day, one hour that didn’t involve singing monsters and songs about counting and sharing. Break-in special reports were rarely about anything pertinent to my little corner of the world. I sighed and got up to go fix a glass of tea, but the words “Oklahoma City” caught my attention. I can remember stopping in front of that tiny screen and feeling my heart begin to race as the newscaster spoke of preliminary reports of a bomb going off downtown. I was stunned. My stomach was in a knot. My hands were shaking. I needed to sit down yet I stood, rooted to the spot, eyes fixed on the first photos and videos rolling in.

I ran to the phone and dialed my mom at work. “Mom, you need to find a TV. Someone bombed a federal building in the City…..yes, Oklahoma City…, Mom, I don’t know who……I’m in shock…..” and then I remember asking a question she no more had the answer to than any of us did: “Why us?”

A few days after the OKC bombing (maybe the next day, I don’t remember for sure after 20 years), a house just up the block from my where my mom and my aunt and uncle lived – and only a few blocks from where we lived – exploded due to a natural gas leak. I had just set a plate of fried chicken on the table for dinner when our whole house shook and we heard the explosion. All I could think was, “Again?” The bombing of the Murrah building forever changed us, I think. No, I know.

For days after April 19, 1995, I was the victim of a profound sadness. I felt scared, confused, angry, and insecure. I cried a lot (which isn’t anything much out of the ordinary – I’m a cry-er by nature) and didn’t sleep much. Little did I know then that I’d repeat it again in the fall of 2011, some 16 years later.

I have lived in Oklahoma my whole life. Never has another state been able to claim me. I’ve lived all over Ottawa County and even did a brief stint in Stillwater before I met my husband. We Okies are often the butt of jokes about rednecks and being backwards. People from the coasts think we are toothless hillbillies that live in one giant cow field and dodge tornadoes on a daily basis, but if you’re from here you know there is so much more to us than that. Granted, there’s a few of us that live that tooth-free lifestyle, but we are so much more than a backwoods stereotype. We are ranchers, doctors, moms, dads, lawyers, laborers, writers, scientists, teachers, stay-at-home parents, secretaries, and so much more. We are Oklahoma. We are strong.

We are Oklahoma Strong. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Okies Underground

Published in the Miami News-Record, April 12, 2015 

Those who know me best know that I am kind of a weather freak. I become somewhat obsessed with the weather this time of year and I consider Dr. Greg Forbes, Jim Cantore, and Mike Bettes the holy trinity of The Weather Channel. I love Dr. Forbes so much I have considered writing him fan mail or at the very least, naming my next cat after him.

As a kid, when the TV (a console behemoth that commandeered 85% of the living room) began emitting the ear-splitting tone that for most meant “Take cover now!” all I heard was the siren song of the National Weather Service warbling “Go stand in the yard and look for the funnel!” I can only remember there being a handful of times as a kid that we actually drove the mile-and-a-quarter to Papa’s where there was a cellar – and never once did we ever step foot underground. I remember on one of the rare stormy treks to Papa’s, very vividly seeing the tail of a funnel cloud dip down out of the clouds and Mom pointing it out. Sis and I stood on that little back porch and simultaneously spoke a reverent “Wowwwwwwww”. But we never ran for that cellar. Probably because Mom knew there were mice in it and she’d rather be swept up in a funnel straight into Jesus’ arms than seek shelter with a host of rodents.

Now, some 30 years later, my kids know that when Momma says TOR:CON more than about 10 times in a day, they should probably go ahead and pack their tornado bags because it is almost certainly inevitable we will go underground at some point. If you look up my family on you might very well find we are descendants of moles as much as we go below the ground’s surface in the spring.

Last Thursday afternoon Sis called and asked if I had been watching the weather. I answered, “Duh.” She then asked if we had a cellar at the new house. Again, I answered, “Duh.” Then she asked if we were going to be home. You don’t need me to tell you how I answered. After confirmation she said, “Good. We’re coming out. I’m bringing pizza.” Yessssssss. We had an all-out party while we watched radar images online, TWC on TV, and had the NOAA radio on the kitchen counter. Once the NOAA radio started going off I hollered for a mass bathroom visit for all of the kids seeing as how a few years ago it was when the tornado was visible in the sky that everyone suddenly had to pee. When everyone’s phones started screeching A TORNADO IS IN YOUR AREA – TAKE COVER NOW we managed to get four parents, one adult child and her 60 pound dog, five kids, and my infant nephew in the cellar in under two minutes. It was nothing short of military perfection.

