Sunday, June 26, 2016
Originally published in the Miami News-Record on June 26, 2016.
My oldest daughter, as you know, is expecting a sweet, precious, little girl (who has decided this week to behave and stay put awhile longer, thank the Lord). She is very active, has crazy long legs, and likes to lie on her back with her arms over her head or across her face – just the way her momma sleeps. This has proven problematic for ultrasound pictures because the little stinker refuses to cooperate and smile for the camera. And now Abby is just absolutely convinced she needs a 3D ultrasound so she can see this baby girl’s face.
But I think “need” is a bit of a stretch.
Back in my day, you got ONE ultrasound. It was at 20 weeks. Period. You had to go in with a bladder full to approximately the size of a watermelon, knowing full well someone was going to squish around on it for about 30 minutes. All of your friends warned you and told you to expect to either cry or pee yourself. Or do one then the other. There was no such thing as 3D or 4D ultrasounds back then. No, your baby appeared on screen as a grainy, skeleton alien monster. If you were lucky enough to have a cooperative child with some exhibitionist tendencies, they could sometimes determine the gender of your child. Then the technician would describe the child’s genitals as either a “hot dog” (girl) or a “turtle” (boy). And most of them wouldn’t give you any more than a 60% chance they were correct. You didn’t WANT a face shot because frankly, your baby was a frightening creature that looked like an alien and you were secretly afraid it was going to grab hold of and eat your liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
This glamorous ultrasound session was usually done by a surly technician who felt their time and talent was being wasted on such frivolous things as, oh you know, YOUR BABY. Twice I got a tech that sighed through the entire ultrasound. Apparently they were bitter that they hadn’t been made famous yet by discovering a new and previously unnoticed organ or something during a routine ultrasound.
The price of your child’s first photo shoot was included in the all-inclusive delivery fee you were informed of on your first visit. You know, the first visit where they confirm that yes indeedy, you are quite pregnant. As if the 50 positive pregnancy tests you peed on and the barfing 24/7 weren’t big enough clues. You were shuffled from the exam room to an office where “the girl who does the insurance” held court. There she asked for your insurance card, did some magical figuring on an adding machine (this was pre-internet, mind you), and made a declaration of what you had to pay the doctor every month when you visited so your baby would be paid in full by delivery. (During my last pregnancy I asked if they would repo a couple – the two who were at that moment in a full-on WWE match on her office floor) (She didn’t get my sense of humor. She said no.)
I get it, times change. My mom had nary an ultrasound with either of her pregnancies. Of course, my Nana also nearly had a stroke when she saw Mom hanging clothes on the line and running the vacuum while pregnant because both of those chores were 199% known to cause the cord to wrap around the baby’s neck. Daddies didn’t get to witness the birth of their children. Diapers were cloth, bottles were glass, carseats were virtually nonexistent.
So if my kiddo wants to pay for a glimpse of her baby’s face ahead of time, I suppose I won’t complain. I’m already so in love with this little blueberry that seeing her squishy little face early might cause me to go into happy spasms or an uncontrollable squealing fit, but I suppose I’ll adjust to the changing times. It’s what all the hip grandmas do.
Originally published in the Miami News-Record on June 19, 2016.
A little less than 15 years ago I was pregnant and started having what I thought were Braxton-Hicks contractions. After a week of the pesky contractions other things happened that made me think that perhaps these contractions weren't merely for training purposes only. And sure enough, a visit to my doctor, then a trip to the hospital revealed that I was indeed in active labor and dilated four centimeters. Normally people get excited at this news, but I was only 25 weeks pregnant. They shot me full of steroids to speed up the development of her lungs and sent me home on strict bed rest. The doctor said delivery was imminent and the outlook was grim. Happy ending: we managed to keep the little stinker in place ten more weeks and, other than being a bit of a diva, she's a normal kid.
Fast forward to this past Tuesday when my oldest, the one currently incubating my first grandchild, sent me a text that asked, “What does a contraction feel like? Because I'm pretty sure I just had one.” Well, that got my attention. I quickly text a nurse friend who said for her to drink a big glass of water and take a warm bath. They didn't stop. She called her OB’s office and they sent her to the hospital. As we walked in, Abby said, “This is going to be SO embarrassing when they say I'm silly and send me home.” She and her husband went into a room, my mom and I stayed in the waiting room. Finally after ten minutes I couldn't stand it. I knocked on the door and peeked in. My teeny tiny little girl was swallowed up in that big ol’ hospital and grew even smaller as she said, “I'm dilated.” A tear slid down her cheek. We spent the next few hours in a room while she was scanned, prodded, hydrated, medicated, and pondered over. It got kind of tense so Mom and I decided to lighten the mood by telling a story.
It was December 19, 2001. I was in labor the second (and proper) time with Kady. My mom and mother-in-law had come up to visit us. Now, my mother-in-law is a funny lady. She's sweet, but very quiet and matter-of-fact. She did not attend the birth of the other two and I offered once more to let her attend to which she quickly replied, “Oh nononono! I don't need to see…..that.” I laughed and told her the offer was there if she changed her mind. She stood there awkwardly and I patted the bed and said, “Martha, come sit here. There’s no need to stand!” Paul even offered her his chair. She waved us both away and said, “Oh, hush. I'll just sit on this stool here.”
What happened next still causes Mom and I to have to stop the story-telling because we’re already laughing. Martha backed up to the stool – which was on wheels – and started to sit. But the stool had another idea. It started to roll away from her. She started baby-stepping backward trying to catch the stool with her bum, rolling all the way to the wall across the room. Paul, Mom, Abby, Sam, and I watched in horror as the stool stopped rolling when it hit the wall and Martha fell squarely on her rear end. The room was silent then all of us busted into laughter so loud the nurses had to think we were crazy. Mom and Paul ran to her aid while I continued laughing until I was certain I was going to laugh Kady right on out. The telling of the story still makes her laugh as well. It's my favorite Martha story, second only to the one where she killed a goat. But I'll save that one for another time.
