Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I Have Learned

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on December 27, 2015. 

I have learned that Pyrex dishes don’t go on the stove top. I have learned that if you think it will be funny to throw a cup of ice water over the shower curtain while your husband showers you will never take a relaxing shower again because said husband doesn’t hold to the whole “vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord” thing.

I have learned that buying batteries at a convenience store on Christmas morning can cost more than the original gift. I have learned that sending a Christmas card to an old friend and getting it back with “deceased” stamped on it is just about one of the saddest things you’ll ever receive in the mail. I have learned that an afternoon of Christmas tree assembling and decorating that includes Pam cooking spray, rope, and duct tape will be one of your favorite Christmas memories. I have learned that meals with cousins at the kids’ table are some of the best memories I have. 

I have learned that after 23 years of marriage, your wedding ring is no longer round, but a little squished to one side. I have learned that a lot of unpleasant stuff can be avoided by simply keeping your mouth shut. I have learned that not everyone wants my opinion – even though I usually have really important things to say. I have learned that there is no better comfort in the world than a kiss on the forehead from your mom – even when you’re almost 43.

I have learned that alcohol and tattoo studios are never a good mix. I have learned that Tinker Bell tattoos are sometimes regrettable. I have learned that a Route 44 sweet tea from Miami Sonic is exponentially better than a Route 44 sweet tea from any other Sonic in the world. Or at least the four states. I have learned the Pythagorean Theorem. I have subsequently forgotten it. I have learned that being popular in high school doesn’t amount to a hill of beans out in the real world. I have learned that parents will do just about anything for their children. I have been on both sides of this.

I have learned that “I’m sorry” is harder for some people to say. I have learned to forgive. I have learned to let go. I have learned that those are not always easy to do. I have learned that even if you typically don’t regret things, if your Papa asks you to go to the Townsman for pie after your high school graduation and you decline to go hang out with your boyfriend, you’ll regret it.

I have learned that there is no graceful way to fall. I have learned that time spent laughing with your oldest girlfriends is sometimes better than therapy. I have learned that you never forget your first kiss – even if it wasn’t the best one you’ve ever had.

I have learned that the Tooth Fairy writes apology letters in pink ink and the paper is extra glittery. I have learned that there are few better feelings than these: the first shower at home after church camp, taking off your bra after a long day, and a nap on your mom’s couch. I have learned that the first time you say, “Oh yeah? And if all your friends jumped off a cliff would you jump, too?” you instantly feel inclined to apologize to your parents for pretty much everything you ever did from age two on. 

I have learned that highlighted verses in my Bible are reminders that whatever hard times compelled me to mark them are now past … and God provided. And I’ve learned that if I’m looking them up because I need them again, God will carry me through once more. Or twice more. Because sometimes I’m a slow learner. I have learned that there is only one way to Heaven and that Jesus forever loves me in spite of myself.  

And to quote Michelangelo at age 87: “I am still learning.” 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Birthday Bugg

 Originally published in the Miami News-Record on December 20, 2015

In March of 2001 we moved from our 800 sq. ft. house Miami to the house on Hudson Creek. The house had three bedrooms and two living areas. We were too broke to buy another room of sitting furniture so we turned the den into a playroom for the kids. We had just enough rooms for just enough kids. We were so happy in our new house that we inadvertently gave ourselves a “housewarming present” and some time the first week of May I took that plastic stick with two pink lines on it out to where Paul was cleaning out a fencerow. He took off his hat, scratched his head and spit, then said, “First, don’t cry because it looks like you’re going to. Second, why don’t you go to that place in town and pee on one of their sticks. Just to be sure.” Their stick said the same thing: we were suddenly short one bedroom.

As you might have already figured out, in moments of extreme jubilation, crisis, life choices, parenting woes, baking conundrums, and basically every other situation, I call Mom first. Except…. she was in Europe, of all places. I called my sister and she screamed and hollered and whooped and began declaring her missive of spoiling my newest child. We were stunned, but happy. Surprised, but excited. We hadn’t discussed having any more kids, but we adjusted to the news pretty quickly and fell in love. I made an appointment with an OB and would see him in two weeks.