We were safe and sound – albeit not altogether comfortable – underground for about half an hour. The baby barely fussed and eventually fell asleep. The dog took up more room than anyone and eventually started to snore. The boys said the pizza made them gassy. The girls played games on an iPad. We talked, passed the baby, texted people on the outside for updates.  And even though we had two teenage boys in an enclosed 5x8’ concrete box, we weren’t even gassed out by anyone’s noxious fumes. Maybe my sister’s vehement threat of dismemberment if anyone so much as thought about farting had something to do with that. ‘Tis the season for storms, my fellow Okies. Get a weather radio and keep batteries in it. Friend me on Facebook – I’m quite dedicated in my meteorological annoyances. Find a shelter and make a plan. 

And if you have teenage boys, throw a bottle of Gas-X in your emergency kit. Just in case. 

How Soon We Forget

Originally published in the Miami News-Record, March 29, 2015

I have written about embracing chaos before – in fact, just a few weeks ago if I remember correctly. I love our chaotic evenings around the dining room table playing games or just acting weird while we sit around talking about whatever rabbits we decide to chase.

But I fear my poor husband has no memory of the chaos we used to experience. He’s adapted to (and for the most part enjoys) teen chaos, but has seemingly forgotten the kid brand of chaos.

Case in point, this past week a dear friend from homeschool co-op came over with her six kids. They range from 3 years to 12 years and they are all so stinking adorable I can hardly contain myself when I’m around them. She has five precious little girls and one awesome little dude. They arrived that morning armed with kites, sidewalk chalk, and bubbles and even though it was a bit chilly, we sat outside and visited while they ran around the field chasing kite strings and each other. Immediately my friend’s boy convinced Sam that a piggyback ride was in order. Kady had the two littlest girls – one on her hip, the other by the hand – and they were trying to fill her in on everything that had ever happened in their lives. Or maybe it was a story about a dog or a flower or sunshine, I’m not sure. Whatever the story was, it was very exciting to them and Kady was nodding her head exuberantly.

My friend and I discussed husbands and jobs, college and Obamacare, being debt-free, homeschooling struggles and triumphs, pets, tattoos, and various other topics. We drank coffee and sweet tea with wild abandon. Being a stay-at-home mom means you embrace that grownup time with all the strength in your weary body and you talk until your jaws ache, laugh until your cheeks hurt, and store away the precious experience of another human being speaking to you without picking their nose or asking you to wipe their butt.

As the day wore on, the kites either ripped or got caught up in our hilltop wind gusts and became frustrating to the little ones, the chalk got boring, and the outside lost its exciting allure, so we suddenly found ourselves sitting across from each other on my couches with eight kids in our conversations. Being mommas, we just kept on talking, while the three-year-old army crawled across the back of the sofa from end of the room, around the corner and back again, and never batted an eye. We just cuddled up with whoever wanted a cuddle, tickled whoever wanted to be tickled, and kept on embracing the last snippets of adult conversation before time would once again force us to go back to “real life”. At one point cupcakes were brought out and the icing was promptly licked off by roughly 2/3 of those present. I was gifted a pipe cleaner crown from her oldest girl. Someone farted. Everyone giggled.

My husband walked in the door at 4:00 to see eight kids and two mommas, and promptly went into panic mode. He smiled, said hello, then walked straight to the bedroom. I could smell the fear. He hid in the garage until they left. When he finally peeked back in the house he grinned and said, “I walked in and there were so. many. little. people…..I panicked. Sorry.” I chuckled and gave a brief overview of the day while he sat wide-eyed. “But how do you two just…handle….all of that noise and farting and giggling and crumbs and sticky fingers???”

I patted his hand and said, “Oh honey, ours used to have sticky fingers and could spontaneously generate crumbs when they hadn’t eaten a thing. They were always running and jumping on the furniture. And well, they still fart.” He shook his head, “You moms are something.”

Yes. Yes, we are. 

Rites of Passage

Several years ago I spent the better part of the weekend cleaning out my son’s room. He was probably 11 at the time. He had requested a recliner in his room and since his daddy had just gotten a brand new one it worked out. I started clearing out a little boy’s room that was full of toy trains, stuffed animals, enough Hot Wheels to melt down and create a full-size Suburban, and enough Duplo blocks to build a replica of The Great Wall of China, and ended up that day with a room that definitely didn’t house a little boy. Gone was the toy box and instead there was a large plastic tote labeled “The Box of Juvenile Delinquency”. I watched as he threw in sword, sword, knife, light saber, gun, gun, sword, light saber, handcuffs, nunchucks, a flail, a mace, and mused that the box could very well end up as evidence someday. The Hot Wheels went to the top of the closet, the stuffed animals were re-homed, and the train-themed bed sheets were replaced with a manly camouflage set. My boy grew up seemingly in an afternoon, at least to his momma’s eyes.