Of course, by this point in the story, Abby and Dakota we laughing and the scary preterm labor monster was temporarily forgotten. Y'all know that my answer for everything in life is laughter and I was only doing my job. We’re still facing down some unsure times ahead over the next few months, but one thing is for sure, we’ll face it all together and we’ll do it with as much laughter as we can muster.
Originally published in the Miami News-Record on June 12, 2016.
I’ve mentioned several times here on our Sunday chats that I am an introvert. I am an outgoing introvert, but an introvert nonetheless. I am also nonconfrontational. So when I have to cowboy up and stand up for myself or someone I love, it’s a BIG deal. I don’t enjoy it, however I have been told I’m awesome at it once I’m forced to do it. I still don’t like it and I don’t think I ever will. I am generally a nice person. Most of the time. And I like to get along with people even if I don’t like to interact with them.
It’s been over six weeks since Abby’s car accident. Just this past week the other person’s insurance made contact for the first time. They decided to go ahead and accept the liability which is a total duh decision since the police report and the witness all state as such. Their insured ran a red light – how would they NOT accept the liability?? Yeesh.
After a phone conversation where the claims agent told me they wanted to take the vehicle off our property to assess the damage and make their decision on what to offer us, my husband nearly blew a gasket. He told me to call her back and let her know that an adjuster can come to us and that was that. That meant me having to actually pick up the phone and call her back. There are just some days it’s almost physically painful to pick up a phone and dial a number in order to speak to another human. And knowing I was going to likely have to be firm and/or confrontational made it worse. But I didn’t dare let Paul handle it – he tends to be a little uhm….shall we say “overly aggressive” when he has to get firm. The quiet, genial redneck in him mutates like when David Banner gets angry and goes all Hulk on everyone. When Paul gets wound up, the freckles on his face go from a sandy ginger to an angry brownish red and veins appear on his neck and forehead. His flannel shirts are in danger of ripping and once I swear I thought he was going to turn green. No, he was NOT going to handle this.
So I called the claims agent and she himmed and hawed, but eventually agreed to send an adjuster to our house. She said if the towing service called to schedule a pickup for the truck to let them know other arrangements had been made. Again with people making me interact! Why does the world insist I speak to other people so much lately??
Sure enough, they called to schedule the pickup, but I missed the call. When I called back the gal asked for my lot number. I explained that I didn’t have a lot number because my vehicle isn’t on her lot. She refused to comprehend the words emanating from my face. Then she got snarky and hateful and well, she just caught me in the right mood. I nearly went Hulk Smash myself.
She snottily stated, “If you don’t have a lot number I simply cannot help you. Lady, I have six acres of cars out there and a lot number is the only way I can find your vehicle.”
My reply? “Well, I have 30 acres and I can tell you exactly where to find it. It’s HERE. On MY thirty acres. Not on your six. I just need to make sure you don't come pick it up from my 30 acres!” Then she said that my attitude wasn’t helping her any at all. Seriously, folks. Jesus was all that was holding me back. Well, and the fact she was in Oklahoma City.
And I may or may not have told her that if someone from her place of business showed up on my property there would be a redneck with a shotgun there to greet them. I didn’t mention that he might be green, though. I wouldn’t want her to think I was weird or something.
Originally published in the Miami News-Record on May 29, 2016.
One of my favorite children’s books is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It’s about a little boy who has just has a rotten day from start to finish and declares he’s moving to Australia. This week I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day of my own.
Tuesday morning’s hair-fixing took me longer than usual. I recently cut my hair short and short hair is a fickle, fickle entity. The least little thing can anger it or at the very least be fuzzy and willful. I finally got it where I wanted it, hairsprayed it into submission, and decided I had time to water my freshly-planted garden before I headed out the door. I opened the front door to find three very happy dogs, one of whom was covered nose to tail in dirt. I ran – okay, haha, I don’t run – I walked briskly to the back yard to find every single mound where I had planted squash or zucchini had been happily dug into by Abby’s dog Jojo (who now lives with us). I stood there in the middle of all the disaster, my sparkly aqua flip flops sinking into the dirt, my fists clenched, fighting back tears. When Jojo came gleefully running toward me all I said was “JOJO. NO.” The words apparently had some serious power to them because she hit the ground and belly crawled all the way back to the front of the house. Finally I just decided to go ahead and cry while I replanted what seeds I could find, said a prayer over each mound, and went back in the house. Standing at the mirror to wash my hands I looked up and saw that my hair had become a fuzzy, wavy, unkempt mess and my makeup was streaky from the crying.
I text my coworker and told her I’d be late, fixed myself the best I could, decided I didn’t have time to pack a lunch and eating was overrated anyway. I flew out the door with Kady who was going to spend the day with me at work. The night before, I had left a bag behind at Walmart. When I realized it, I called and they said they had it and to come pick it up at my convenience. But by 8:45 the next morning they’d put it all back on the shelf. I did not have time to re-shop because for the life of me I couldn’t remember which boxers I had bought Paul the night before so I just asked for my money back. I had promised Kady a 99¢ morning Sonic drink and figured since I was apparently going to be skipping lunch, I deserved a breakfast burrito. Two bites in and I dropped a big hunk of cheesy, greasy sausage on my shirt. I just shrugged and laughed. I’d already cried enough.
The day got better when Mom called and said she wanted to buy me lunch, so bonus food! And even though I had to go to the salon where all the pretty people work that afternoon to pick up Kady with flat, weird hair and a burrito grease stain on my shirt there are much worse things in the world than looking unkempt and sloppy. I had the money to buy my husband’s boxers and the gum they put back on the shelf – and even a breakfast burrito. I have a house with a garden and a daughter who pulled weeds and visited with me while I planted, that same daughter who is currently incubating my beautiful granddaughter. I have a husband who watered my garden that morning because in all the hullaballoo I forgot to actually do that. I have a momma who buys me chicken strips when I have bad days. I have clothes, food, a Sonic nearby, and Jesus. My life isn’t so terrible horrible.
