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.

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...