When she was 13, my oldest daughter had to come to terms with her own mortality – something most people don't have to do until they are adults – when she learned that a former classmate had passed away. She had to face the horrible fact that sometimes kids die and we don't know why. She handled it with grace and maturity (at times more than her mother did) and even though I'm glad she had the capabilities to do so, it also pained my heart that she had to do it at all, much less as gracefully as she did. Her freshman year a classmate was killed in a car accident and once again I found my girl trying to process a why that can’t always be answered.

And now at 13, my youngest daughter is learning that girls are sometimes horribly mean. Her last year of public school was 4th grade and she only experienced a small smidgen of the meanness and hatred her big sister had endured in middle school. But she is now entrenched in an ugly situation at the hands of a girl with unmonitored social media accounts and a mean spirit. I’m trying to teach my daughter compassion and to explain that so often when people are mean it’s because they are hurting so much on the inside they don’t know where to store all that pain and it spills out. It’s something she’ll need to learn how to handle through her whole life, sadly. There are a lot of hurting people out there.

It’s no easy business, this growing up. Some days I’d love nothing more than to shelter them in my arms and never let them be sad or hurt, but I think I’d be doing them a serious injustice. No, I know I would. In a world of brokenness and misery and scary things no child should endure, there need to be people out there who are loving and understanding. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (NLT) 

Not only are mean girls, heartbreak, fender benders, and yes, the death of someone young, rites of passage for the kids, but they are for us parents as well. As a young mom I thought there was nothing worse than skinned knees and bumped noggins, but as I caution my teenage daughters on the dangers of human trafficking, I wish for the days that band-aids would fix it all.

As difficult as it is, though, it’s okay for them to cry, fail, wonder, and question – they’re all rites of passage for this adventure called Life. I’d hate for them to miss out on any of it. It will make them who they are. And I rather like the possibilities so far.

All Things Rodentia, Part II

Originally published in the Miami News-Record, March 15, 2015

A few years ago, in a moment of parental miscommunication, my oldest daughter was allowed to buy a hamster. Before we knew it, we had gone from zero rodents to four and my husband is completely to blame. He knew our deal was that if the kids asked for hamsters we were to pass if off to the other parent for the rest of eternity, thereby avoiding actual procurement of any hamsters forever and ever amen. But whether it was batted eyelashes or a sweet voice saying, “Daaaaaddyyyyyy…” that caused him to say, “I don’t care,” is beside the point now. We are knee-deep in rodents.

Last summer Abby’s precious hamster, Pearl, passed away. There were actual tears shed for sweet Pearl. She was smart and loved macaroni and cheese. We placed her tiny, furry body in a shoe box and my husband was charged with the burial. I expected a shovel and a shoe box-sized hole. Oh, no. By the time it was all said and done, it looked like we had buried three grown men out by the garden. He said he didn’t want the dogs to dig her up. No chance of that – I’d be more worried about the devil himself getting to her as deep as she went. The next to go was Bugg’s hamster, Sundae. She had a little rodent stroke. She, too, was buried in a shoe box, however the hole dug for her was more appropriately sized for a rodent and her memorial is behind the barn. Abby lost her original hamster, Hanna, this winter, but the ground was too frozen to bury her so she went into a barrel (in a shoe box, of course – we aren’t total heathens) out by the barn with the intent of a burial on a warm day. We just remembered her last week. Oops. She’s still in the barrel. Above ground. Maybe we are heathens.

Both of Abby’s hamsters have now since gone on to the big hamster wheel in the sky but she replaced them with a pair of fancy mice – Lily and Chrysanthemum. The lady at the pet store told us that mice are social and are better in pairs. She didn’t tell us that they would also MOURN THEMSELVES TO DEATH if their companion dies. On one particular cage cleaning day, Chrysanthemum refused to go into her exercise ball and it took much coercion. Imagine the horror about 10 minutes later as Abby and I looked over and noticed that one exercise ball was moving with a very much alive hamster inside while the other was….still. Upon further inspection we realized that Chrysanthemum must have gotten so stressed out over the whole thing that she died of a little mousey heart attack. What followed were two weeks of a very sad Lily who finally died of a broken heart. Both mice were given Viking burials at sea. Okay, they were set sail in shoe boxes in Sycamore Creek.

Last weekend Abby came home with a teensy, tiny baby mouse.  She named the new baby Petal. She is insanely friendly and cute – so cute you want to just stare into her little furry face all the time. (And for me to make such a statement of adoration is a big thing since you know, a regular ol’ house mouse in my house is cause for me to scream and refuse to put my feet on the floor until I see a corpse in a trap, so yeah, she’s pretty doggone cute.) She has escaped once. My first instinct was to scream for her head on a pike, then I remembered how cute she is and just curled up in a chair until she was safely in her cage again.