Bad days are going to happen. They are inevitable. They are also survivable. And just so you know, Sonic chicken strips usually help.
Originally published in the Miami News-Record on May 22, 2016.
Five years ago my husband had a kidney stone. And it was a testament of my enduring love for him.
After two ER visits to two different hospitals he was finally admitted and scheduled for surgery. Paul all but kissed the ER doc when he said he’d get his orders ready to admit him. The plan was to have surgery the next morning where they would go in and…..ahem….retrieve the dastardly stone. Yeah. I’ve had that done myself. It’s as unpleasant as you’re probably imagining.
Bright and early the next day the anesthesiologist came in, visited with us, and gave him some Versed to “relax” him prior to them taking him downstairs to surgery. Paul sat there on the bed and said, “This stuff doesn’t do anything to me. I’m …..fi—“ and then he started snoring. I patted his leg and went back to reading my book. In came two cute little gals from the surgery department, ready to take him away. They managed to wake him up long enough to confirm his identity and were unlocking the wheels on his bed when one said, “Oh no. Mr. Hoover? MR. HOOVER?? Hon, you left your shorts on and we’re going to need you to take those off. MR. HOOVER??” She poked her head around the curtain and said, “Are you Mrs. Hoover? Uhm…can you try to get his shorts off of him? He seems to be pretty out of it.” She held the curtain open so I could see my completely unconscious husband. And his flowered Bermuda shorts just shinin’ there in all their glory. Then they told me they’d give us some privacy and stepped around the curtain.
THEY LEFT ME. I sighed. I patted his cheek, said his name, patted his hand. Nothing. Just snoring. I shook his shoulder. He waved me away. “Honey, you have to wake up and help me get these shorts off of you! Can you help me?” He mumbled, “Well, sure. Why didn’t you just ask?” I heard a giggle on the other side of the curtain. I shot her a death glare she’s probably glad she couldn’t see.
What ensued was pretty much the hardest thing I’ve ever done next to birthing babies. I would give him a command, make a request, he would agree to comply…..then he’d pass out and start snoring again. He was 100% deadweight and absolutely NO HELP. At one point one of the little gals on the other side of the curtain said, “Ma’am? You doin’ okay back there?” to which I replied, “NO! I am NOT doing okay back here! Could I maybe get some help?” Then they giggled and said, “You’re doing great! Take your time. You’ll get it!” It was at that point I just busted out laughing. And they joined in. And we all had a good ol’ laugh. Which woke up my husband and he drunkenly said a bad word and passed back out again.
After much wrangling, wrestling, persuading, and borderline accosting my poor husband, the Bermuda shorts were finally removed. By me alone. With no help. I considered a cartwheel, but then decided if I broke a hip and ended up in a different hospital room who would be there to remove any other stubborn articles of clothing if necessary?
The surgery was unsuccessful and a second procedure was scheduled for the next day. When the anesthesiologist came in the second time he said, “I gave him about half of what I did yesterday. Apparently your husband is a lightweight. We’d never seen anyone quite so out of it as he was yesterday.” Then he laughed as he said, “And I heard you had quite a time with his shorts…”
I dug those dadblamed shorts out of his laundry bag and threw them in the biohazard trashcan as soon as they wheeled him off to surgery. He’s mentioned them a time or two and wonders where they went. I’ll never tell.
Originally published in the Miami News-Record on May 8, 2016.
My firstborn gagged to the point of tears and would throw up any green baby food that was put into her face. She loved squash and sweet potatoes, all of the fruits were fine, but peas and green beans? Barf City. I was an avid reader of any and all parenting books (this was before we had the internet at our fingertips 24/7) and the firm belief was that after ten exposures to a food the child would magically love it and develop a lifetime of healthy eating habits. I mean, it was in the THE BOOKS so of course, it was true, right? Drs. T. Berry Brazelton and Penelope Leach all heartily agreed that picky eaters were a thing of the past because TEN TIMES OF EATING A FOOD WILL CURE PICKINESS. And I believed it.
I believed it so much that when on the 11th time I coaxed her cherubic little mouth into accepting a little plastic spoon full of green beans and she promptly spewed forth something completely Exorcist-worthy, I busted into tears. Why did she throw up?? Why did she not do the cute little smacking thing she does with applesauce and squash? IS SHE BROKEN?
So then I did what seemed like the next logical thing to do: I called my mother. I got her machine. She was out gallivanting about town while I was having a pureed vegetable crisis involving her first grandchild. The nerve! So the next logical thing was to call the Gerber hotline. Yes, I was that parent. The sweet woman who took my call was probably a grandmother – or a seasoned momma at the least – and listened while I hysterically explained that the green beans were not being accepted by my infant daughter and the doctors on TV assured me this was a foolproof method to ensure a healthy, well-rounded child who would be open to trying such foods as hummus and calamari. She listened. Then when I was done she calmly and sweetly said, “Sweetie? Have you ever thought that maybe she just doesn’t like green beans?” *blink blink* Well, no I had not actually thought of that. I thanked her for her advice and hung up. On a whim stuck my tongue to the spoon full of green goop and gagged. I didn’t make her try them a 12th time.
I took an infant Sam to the pediatrician once. When poor unsuspecting Dr. Ross walked in the room I held him out at arm’s length and said, “Fix him. He. Is. Broken.” She listened to my tearful description of his incessant screaming, his constant squealing, his perpetual noise-making while she played with him and looked him over from head to toe. I suggested he was hearing impaired – why else would he scream all the time? It wasn’t crying. Just screaming. So much screaming. She finished her exam, patted a jabbering toddler-faced Abby on the head, then handed Sam back to me.
“He’s perfectly fine, Momma. He just likes to hear his voice. Apparently a lot. But he’s normal. And you? You need a nap. Let your husband or mother take the kids for a few hours. And don’t be so hard on yourself. Because I know you are.” It was like she knew me! Then I remembered she had gone on maternity leave the week after Sam was born. So she was there in the trenches with me. And maybe her little boy was noisy, too.