Then on Mother’s Day I started spotting. I called my aunt, my backup mom. “Aunt Janet, I’m pregnant….” and before I could get another word out she started congratulating. I interrupted with, “…and I’m scared. And Mom isn’t here. And I don’t know what to do.” I explained what was going on then choked back tears as she said, “Oh. I’m so sorry. You should go to the ER.” I cried through the exam. The doctor said everything looked fine, but wanted to do an ultrasound. I cried on the table in that dimly lit room until I heard the young tech say, “There it is. There’s the heartbeat.” Then Paul and I both cried.

She was due on New Year’s Day, 2002, but in true Kady fashion, tried to come early. I went into active labor and dilated to a 5 at 25 weeks. They shot me full of steroids to speed up the development of her lungs, put me on strict bedrest, told us that delivery was imminent. We managed to keep her cookin’ until December 19th when my blood pressure shot up, contractions kicked back in, and then delivery really was imminent. The next day, with no epidural and nary a Tylenol for pain, I delivered our beautiful, scowling 6 pound, 15 ounce baby girl. After her required time in the hospital nursery, they brought her back to us swaddled and smelling of Baby Magic, all snuggled down in a red Christmas stocking with two little red bows in her nearly-black hair. Our family was complete.

Before she was born, she obviously had her own ideas about time management and scheduling – and to this day, that continues. Until her 5th birthday, she burst into tears when we sang “Happy Birthday” to her. She is artistic and creative. She bakes like a champ and sings like an angel, although she won’t let too many people hear her sing. She is confident and beautiful, kind and sarcastic, blunt and truthful, and very much her own person. She talks a LOT. She loves the show “Friends”. She is perpetually clumsy. She begins conversations with strangers and isn’t afraid to tell you just how much she loves Jesus. She hates math and loves dogs. She is simply amazing.

So Happy 14th Birthday, KadyBugg. We never knew how much we needed a Kady in our lives until we had one. 

In Stitches

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on December 6, 2015

In 9th grade I FINALLY got to take Home Ec. I had been longing to take that class probably since birth. I couldn’t wait to learn all the things I’d seen my mom do my whole life. She sewed the vast majority of Sis’ and my clothes, took a Wilton cake decorating class and could create elaborate wedding cakes and some of the coolest Big Bird cookies with icing feathers you’d ever seen.

My Home Ec teacher was Mrs. Frankie Sue Johnson. She was also my mother’s Home Ec teacher – in fact Mom was in her first class all those years ago. My Senior year was Mrs. Johnson’s last year and she retired in 1991. She started out with my mom the superstar in the 60’s and ended in the 90’s because apparently I broke her.

In the fall of 1987 our entire class of exuberant 14 year olds was more than ready to start cooking and sewing, but we had to endure a few arduous weeks of safety lessons and learn how to balance a checkbook and how to dress like humans and not the slouchy, ripped sweatshirted selves we had become in junior high. When we got past safety and fashion it was our class’ turn to cook. I’ll have to tell you about my culinary misadventures in the WHS kitchens another time.

FINALLY the new semester started and it was time for sewing. We decided as a class that our first project was to make a pair of “jams.” Jams were the wildly patterned long shorts that were all the rage that year. My jams were camouflage. Even then I was prepping to be a redneck. They were simple, drawstring waist, no real challenging parts. And I think Mrs. Johnson sewed about 85% of them for me. I’d basically throw my hands up in frustration, whine “Mrs. Johhhhhhnsonnnnnnnn…” and she’d come to my rescue. Then I’d say it still didn’t make sense. Then she’d say, “Oh, just get up and let me do it.” By the time I got to my Senior year I had graduated to rompers and dresses with less help from her, but it never really came easy to me.