And the only way I can think to end this story is that y’all must think my family buys a lot of shoes because it seems we have a never-ending supply of shoe boxes around here…   

And Chaos Ensued

Sometimes I look around my house and wonder just how on earth I got to where I am and how things got so……berserk.

Let me give you a little background: I was a bit uptight when I was young. Maybe even more than a bit. Perhaps most would even say I was wound tighter than an eight-day clock.  Running a home daycare for most of my adult life and then having children of my own chilled me out in a big way. I know for some high strung folks, the absolute chaos of having small children around is enough to send them over the edge, but not me. I completely embraced the wonder of early childhood and the messiness of the whole shebang. Dirt and noise, crumbs and smudges, sticky fingers and the question “Why?” were a part of my life and I adored it. My husband, however, is more easily perturbed and on more than one occasion when our kids were little he would look at me and say, “How is that not driving you crazy?” I’d look up, blink a few times and ask, “What?” I had this uncanny ability to just simply not hear noises that were just kid noises. I immediately sprang into action when I heard screams, slaps, wails, and thumps that usually meant furniture had been rearranged or someone had decided to test his ability to fly once again, but tapping, humming, off-key singing, incessant banging on toy piano keys, and the sound of Tickle Me Elmo’s hysterical giggles were just tuned out.
It was merely self preservation. Had my ears homed in on every single noise that emitted from those children I’d still be in a straight jacket even though I now have all teenagers.

It would be an understatement to say we have fun at our house. We always have and I hope we always will. And it goes beyond the walls of this house – when you get my mom and sister and the whole gang together we laugh until someone pees, snorts, or wheezes, and no one goes home with all of their mascara and eyeliner on because laughing until we cry is just how we roll.

Sometimes it’s simply all of us girls giggling as we watch Sam sing and dance to a Taylor Swift song while he makes macaroni and cheese. Other times it’s laughing when my husband’s hair get a little long and he brushes it straight up and looks just like Wolverine from the comic book, then puts butter knives between his fingers for “claws”. Regardless, we laugh and do a lot of it.

Most of the time I’m the instigator of the hilarity, the ornery perpetrator of the shenanigans, but other times I just sit back and watch it unfold around me. Like the other night when, in the middle of a family game of Yahtzee! my son jumped up from the table and ran out of the room like his hiney was on fire. When he returned to the table, one by one we noticed he was wearing a full-head unicorn mask. He simply sat down and said not a word, just rested his horsey face on his fist and whinnied. Before I knew it my youngest daughter was wearing a banana suit and the oldest was sporting a 1970’s-style afro wig. My husband was doing his best to belch the alphabet while his costumed children cheered him on. Yahtzee! dice were flying like popcorn. Selfies were snapped and sent to friends. It was a cacophony of noise and socially inappropriate antics.

I leaned back, smiled, and soaked all of it up like a sponge. And someday when my kids are all in their own houses, I’m missing my grandbabies, the house is too quiet, and Paul doesn’t much feel like belching the alphabet for an audience of one, I will pull the memory of that crazy Yahtzee! game out and laugh once again at the chaos that ensued.

Quality or Quantity

Originally published in the Miami News-Record, February 22, 2015

I was reading before I entered Kindergarten. Not that my mom pushed me to be some kind of child prodigy, but (and this is conjecture since I really don’t remember what went through my five-year-old brain) I’m thinking I was just tired of not knowing what was going on around me and decided to learn how to read so I could butt into grownup conversations and whatnot.

The summer between 1st and 2nd grade Mom brought home a ton of Bobbsey Twins books and discovered all too quickly that I could plow through one of those in under two hours. It wasn’t long before she had to start rationing them out. I’m sure she tried to bargain with me – an hour of outside time in exchange for a new book perhaps – but I’m sure I didn’t bite. I hated the outdoors and would rather read my old already-read books rather than trade a new one for sunshine.  She eventually handed me the stack and told me to have fun. By the end of 2nd grade I had read nearly the entire Little House on the Prairie series. It wasn’t but a few years later that I developed a taste for the fantasy and sci-fi genres and read and re-read A Wrinkle in Time and its companions many times over before I even hit 5th grade.