So to all my fellow mommas out there: You are not alone. You have a very important job and it’s an exhausting one. And you are most of the time your own worst critic. Chill, my dear. Enjoy the smudges, toys, sticky-on-everything part of their toddler years, the eye-rolling, smelly parts of their teenage years, and the worry-filled and joyous parts of their adulthood. Relax. Enjoy your day. Enjoy Motherhood. And have a happy Mother’s Day! Seriously. I mean it. I SAID enjoy yourself. Stop touching your brother! And don’t pick your nose!
Oops, sorry. Occupational hazard.
Originally published in the Miami News-Record on April 17, 2016.
Since we homeschool we don’t get many chances to dress up. Now, don’t think we’re the stereotypical kind who stay in their pajamas all day (that’s only the entire month of December) because we’re not. Most days we are all awake, dressed, make-up-ed, sufficiently caffeinated, and bordering on productive by 9 am. Because of Vo-tech Sam actually has to leave the house on a daily basis. Of course, as soon as he walks in the door at 12:15 he’s usually in pajama pants within minutes, so there’s that.
Our co-op hosts a semi-formal banquet in the spring and the kids have the chance to get a little gussied up, have dinner with other homeschoolers, and enjoy a special evening. My kids took to calling it the Not-Prom their first year and the name kind of stuck. They’ve done murder mystery dinners (actually, they’re doing that again this year), excursions to Springfield for dinner and a baseball game, and one year they attended a very Pinterest-perfect dinner in a family’s field complete with outdoor chandelier, real china, and fancy soup and stuff. This is Kady’s first year to go and she has learned maximum frugality from her big sister. We managed to get her dress at Susie’s for $6.00. I was pleased. We splurged on the shoes, but hey, it’s her first Not-Prom and that deserves insanely high-heeled sparkly red shoes, right?
I felt kind of bad when it was Abby’s Jr/Sr year and she wasn’t getting ready for the Prom like all of her public schooled friends were. I asked her if she felt like she was missing out. Her reply was as practical as the girl herself: “Mom, the only thing I’m missing out on is the chance to spend a ton of money and wear horribly uncomfortable shoes. I’m fine. Don’t worry.” So I didn’t.
A few months ago my niece Addison casually mentioned to Sam that she thought it might be fun to take him to Prom if he thought he might be interested. They both are dancing fools, they are seriously geeky with their comic books and different fandoms, and are more like brother and sister than cousins. His reply was as boisterous as the boy himself: “HECK YES I’M INTERESTED!” Then not much more was said about it. Until one morning before church she presented him with donuts and a Mountain Dew for a prom-posal: “’Dew’ you want to go to Prom with me? Please ‘donut’ say no!” I secretly wished prom-posals had been a thing back in the 90’s.
Getting him ready for his first and (probably) only Prom was almost as fun as getting a girl ready. A visit to B. Oliver’s for his tux and boutonnière (the cousins refused to give each other flowers because “Ew, Mom. Weird.”) was the highlight of that week. We pored over the book, discussed looks and colors. Barry was helpful and made it a blast. Paul was less than pleased over what it cost to rent a tux, but I reminded him of a picture of a certain mullet-ed 17 year old in a white tux with a powder blue ruffled shirt and mused at how much that probably cost the boy’s mom back in 1979. He harrumphed me.
The big night finally came and unlike a girl, his getting ready routine began about 40 minutes before we had to leave for pictures and merely involved a shower and a shave. I realized I had never actually pinned a boutonnière on a lapel so the pictures show me with a frustrated look on my face and my phone up to my ear because I had to call Mom. His looked like everyone else’s in the pictures so I guess I did okay. He was excited and looked so handsome. One of my new favoritest pictures in the whole wide world is the one of my over-six-foot-tall boy grinning widely with his arm around his smiling, just-over-five-foot-tall momma. It was a night to remember for us both.
Originally published in the Miami News-Record on April 10, 2016.
Right around the time we disconnected our satellite TV we changed up our cell phone plan. Just like with the TV, we were tired of paying an astronomical amount on phones as well. Paul’s favorite tirade (right after his lengthy speeches about the unfairness of the turnpike tolls – remind me to tell y’all about that one someday) is when he starts in on how “Back in MY day, we didn’t take our phones with us everywhere because they were attached TO OUR WALLS.” And of course, then he’d take a deep breath and immediately say that for what we’re paying on our phone bill, we could make “a heck of a car payment”. Except I like my car and he likes his truck, so I’m not sure why we need to make a car payment… But, as soon as contracts started expiring, I started shopping.
I made a call to our carrier and just basically told them I didn’t want to utilize another company’s buy-out deal but I would if I had to and that I really liked their service, I just didn’t like the price that kept showing up on the bill every month. Fortunately, it worked. She worked a bunch of stuff around, offered a lower price for more data than we were currently getting – IF we wanted to add a couple of smart phones.
And that’s where I balked. We let Abby and Sam switch over to smart phones a few years ago and Kady has just been counting down the days until she could have one. The kids would belittle my adorable little phone with the slide-out keyboard in attempts to bring me into this century. They would ask me to please not use it in front of their friends. Once while sitting in the parent room at our homeschool co-op I whipped out my little phone, slid out the keyboard like a boss, and proceeded to send a text – quite adeptly I might add. My friend nearly spit out her drink when she saw it. “Oh my gosh! I haven’t seen one of those in years!” When I told her my husband still had a flip phone I thought she was going to pass out from laughing so hard.
So when they said I could add two smart phones and upgrade Sam’s to the newer version than what he had all while lowering our bill to the tune of $100, I took a deep breath and said, “Okay. Let’s just do it.” She noted everything on the account and we headed to the store in town. Before I left I asked Paul if he wanted to upgrade to a smart phone. He said a word I don’t dare type lest my mother pass smooth out and my editor fire me. I asked if he at least wanted to lose the flip phone, maybe go to one with a keyboard. “What? I just learned how to use this one!” I reminded him that the phone he was currently stroking like a Persian cat was almost five years old. While he clutched it to his chest like it was his most prized possession he reminded me of the five hellish days he owned a slider phone and how he threw it across the room while cursing his large thumbs. I told him the next phone he got was going to be a Jitterbug made just for senior citizens. He gave me a dirty look and called me a whippersnapper.