The summer between 9th and 10th grade Mom decided I needed to do something besides sleep half the day away and play my sister’s Nintendo or watch MTV. So she bought an “easy” pattern for a housecoat, picked a fabric she liked, and said, “Here. Be productive.” I sewed the entire thing wrong side out. She found me crying at the sewing machine after work one day. She had to rip the whole thing apart and just finished it herself.

I have sewn a little here and there over the years. Mainly it was based more on necessity rather than desire to create. I could mend minor rips, sew on buttons, and stitch together a costume. One winter I started making ugly stuffed animals. They were ugly on purpose, by the way. If I created them ugly, I found that people overlooked my lack of talent. Last year I learned how to make adorable stuffed owls and bunnies. But that burst of sewing creativity didn’t last long because my sewing machine hated my guts and fouled up at every opportunity. I was given a brand new machine a few months ago and have been sewing quite a bit, the last few weeks especially. Just this week I finished my second set of bathroom curtains.  

I’ve also discovered that I’m getting better now that I don’t have Mrs. Johnson or Mom standing over me to rescue me when it gets hard. Now if I throw my hands up in frustration, say ugly words to my machine or the ill-behaving fabric, I just have to figure it out. 

I’m going to have to branch out to different projects soon, though. I’m running out of windows that need curtains. 

The Doghouse

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on November 29, 2015 

If we were smart and wanted to get creative on our taxes we could probably call ourselves a farm and use our two dogs as “cattle” and write off their food bill. Bolt is our four-year-old German Shepherd. Hero is a not-quite-eight-month-old Husky and Great Pyrenees mix. Bolt weighs in at about 80 pounds. Hero is the size of a 1982 Buick Riviera. We don’t typically worry about anyone messing around our place because the sheer size of the dogs is enough to deter even the most dedicated burglar. Bolt has run more than one person back to their vehicle and a poor unsuspecting dump truck driver who only wanted directions refused to get out of his truck no matter how many times I assured him I had Bolt by the collar.

But poor Bolt has a problem; Bolt is claustrophobic. Poor fella cannot handle small spaces or anything that has a roof any closer than four feet from the top of his head. This strange dog has been this way his entire life. He will lie out IN the snow before he’ll go into a dog house or shelter. He’ll lie under the cars in the summer, but only if his head sticks out. Last winter Paul retrofitted a doghouse that was left here by the previous occupants and opened the entire front of the shelter for him. He did pitifully go inside eventually, but whined the whole time he was in it. I’m not sure he ever even slept while he was in it he was so tense.

Last week Paul decided to build the dogs a big, open doghouse for the upcoming winter. Seeing as how they are huge, it was going to be a BIG dang doghouse. Since Sam is his usual right-hand man for projects but he has vo-tech in the mornings, I volunteered to help. A big project needs a helper, right?  Now, y’all might have figured out by now that my Paul isn’t a talker. For 23 years now our relationship has consisted of me chattering and asking questions and him grunting occasionally or spitting tobacco in order to answer with a one word reply. The building of the doghouse was no different.

“Can I help?” was met with “Ayuh” or “Nah”. Mostly “Nah.”

“Here, let me hold that!” got a head shake followed by a spit then “I got it.”

“Do you need my help?” was answered with, “Not really. Don’t you have something else you could be doing? Something out of my shop?”

“Oh, you dropped your pencil. Let me get that for you!” On that one he just sighed. After he spit.

I eventually decided to clean the shop. I organized some drill bits. Tsk’ed at his lack of organization and told him that come spring I am taking my label maker out there for some serious rearranging and identifying. I threw away a lot of stuff – like 47 empty spray paint cans (What on earth has he been painting??), 13 empty dog food bags, some rusty screws and bolts, and a Sawzall blade that was bent almost 90° and was missing over 80% of the teeth. I squealed every time a cricket jumped at me even though I tried hard not to. I sneezed a lot. I hummed. I chatted happily while he worked, not caring that it was completely one-sided.