I devoured all of the Harry Potter books and I’ve written here before about my love for nearly all of Stephen King’s works. I tried The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit, but they were just too wordy for even me, a lover of words. (Oh, my, but I do love the movies!) I’ve read Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales (both of those I bought to read again on my own after we read them in Senior English), Silas Marner, Little Women, Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm, and countless other classics. When we were newlyweds, before we became homeowners, we moved a lot. My husband once offered me $1000 if I’d just let him leave all of my books behind in our apartment. I said no. We took them with us and just paid his chiropractor bill.

I’ve read a LOT of really good books over the years. I’ve read a few bad ones, but not many. See, I have this credo: Life’s too short to read bad books. So if they don’t hook me, they aren’t read. If they are poorly written, they aren’t read. If they are drivel, they aren’t read.

So no, I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey nor any of its sequels. And I don’t plan to. Ever.
I won’t launch into a tirade about values and abuse. I won’t give my opinion on sex outside of marriage. And I’ll tell you how any scenario with me wearing a blindfold would go: I am horrible at pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey because when I am blindfolded I get horribly dizzy and I fall. There would be no fun and games for a blindfolded me – probably only an ER visit for some anti-nausea medication and perhaps a broken hip.

All that being said, I will not be reading the aforementioned books because I hear they are more poorly written than Twilight and I ONLY read those because at the time I had a teen who had been bitten by the vampire bug (see what I did there?) and I wasn’t about to let her read them without subjecting myself to them first. Talk about needing anti-nausea medication. I took one for the team there, but I won’t be embarking on a journey into a monochromatic world where the one of the character’s eyes “smolder like embers”. If someone’s eyes are smoldering, I’m grabbing a fire extinguisher and calling 911 because that, folks, is not healthy.

And if I want to experience fifty shades of grey, I’ll just look in the mirror at my hair.    

Grow Up Already

Originally published in the Miami News-Record, February 15, 2015

My daughter, who has been out of high school for nearly a year now, is working as many hours as her employer will give her, and is furiously seeking a 40-hour a week gig, gets this question even more than a typical kid her age: “So, are you going to college?”  When she answers, “No,” it’s almost like throwing a bucket of ice water on the questioner. They stand there in abject horror at the prospect of her wandering around this big ol’ world without an “education”. Oh, the horror!

She handles it with grace every single time. I’d have already snapped and gotten snarky, but she just smiles sweetly and nods politely. She already has more life skills in that department than some gainfully employed adults out there. I know that people really do mean well, but folks, I have some big news that may not have occurred to everyone out there: college isn’t for everyone. In fact, I’ll add to that: growing up isn’t for everyone.

Her daddy and I worried that by graduating early she was going to grow up too fast. And while she is far more mature than most young adults her age or older, she is doing a fabulous job of enjoying her youth. She budgets her money, spends wisely, doesn’t party, shows up to work on time, goes above and beyond with virtually everything she does, is nice to small children and the elderly, is a sucker for cute puppies, and is more responsible about getting oil changes than her mother is. But she is also silly and sometimes forgets to turn off the coffee pot. She gets distracted playing with her pet mice sometimes and forgets to unload the dishwasher. She borrows my earrings and forgets to return them. She is a responsibly irresponsible young adult and while sometimes I get aggravated and think, “Is she EVER going to grow up??” I then take a step back and answer myself: “Man, I hope not.”

Just this past week our son applied to the Electrical Technology program at the vo-tech. At 16 he thinks he wants to be an electrician. But just a few months ago he wanted to be a child psychologist. Heck, he may pursue Underwater Basketweaving before it’s all said and done. The only thing we’ve ever told our kids regarding their futures is that whatever it is they decide to do, do it with everything in them. Be the best dogcatcher or chef or homemaker or doctor they can be. There’s a lot to be said for happiness and so many of us are so worried about being grown up, we forget to be happy. So whether my kids cure cancer or make sandwiches for a living, I just want them to be happy while doing it.

Because of her boyfriend’s schedule, Abby and her new beau had to celebrate Valentine’s Day a few days early this year. Paul was already in bed and I had just brushed my teeth when they got back from their “romantic” date. I heard them giggling as they walked through the dining room, stuck my head out the bedroom door to see the two of them, arm in arm, walking toward me with Groucho Marx glasses  complete with plastic nose and a nifty contraption that allowed them to blow giant plastic “snot bubbles” out of their giant fake noses. When they saw that I saw them, they both busted up in hysterical laughter and Abby said, “Mom! Are these not THE coolest things ever!?” I just nodded my head and thought, “Not really…. but you are, kid.”

We put far too much pressure on our kids to “grow up” when we all should be spending more time wearing silly glasses and forgetting to make our beds. My advice to everyone, no matter your age: Stay young, stay silly, chill out. Blow more snot bubbles. Okay, well, alright, not literally. Don’t do that. Please. At least not around me.