I have to say, I’m enjoying my smart phone. I’ve sent my share of horrible autocorrects that have left myself and my unfortunate texting partner laughing. I WAY overuse emojis. I text the kids and when they don’t reply immediately send, “Thanks to the fancy smart phone you insisted I get, I know you’ve read my text. Reply now or you’re grounded.” Then I send the angry face emoji. Then the kids roll their eyes. No need for an emoji there. They convey that face in real life just fine.
Thursday, April 07, 2016
Originally published in the Miami News-Record on April 3, 2016.
I came to a realization this week: I will never be organized.
It’s not for lack of trying, mind you. I just feel like I’m fighting a battle that literally cannot be won. Ever. By anyone. Even the most organized person on earth has that one secret area of their life that is never quite where or how they want it to be or look. And don’t tell me about the award-winning book by Suzy Homemaker or the foolproof method taught by Linda Betterthanyou. Total Organization is the impossible dream. I love FLYlady (check her out at www.flylady.net) and think her program is amazing. And I get super duper amazingly organized when I’m following her steps. But then suddenly I find myself just…..not. Not doing it, not following it, not trying, not FLYing, just….not. Because my life tends to be a little more out-of-control than her “Control Journal” allows for. Oh, I do have a Control Journal – I dusted it just the other day. After I found it peeking out from the bottom of a stack of papers and bill stubs that needed to be filed. In 2014.
Just this past week our youngest daughter had her wisdom teeth removed. I cleared my calendar for the week knowing that she’d be convalescing and that was the perfect excuse to not commit to leaving the house for at least the work week. My goal was to get the file cabinet cleaned out to where only the current year’s stuff is in there, get April and May’s school assignments in my planner and begin the countdown to The Last Day Of School (yes, it must be written in capital letters and it must be said with extreme reverence), get the craft cabinet and my sewing stuff cleaned out and organized, and get the kitchen island and the dining room table cleared of anything that doesn’t belong there.
As I write this, it’s nearly 11pm on Thursday night. The file cabinet is cleaned out and my sewing stuff is organized. That’s as far as I got. The school assignments are still in their purgatory of being on paper, but not officially in the book. The craft stuff was partially cleaned out and organized, but then I found some pretty scrapbook paper and a Pinterest tutorial on how to make origami bookmarks and well, let’s just say I need to read more books to utilize all the bookmarks I made. Like, about 126 more books than I’m reading now. And my goal to rid the island and table of things that don’t belong there? Well, it seems that both surfaces have been occupied by all that stuff for so long everyone just assumes that’s where those things belong. I can assure you, though, that the three cans of spray paint, a coupon from the vet for heart worm medicine, four mini candy bars from someone’s Christmas stocking that no one claims yet everyone hollers when I head for the trash with them because they “might want to eat that after dinner”, four broken pencils, roughly four dozen paper clips, a container of bb’s, four opened packages of Juicy Fruit (and oh yeah, my Control Journal) don’t actually belong there. I think.
Funny thing is, though, in the midst of the clutter and apparent disorganization, there is a system, a method to my madness, if you will. If Paul decides he needs the instruction manual on a battery charger he bought in 1998 or a check stub from last year, I can go right to the file (or pile) and pull it out. If Sam needs a copy of his high school transcript, I can tell you immediately that I did not file it the last time he needed a copy of it, but instead laid it on my desk to file it later and can go to the correct pile and produce it for you in less than a minute.
So I suppose that while I’ll never win an award for my mad organizational skillz, nor will I ever be featured in House Beautiful, I do have a very alphabetized DVD collection. And if you need an origami bookmark (or twelve), I’m your girl.
Originally published in the Miami News-Record on March 20, 2016.
Sleep is defined as “a condition of body and mind such as that which typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is relatively inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended.”
Unless you’re married.
I love sleep and I am really good at it. I am at a stage in life where I fall asleep, stay asleep, wake up feeling like a Disney Princess – except the closest wildlife out here is possums and armadillos and those guys are really bad at housework. They work nothing at all like the cute singing bluebirds and squirrels in the movies. But I digress.
12 years ago Paul was in a motorcycle wreck. He was hit by a car. The car won. As a result, he has some issues with his back. A few years post-wreck we bought a Tempurpedic mattress in an attempt to alleviate some of his pain. We even got the ergo frame. That sucker will fold you up like a taco, sit you up like a hospital patient, or stand you on your head. There is no transfer of motion and it forms to your body. For me, it produces Sleep Nirvana. It used to produce the same for Paul, but after years of sedentary work at the casino and now factory work at his new job, his back muscles are staging a mutiny. The heavenly bed puts him through hell these days. Most nights he sleeps in the recliner because it’s the only place he can get comfortable.
Sleep is habit-forming. Not just in its frequency and duration, but also in how we do it. Paul works evenings, I go to bed well before he gets home at Midnight. Most nights he watches TV until 2 or 3 am and falls asleep in the recliner. I only see 3 a.m. if I have to pee. I get up early to see Sam off to vo-tech and start Kady on her schoolwork while we tiptoe around the recliner until mid-morning. It’s not ideal, but it works. On the weekends he tries to go to bed at a normal time and sleep in the bed, but he usually ends back up in the recliner. And typically, I’m glad when he finally goes.
Here’s the thing about my dear, sweet, darling, hard-working husband: he has the boniest knees in the entire history of forever. Oh, to look at him you’d never know he is a freak of nature, but trust me, when he lies down in a bed at night, those knees become lethal weapons. I have dealt with these killer joints of his for 23 years now and I think I have permanent nerve damage to the backs of my legs.