I was happy to be out there with him. I wasn’t sure he’d say the same thing when it was all said and done, but later, after the dog house was completed and the boys had placed it on the south side of the shop out of the wind, he kissed me and said, “Thanks for your help today, dear.”

Oh! Be still my heart! He loves spending time with me and apparently thinks I am a GREAT helper! I have SO many projects in mind for this winter! He’ll be thrilled!     

Finding Thankful

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on November 22, 2015

21 days ago a vast majority of my Facebook friends started their annual “30 days of thankfulness” where they are supposed to post daily about something they are thankful for. That first week of November everyone was thankful for their houses, their families, their cars, their friends.  Now, if I see more than one thankful post a day it’s rare. I’m not judging, don’t think that for a second. I don’t even participate in the thing, so I can’t really judge someone for not posting their thanks on a daily basis. I’m just saying: Isn’t that just like us?

Oh, it’s easy to be thankful when it’s the easy, big stuff. I am very thankful for my house; it’s warm, it’s painted throughout with the colors of my choosing, it’s where my TempurPedic bed lives (and I am very thankful for that bed), and it’s home to some of my favorite people. I’m thankful for my husband and the fact he works so hard so that we can homeschool. I am thankful for my vehicle. I’m thankful for my three amazing kids, our dogs, my washer and dryer, and the pantry full of food.

But sometimes it’s harder be thankful.  Sure, I’m thankful for my house, but sometimes get discouraged when it seems like appliance after appliance needs replacing. And when the electric bill is topping out over $300 in the summer, it’s harder to be thankful for that. My washing machine makes my life a lot easier, but when it starts that grinding sound when it agitates, I find myself not as grateful. Sure, I’m thankful for my husband and his sacrifices for us, but it’s more difficult to be thankful for him on the days after he’s eaten beans for two meals the day before or when his snoring keeps me awake. Sure, I’m thankful for my Durango, but when I think about it guzzling gas to the tune of 14 mpg, it gets harder to be grateful. We are a nation of “I’m thankful when it’s perfect” and we need to do better.

The last few days of October I attended three funerals. I should have attended four, but frankly, I didn’t have it in me after the first three. Lemme tell ya, folks, three funerals in a matter of days will slap a whole lot of thankful on a person in a hurry. I attended the funeral of a friend’s brother and sat there thinking, “I need to call Heather and tell her I love her.” At the funeral of a distant cousin I made mental note to call or text my merry band of first cousins and reminisce about our “cousinly bonding” excursions of yore and dinners at Nana’s. And sitting in the chapel of the funeral home, while our friends mourned the loss of their sweet daughter….well, suddenly I was incredibly thankful for my kids’ near-constant brother-sister bickering and their apparent inability to pick up dirty socks.

My life isn’t perfect, but it is indeed blessed beyond measure. I am not one for resolutions and proclamations, but I am making a very concerted effort to find my thankful in every situation. When I’m in a long line at Walmart I don’t grumble, I smile. Because I’m not homeless and hungry, I’m not mourning a family member lost in a senseless act of terrorism, I’m not frightened of being beaten or oppressed, I’m not ill or fighting a fatal disease. No, I’m merely inconvenienced as I stand there with my debit card in hand, my cart overflowing with toilet paper, fresh fruits, and vegetables, the snacks my kids asked for – and enough money in my account to cover it all.

If I can encourage you to do one thing, it’s this: find your thankful this holiday season. It’s easier than you would think and it literally changes the way you look at everything. 

Hang On, Momma

Originally published in the Miami News-Record on November 1, 2015

 I have teenagers. Two of them still live at home. Every day of their lives I love them more than I love myself, but there are days I think if a band of traveling gypsies came across our property I’d send them off with a smile. And then, I am instantly flooded with such an overwhelming sense of shame at such thoughts when there are parents all over the world who are missing their kids for so many different reasons. Sometimes I’m a great mom. Sometimes, I’m awful. Whether we are Pinterest Perfect Parents or whether we are constantly seen struggling to balance it all, the constant truth is this: Parenting is hard.

Babies don’t sleep much. They poop and cry a lot. They suck on your nipples until they are as cracked as the Sahara. But oh, do they smell nice. Well, after a bath they do. After the pooping everywhere, not so much.

Toddlers are angry little creatures. They are easily frustrated. They’re sticky. They have perpetual boogers in (and on) their cute little noses. They want to do everything all. by. themselves. and God help the adult who tries to assist them. They still poop a lot – except now it’s in larger amounts and it smells horrible. They will make your exhausted heart melt into a puddle when you watch them sleep.
Lower elementary kids tend to be easy. They love Santa and the Easter Bunny. Their teeth fall out so adorably. They write you phonetic notes saying you’re “beeuteefool.” They believe in magic and fairies and monsters – and you.

Upper elementary/tweens are typically the spawn of the devil. They know everything. They smell like onions. They giggle one minute then cry for seven hours after. They become hyper-aware of the opposite sex. Their friends are all awful, fickle, and obnoxious, but truthfully… your kid is, too.  

Teenagers are cool for the most part, but that whole “they know everything” they started as tweens is ongoing. They are even more hyper-aware of the opposite sex. They become very sure then unsure about their future and change their post-high school plans 400 billion times in the span of one week. When your child nears graduation you learn to just keep college and scholarship applications filled out and on hand because depending on the week they plan to send them in – or they tearfully rip them up and declare they’ll just become a hobo.

And through all of this, we parents just hold on for dear life.  We endure sleepless nights, bullies, breakups, Algebra, and food allergies and we’re all expected to just come out of it with our sanity and the ability to create science fair posters and bridges made out of toothpicks. Some of us do it with flair; some don’t. Some of us spend so much time keeping up with Suzy Homemaker that we fail to realize that perhaps she also is running on 2.6 hours of sleep a night, her husband won’t help her with bathtime any more than yours will, and her child is also terrified of the tub drain. Does her ability to show up without a perpetual spitup stain on her shirt make her a better mom than you of the multiple mystery chunks? Absolutely not. Who’s to say that she doesn’t lock herself in the bathroom to eat Fun Size Snickers and cry a little every night just the way you do?

We’re all just muddling through. These beautiful, wonderful, noisy, smelly, amazing creatures God gave us are life-sucking and marvelous, but they definitely didn’t come with instructions. The best thing we can do through all the stages of their lives is pray. And just hang on, Momma.

Go ahead and stuff that Hershey bar in your bra as you race past the kids to devour it away from their little hawk eyes. Just hurry though, sister. Boob heat makes chocolate melt pretty fast. So I hear. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Spooky and Sweet

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spelunkin' (A continuation)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Great Outdoors

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

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

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

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Flying Checkbook

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 28, 2015

One Hundred

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

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

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

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Beards and Man Buns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 14, 2015

Emptier Nest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Woobie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Shifts and Changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Manager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


[Originally published in the Miami News-Record on August 9, 2015]

If you’ve ever seen the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? you’ll likely remember the scene where Everett was in dire need of some pomade and a car part. He was told the car part could be there in two weeks. Then when he discovered the store only carried Fop pomade, not Dapper Dan, he was told he could have his pomade in two weeks as well. He exclaimed, “Well, ain’t this place a geographical oddity. Two weeks from everywhere!”  Well, come to find out, Hooverton Mountain out here in the wilds of Wyandotte is a geographical oddity as well – we are 40 minutes from four Walmart stores. We can visit Grove, Miami, Joplin and Neosho Walmart all in the same amount of time. It’s almost like we are smack in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle of mass-market retail. We are only 15 minutes from Seneca, so for an item or two I’ll run there instead of having to trek 40 minutes to a Walmart and Abby is always good to pick things up for me on her way home from work – however, Abby is getting ready to move out and my errand-runner will no longer be available. It was starting to look like I was going to have to run my own unscheduled errands. *gasp!*

Sam has been 16 since last November and has had his permit since last summer, but driving was so far down on his list of priorities I was starting to think he was never going to drive. He was the same way about walking, too. His older sister walked at 10 months. We kind of expected him to walk early as well. Nope. The kid was completely content to sit where he was and holler until someone picked him up. He walked at 14 months only because I stopped picking him up when he bellowed. He finally walked only because I think he was afraid we’d stop feeding him and little dude really liked his groceries.