Because see, not only is he the “big spoon”, he is also incredibly cold-natured. He gets cold, scooches over to me, wraps his big strong arms around me…..then proceeds to jab his killer knee joints into the backs of my legs. I’ve learned to mule kick his legs into submission, but then the other problem arises: I am not cold-natured. I am a 43 year old woman and we are subjected to these things called night sweats. And they ain’t for sissies. So he snuggles in, I think “Aw, this is nice. He loves me and I love him and I forgot how nice this……used….t—OHMYGOSH I AM GOING TO SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUST IF HE DOESN’T STOP TOUCHING ME RIGHT NOW.”
Psalms 4:8 says, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.” I love this assurance and maybe that’s why I usually sleep so well. However, even the Lord may have a hard time keeping Paul safe the next time those knees jab me in the backs of the thighs. We are currently in talks of going full Ward and June Cleaver just in case I can’t find a doctor who will comply with my demands of knee softening surgery. We’re thinking a couple of nice twin beds with matching bedspreads. A fan on my side of the room, a heater on his.
Originally published in the Miami News-Record on March 13, 2016.
This past week after a funeral, as we were standing in the foyer, Sis and I had a moment. And I’ve been thinking about this ever since.
Without taking her eyes off Mom who was visiting with people as they came out of the chapel, Sis said, “You know…we had such amazing female role models growing up. I wonder sometimes if I measure up. Am I being the same kind of role model for our girls? Like the ones we had?”
She spoke out loud what has gone through my head and heart on many occasions. Am I doing a good job? Am I messing up? Have I taught them enough? And if I haven’t, is it too late? Did I ever get around to teaching Abby how to make gravy before she moved out??? (I don’t think I did!)
We both looked at Mom who was presently patting the back of a white-haired woman, smiling her beautiful smile, and agreeing that the service was truly a wonderful tribute. And tears welled up in my eyes.
Granny Glenn was eccentric, but she was the best person to go to for advice on homeopathic medicine and she believed tea tree oil could cure anything. Memaw was sick most of my life, but the stories I have heard tell about a hard working farmer’s wife who endured so much and loved her family. And she always smiled when she saw us, no matter how sick she was. Nana was a staunch Republican who spoiled her grandkids, salted everything she put in her mouth, and would call you on your birthday and sing to you whether you wanted her to or not. There was the aunt who fielded questions about mysterious rashes when Abby was little, and the one who made a bikini out of fabric scraps so I could swim in the wheelbarrow. The aunt who once told me to “never worry about how you look when you’re around family. We all love you and will always love you no matter what.” The three English teachers – Reid, Enoch, and Sharbutt – who instilled in me a love for words as a teen. Ella Lou Reynolds and Helen Merit were ever-present guides at Hudson Creek Baptist Church who taught us that you love the church because God loves you. And you didn’t dare run in the sanctuary when those two ladies were around.
There was a tribe of so many women who shaped my mother into who she is and she – and a whole slew of women – in turn shaped my sister and me to be who we are. And now Heather and I are muddling through this thing called Motherhood. Surely all those women before us had doubts, too?
No mother is perfect, but if Mom ever had doubts about her ability to raise us girls, she never showed it. She was always so confident and always had all the answers. Heck, she still has all the answers. Maybe I am too honest with my girls because I just flat-out tell them: “I don’t have a clue. Call your Gram.” That works for hemming pants. And how to fix decorator icing that won’t hold its shape. And how to handle your child who sometimes cries more than she breathes. Oh wait, that one is ME calling her for advice.
My daughters and nieces are wonderful. Sure, they act goofy sometimes. Sure, they sometimes decide to get married and give you seven days to plan it. Sure, they sometimes run out of gas, forget to unload the dishwasher, and can never, ever, EVER make it out of the house on time, but they are good girls. They’re smart, kind, respectful, honest, trustworthy, and so much more.
I hope Mom is proud of how we are raising our girls. I hope she’s proud of them as women. I hope she’s proud of me. Even when I take my crying 14 year old to her and “suddenly remember that I need to go to Walmart.”
Originally published in the Miami News-Record on March 6, 2016.
“Momma? We want to get married next Saturday. Can we make that happen?”
That was the Sunday before the proposed wedding date. And I, being the pleaser and task-conqueror that I am, in a moment of what can only be described as maternal insanity said, “Absolutely!” They only wanted immediate family, nothing fancy, very simple. I assured them it could be done. I sent texts to Mom and Sis and asked for their help. They were all in.
I hit the floor before the sun was up on Monday morning. I had lists going on multiple pieces of paper; I was drinking coffee as fast as humanly possible. I was one determined mother. Once 8:30am hit I was checking prices, making calls, sending texts. I was in the zone. By the time Monday evening rolled around, Kady, Mom, Sis, and I had secured the church, the preacher, flowers, food, photographer, and guests. If we hadn’t been so exhausted we’d have patted ourselves on the back. Instead, we all just collapsed into bed.
The next day when Abby got off work we headed to Joplin to shop for a dress. She is a pale little thing and has said for years she didn’t want to get married in white or ivory lest she look like a bottle of glue. She wanted pink. Very light pink. And that was all well and good – a bride should have what she wants, right? Well, this season’s colors consist of aqua, salmon, or burn-your-corneas HOT PINK. In the first store, she tried on a pretty aqua dress and we set it aside as a last resort. We scoured the mall from stem to stern. There were no light pink dresses. Well, there was one at Macy’s, but it nearly revealed her bum and we decided it wasn’t appropriate for a church wedding. Or any wedding. Or for wearing in public. We were headed back to buy the aqua dress when Kady ducked into a cutesy little dress shop we never even glance at because their prices are so high. Then we saw her arm shoot out into the doorway with THE. PINK. DRESS. And it was 20% off! Abby tried it on, fell in love, it was purchased, and we made a mad dash to look for ivory shoes. Apparently to go with the burn-your-corneas hot pink, only white shoes will do. We were again discouraged. Then, little sister to the rescue once more, Kady found THE ivory shoes. We exited the mall fifteen minutes before it closed. The bride was happy. I was happy. And tired.