He dragged his feet on finishing his Driver’s Ed program – so much so that I begged for some grace by the company and got a free extension so he could finish and take the final because we needed that discount on his insurance, by golly. He finally finished and was legal to take the test, but refused to drive the car. Or I’d coerce him into driving on the highway, but he’d refuse to drive in town. It was rather frustrating because I just kept thinking about how inconvenient it was going to be to have to put on a bra and makeup to go pick up a loaf of bread.

My husband gave us both a stern talking-to and told him to start driving and me to start making him. We both had to man up so last week he drove in town and I didn’t give in when he begged me to let him stop. It was exhausting for both of us. My Pops asked if he could take him driving and I was so glad to let him I think I cried a little bit. Pops had really helped my drive-shy niece get ready for her test and I was more than willing to let him help Sam. After a day of driving Pops brought my boy back to me and said, “Hon, he’s ready. Let him test.” It was Pops’ faith in him that got the kid his license this past week.

So now, mere weeks before my oldest child moves out into her own place, I have a second child with a driver’s license. He plans to drive himself to a church back-to-school bash this weekend AND to Vo-tech next week. Eek! 

I’m starting to think there’s a conspiracy amongst my children to age their daddy and me as swiftly as they possibly can. There’s a whole lot of growing up going on around here these days. 

A Whole Lot of Nothin'

[Originally published in the Miami News-Record on August 2, 2015.]

I try not to miss writing this column too often, but sometimes it can’t be helped. Last week 4/5 of us came down with a horrifically vile stomach bug that had me changing trash cans, spraying Lysol, applying cool cloths to hot faces, bleaching anything that looked remotely germy, and washing every sheet, pillowcase, and blanket in the house every time someone recuperated only to begin the whole process over again when the next one bit the dust. I just opted to just take the week off. I don’t think I could’ve written anything intelligent anyway. Paul and I slept on the couches or an air mattress for a solid week while the kids convalesced in our room close to a bathroom and nightly my slumber was punctuated multiple times by barfing teenagers or husband. Needless to say, I was kind of doofy by my Friday noon deadline anyway. But hurrah for “mom-munity” because once again everyone in the house got sick except me. Although … a few days in bed sounded kind of nice by week’s end.

In my “free” time I have been working on lesson plans. My dining room table hasn’t seen the light of day since July 4th . I am in the home stretch, though, and by the end of the weekend should have both kids’ lessons written out through Christmas break. I have been having strange dreams about Moby Dick, the Jamestown colony, Hiawatha’s wedding, sentence diagrams, sonnets in iambic pentameter, and business ledgers for the better part of the month. Something tells me I need a vacation. Well, either that or some medication.

Not long after we moved a year and a half ago my washing machine stopped agitating. The repair guy said it was the transmission and it was on borrowed time. Well, we borrowed three days then she gave up the ghost. We took our monthly date night to Lowe’s to purchase a new Whirlpool. The new machine was fancy and weird, but we adjusted. Over time I grew accustomed to the strange clanking noises the owner’s manual said were normal as the load leveler and automatic doohickeymabobber did their jobs. But alas, a mere week after the one-year warranty went out, she began her death cry – a horrible racheting sound that makes the coyotes howl and the cats run for cover. It also makes my husband grumble and the kids moan. It just makes me see dollar signs. A call to my favorite repair guy went like this:

“Did you buy any kind of extended warranty on that washer?”


“Well, you should have.”


Last June I began the construction of my very first rag rug. I got this crazy Pinterest-fueled idea to make all of my sister’s and my kids a handmade (with love!) rug. The idea was to present them as graduation presents. Since Abby had already graduated and my nephew Trust was about to be born I decided to tackle Trust’s first as a birthin’ gift then would finish Abby’s immediately after then be on track to finish my niece’s long before her graduation this coming May. I put the last stitch in my squishy baby nephew’s rug last Monday, a week before his 1st birthday. So his birthin’ gift has turned into his birthday gift and I learned that homemade rag rugs aren’t to be rushed. I also hope he doesn’t mind that toward the end I jammed the needle into my finger so hard I kind of bled on his rug. But it’s on the underside, so as long as no one inspects it too closely, we’re good. It turned out really pretty and I’m proud of how it looks (blood and all). I know how to make things go smoother for the next one. And the good news is my niece should expect her rug in May.

Of 2025.

Inappropriate Laughter

I love to laugh, I love to make people laugh, and I love to hear people laugh – unless I’ve gone to town in shorts; then I’m suspicious of laughter in my vicinity. Laughter is a huge part of who I am, however, this gift of laughter is also a bit of a curse at times. Like, when I can’t control it in embarrassing, unfortunate, and/or awkward situations.

Granny Glenn passed away when I was pregnant with Abby – so pregnant I was convinced that when she wasn’t using my bladder for a pillow, she was kickboxing with it. My sister, Cousin Courtney, and I were shuffling quietly and serenely into the chapel of the funeral home when Aunt Erma accidentally took a picture, setting off a blinding flash only capable by the old school flash cubes of the 70’s and 80’s. It was 1996 and Aunt Erma was still blinding everyone with flash cubes and also, did you catch that she brought a camera to a funeral?? We three girls began giggling when my giant belly nearly knocked over four people as we shuffled down the row, giggled harder when the camera flash went off, but we spiraled out of control when my giggling paired with a sucker punch by my gestating daughter caused me to wet myself right there in the Cooper-Althouse chapel. After a quick run to the bathroom where we nearly collapsed from laughter, we managed to regain control only to spontaneously begin again several times throughout the service. Hopefully folks behind us perceived the shaking of our shoulders with crying, not laughter.

My mom, Uncle David, and I are all afflicted with a phenomenon known as “Furniture Relocation Hysterics.” It’s a medical condition that appears to be in remission, then attacks the patient when they lift a piece of furniture more than six inches off the ground. It is then that the laughter commences, thus causing muscle weakness, loss of breath, tears, and sometimes loss of bladder control. It has also on occasion caused bruised shins, smashed toes, and irritated husbands.

As a teen, once during the Lord’s Supper, the cups were filled too full. Mom, Sis and I were carefully holding our miniscule cups, full to the brim, all three of us getting more and more tickled because the more we tried to not laugh, the more we laughed and the closer we came to spilling Welch’s grape all over our Sunday best. We were never so glad to hear the words, “Drink this in remembrance of Me” in our lives.

More recently, I was plagued with a case of inappropriate laughter when the kids’ doctor tried to convince me to vaccinate my youngest for HPV, a vaccination I am not comfortable with after reading about some serious side effects. This did not please the doctor who then informed me that I was going to watch a video. I informed him that his video would not change my mind. He sat his iPad firmly down in front of me and said, “Watch this.” What followed was a parody video extolling the virtues of the vaccine and at the same time describing all of the horrible things that could happen to my child by not vaccinating her. Did I mention it was all set to the tune of a 1991 acoustic ballad with an added awkward bass drop and rap solo at the end? I tried so hard to keep a straight face, but I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t a good example to my kids that day – especially since they had maintained straight faces until they saw that I was giggling while tears streamed down my face. By the time the video ended, all three of us were beyond laughter and had slipped over to uncontrollable guffaws. It was definitely not my most shining parental example, but in addition to a legacy of informed selective vaccination rebellion, I hope to leave behind a legacy of laughter. Hopefully the kids will learn to control the laughter better than I ever have. 