She had tears in her big brown eyes as she came down the aisle on her daddy’s arm. In my mind, I saw him holding her, swaddled and black-haired, mere minutes after she arrived. She smiled at me and blinked the tears away. Standing at the altar she looked at the same time a child and a woman. She is the same age I was when I said, “I do” to her daddy, yet wasn’t she only born a few days ago? I sat there feeling what I am certain my own mother felt 23 years ago: hope, joy, wonder, pride, excitement, and not the least bit sad. But probably just as tired. I am proud of who she is and love her endlessly. Her daddy feels the same way, too. She was a vision in that pink dress, her auburn hair nearly shrouding her face as she prayed with her husband’s hands in hers. God was in our midst.
Their Pops married them, their pastor prayed over them, their family was there to witness their beginning. We all love them. These kids have no idea the support system they have. Or maybe they do. Yeah, I think they do.
“Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” Matthew 19:6 (NLT)
Originally published in the Miami News-Record on February 28, 2016.
We recently discontinued our satellite TV after about 20 years of being pretty much infinitely entertained 24/7. We were rather attached to our DVR. We hardly ever watched live TV and we rarely watched a commercial. Gone were the days of everyone jumping up to race to the bathroom on a commercial break. We binge-watched a lot of shows and hoarded movies like Gollum held on to his “precious”.
The price seemed to creep up almost every month and we just couldn’t justify the expense any longer. When I called to see about lowering the bill, a friendly fella named Jeremy knocked $5 off our bill permanently as a “long-time customer courtesy” and another $5 for six months “until you get back on your feet.” I laughed and said, “Well, while that’s certainly generous of you, I think you’re going to have to do better than $10 to keep us. What else can you offer me?” Jeremy assured me that was the best anyone could do. Paul and I talked it over for a few days and just decided we could no longer justify $100 a month for TV. When I called back to set up the disconnection, Audra, a Customer Service Specialist, offered to drop our bill $40 a month for six months. But then said that after that six month period, the package price will have increased another $15 a month. That cinched the deal.
We were going to be caught in a never-ending, vicious cycle of rate hikes until we’d be forced to hand over one of our offspring as an indentured servant. And since I have grown quite fond of the children, I had the disconnect set up for the last day of the billing cycle, a mere four days away.
Then we proceeded to watch as many of the programs on the DVR as we could. An entire season of “Supergirl” we’d been saving for snow days (that never happened) had to be sacrificed. We abandoned the last four episodes of “The Strain”. (I’m pretty sure the vampires won, but I guess I’ll never know.) “Legends of Tomorrow”, “The Flash”, and “Arrow” could be picked up online. We deleted about 75 movies and around 30 of our favorite “Doctor Who” episodes, making ourselves feel better by saying that we will eventually own The Doctor on DVD.
Paul’s brother gave us a digital converter. Paul hooked everything up, turned on the TV, stood back expectantly waiting for the free TV channels to roll in…..and they didn’t. With some tweaking we managed to snag 12, 16, three public television channels, but if someone walked through the dining room, we lost signal altogether. We bought an outdoor antenna. He hooked it up, turned on the TV, again stood back expectantly ….only to find we had mystically lost the three public television channels. I informed him that the final season of “Downton Abbey” was the ONE THING I refused to sacrifice. Words were said. Threats were made. Prayers were lifted.
And finally Pops came to the house, found the problem, saved our marriage, and assured me that I will indeed get to witness the final episodes of Downton at the same time all of the other cool people will. Kady has discovered the retro game show network and is mesmerized by old black-and-white episodes of “To Tell the Truth” featuring a very young Betty White and Johnny Carson. I also heard her holler “NO WHAMMIES!!” the other day, so I think she’s discovered “Press My Luck” as well.
Personally, I’ve discovered I am a much more productive person now that I’m not financially obligated to watch as much TV as I can in a month to justify the cost. I ran the vacuum twice last week and even dusted. Paul says not only are we saving $100 on the TV, it’s like we’ve gotten a free housekeeper and cook, too. He’s precious that man of mine. And practical, if nothing else.
Originally published in the Miami News-Record on February 21, 2016.
I mentioned that our youngest, Kady, has been having some stomach issues and we have been on a months-long quest to find the culprit of the pain. After many tests and bloodwork and x-rays this past week she finally went in for an EGD (upper GI scope).
She has always been our most rambunctious child, is rarely still for any length of time, and will talk your leg off at 90 miles an hour and barely stop for air while she chatters, but she is also our most chilled-out child. (Talk about an oxymoronic enigma.) She pretty much just rolls with life and doesn’t get too stressed out about much. She wasn’t the least bit nervous prior to the test and the only real issue she had was the fasting. Girl likes her morning coffee. And wanted Taco Bell. Or a giant burger.
We checked in at St. Francis Children’s and after a hard-of-hearing senior volunteer finally figured out I was shouting “HOOVER” as our last name, we were given our surgery passes and sent upstairs. We got settled in and Mom and I took advantage of the free wi-fi by playing Words with Friends back and forth in a furious, never-ending cycle. Kady just took selfies. When we were called back to a pre-op room we met the sweetest nurse named Tammy. She told us about her grandson, how she put together his plastic ride-on Police car with only a screwdriver. And since her daughter didn’t have a hammer, “Sisters, I just used a garlic press!” She told us how she prayed over that baby before he was born, that he would be a “gentle gentleman.” She was precious. And even though she is 14, brought Kady a stuffed panda. Then the next time she came into the room was carrying about 12 urine specimen containers and told her “I need all these filled up, sweetie, so get busy!” The IV team was wonderful and encouraged Kady’s desire to become a respiratory therapist. We joked and laughed and before she was wheeled off for her scope we had become the “fun” family all the nurses wanted to come see. That’s just how we roll.