Gettin' My Survivalist Redneck ON! (A review)

Occasionally I get requests for product reviews. Some are legitimate, some are not. And sometimes I am just simply not in the mood to review bulk fiber laxatives or "websites for seniors".

But when Angie from Offroad Power Gear sent me an email a few weeks ago I definitely knew I couldn't pass up her request!

She sent out some of their Permanent Matches and some Bullet Earrings to check out in exchange for my review. 

Pauly and Sam instantly started playing with the permanent matches and they are now attached to both guys' keychains. It's a good thing she sent three because I have one for my purse, too! 

These little bad boys have the power to be lit over 15,000 times! If you're like us, you're always in need of a lighter or match because, well.....because you're always blowing stuff up or setting something on fire. It takes a little bit of practice to get the strike right, but once you figure it out, you can strike it on the first try every time. Don't be daunted by the $14.99 price - they are worth it!  

Refillable with your lighter fluid of choice, these are a must-have for all good preppers, outdoors-y type folks, and of course -- rednecks. I've seen others in stores, but I like these better because they strike fast and the price is lower than I've found. And the fact that they're good for at least 15,000 strikes, well, you can't beat 'em.  

She also sent us a few pair of their Bullet Earrings and I gotta say, while the permanent matches were awesome, the girl in me was squealing (yes, literally) over these earrings. The girls and I had seen a version of these over the summer and all three commented on how rockin' we would all look in them, but the price the store wanted was way out of our price range. Imagine how excited I was to see that Offroad Power Gear has them WAY cheaper! 

The pair Miss Kady is sporting here is the opal in yellow gold. These are real Luger 9mm* casings that have been cleaned and polished and the stones are Swarovski gems.  And the opal stone catches the light and shines like crazy! They're nice and heavy, but not uncomfortable to wear. They just look so cool. Oh and? They. are. awesome.   

She also sent a pair of the Midnight Diamond and those are mine. Only mine. And I'm not a good share-er.  

(And aren't Kady's little cheek freckles just the cutest?)

Most of the bullet jewelry is on sale right now and hey, Christmas is coming! All the redneck women in your life need a pair of these in their stocking. And if you don't have a redneck woman in your life, you can always just buy me some. My birthstone is garnet

Go visit their website and check out all the wicked cool truck gear they have. From truck decals, clothing, jewelry, gear and more, they pretty much have you covered no matter what you need. Or want. (They have a sweatshirt that says "Certified Redneck" that I also hope to find under the tree this year...hint hint, Paul....sweetie....honey...) And be sure to like them on Facebook

*Caliber and make of bullet may vary.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

For the Love of Hand Soap

So, I'm mad.

At the beginning of summer I finally ran out of a hefty supply of Bath and Body Works hand soap. I only buy it when it's on sale and I  refuse to buy without coupons. Over the years built up an amazing cache of soapy goodness. But alas, we eventually washed enough that we came close to running out.

I gathered my best coupon and while clutching it in my greedy - yet clean and fragranced - hand, I entered the store to have my olfactory senses attacked. I eventually settled on several bottles of Blue Skies and Blooms, Kady picked out something pear-y, I threw in some coconutty stuff so we could channel the Professor on Gilligan's Island, and made our way to check out. Then I saw the display for the New! American! Summer! Collection! Kady and I instantly fell in love with Driftwood Surf. It smells manly and woodsy and awesome. Her friend Miranda just washes her hands for no reason when she's here, it just smells that good.

And now.....we are on our last bottle. Kady looked last week's gone. No mas. Adios, Driftwood. Sayonara, you manly hand soap, you. I can only find it on eBay. For $5+ a bottle.

 So if you see me on a street corner with a cardboard sign that says "Will work for Route 44's", before you drop some change in my empty Sonic cup, please ask to smell my hands. Because if I'm begging in a corner, it's because I couldn't resist the driftwood and had to pay such exorbitant prices on eBay I can no longer afford my Sonic-y goodness.

Wait.....maybe I should just beg for the hand soap.....

We....the people

Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...