Mom and I were both hungry, but I refused to leave the waiting room and Mom refused to leave if I didn’t leave. So the Words with Friends frenzy continued. Every time the waiting room phone rang this woman would just get up and answer it. (Which was good, I suppose, since the adorable white-headed senior citizen manning the desk had gone AWOL. She was probably getting a snack. Unlike my mother.) And every time it rang it was for her. Until one time she turned around and bellowed, “Kady Hoover? Is there a Kady Hoover here?” I resisted the urge to tell her she might think about refining her receptionist skills and instead just took the phone from her hand. She sighed impatiently. I suppose she thought she might miss an important call. I secretly wondered if the guy who was trading stocks in the waiting room a few weeks before was who kept calling her.
We walked back to recovery to find Kady eating a popsicle. She was cold so I asked Tammy if she could have a heated blanket. She said, “That baby girl can have anything she wants! Does she want goldfish crackers? Animal cookies? A pony? Sprite? I will get it for her!” After recovery she nearly knocked over another nurse so she could be the one to wheel Kady out. After she made sure Kady was safely in the car, she grabbed me and hugged me tight, and said she would pray for us. And I believe she will.
By the way, the Sprite that Tammy brought Kady was apparently “real” Sprite and according to Kady, and “not the cheap stuff you buy, Mom…. No offense.” I’m going to blame that grocery-shopping critique on the anesthesia.
Monday, February 15, 2016
Originally published in the Miami News-Record on February 14, 2016.
Last week I saw a post on Facebook that the musical “Wicked” was going to be in Springfield. I have wanted to see if for years, but last year when it was in Tulsa I wasn’t able to justify the expense. I couldn’t this year either, but just for fun I shared the post and said something to the effect of “If someone could tell my mom about this that would be great.” Mom is adamantly anti-Facebook and I knew she’d never see it and never did I dream someone would actually TELL my mom what I said. But lo and behold, one of her high school friends sent her a text message with my post copied and pasted in it.
About two hours later I got a phone call from Mom asking if I had plans for the following Thursday. I looked at the calendar and said I was free. Then she asked if the kids could take care of themselves. I said that yes, they were quite capable of that these days. Then she said, “Okay, well, I am taking you to see Wicked. Clear the whole day.”
I literally busted into tears right there in my office chair. It was probably pretty ugly, but I didn’t care because I was so dang happy. When I hung up the phone I ran into the living room where I screamed to my husband and kids, “I’M GOING TO SEE WICKED NEXT WEEK!” Paul just looked at me blankly and said, “Okay. (pause) Uhm. What’s Wicked?” Then I went into this babbling mess of words that somehow tried to convey the story. He just shook his head then asked, “Do I have to go? Because that sounds pretty awful.” Then I told him no, he wasn’t invited. He was totally okay with that. The kids were offered the opportunity. All three turned it down. I all but begged them to relent and just allow themselves the indulgence that is musical theatre. They politely and repeatedly declined. I am pretty sure I have failed them as a mother.
In the week before the show I downloaded the entire soundtrack and listened to it ad nauseum. I worked diligently on hitting the high note at the end of “Defying Gravity”. On Saturday while putting the final touches on Paul’s birthday dinner I was doing a dramatic lip sync in the kitchen. At the end, standing there with arms outstretched, head thrown back, mouth open, I was totally in the zone. I opened my eyes to see Abby and her boyfriend staring at me, Dakota with this horrified look on his face. Abby just shook her head, looked back down at her phone and said, “Get used to it. If you think she’s bad now, wait until she actually sees the show. She’ll be SO much worse.” Dakota replied, “Well, I’ve been around her when she’s watched ‘Chicago’ so I know what she’s capable of.”
My sister, her two oldest kids, Mom, and I packed into the Prius at 9am the day of the show. Before we got to Joplin my mascara was in danger because I had already been laughing so hard. We discussed Super Bowl commercials, growing up, and the price of gas. We ate lunch at Lambert’s where the rolls were flying and the okra was hot. We finally trekked our way to the theatre and found our seats. I was in awe. Heck, I still am. In fact, as I write this I am still on a bit of a giddy high. As I write this, it’s nearly 11pm and I am not ready to go to bed and end this amazing day.
I cried when Elphaba defied gravity. I cried during the entire finale. I was probably the happiest 43 year old woman in the entire building. Then I teared up again the parking garage as I thanked my momma for making me wickedly happy. My mom is kind of the best.
Originally published in the Miami News-Record on February 7, 2016.
Our youngest daughter Kady has been having some health problems for a few months now. We have been visiting Tulsa frequently to see a doctor there and he is running a lot of tests to get to the bottom of this mystery. It has been a long, frustrating process to say the least. The reason I mention it is to get to this point: all of this doctor’s office-ing we’ve been doing has given us so many opportunities to people-watch. And oh, have we experienced some real doozies along the way.
Kady is always armed with an iPad or book to keep her entertained when our waits stretch out too long. Most of the time she’s engrossed in either of those, but sometimes the conversations around us are too much for even her to miss. We have learned about virtually everyone’s political views. It’s amazing how when one person starts in, everyone else in the waiting room suddenly becomes a political analyst. We have encountered Democrats, Republicans, a few Libertarians, and a LOT of know-it-alls. We have heard all sorts of views on polls, primaries, candidates, platforms, and I have to say, folks around here are pretty adamant in their stances. To the point I wonder if some are bordering on treason. Eek. Those are the conversations where we just bury our heads in our books and hope we get called to an exam room soon.
I am well versed in the most popular conspiracy theories, including Area 51, and the assassination of JFK plus so many more. I know all about the benefits of apple cider vinegar, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and essential oils. There was one particular exchange between two WWII veterans that brought tears to my eyes because one of them reminded me of my Papa. We’ve seen our fair share of sleepers over the past few months, too. Some snore. Some just lean until they wake up, then doze back off, slowly, slowly leaning again and again. Some don’t care of you notice, some wake up and look around to see if their doze was detected. One particular fella decided to take a snooze while his infant son took his own little snooze in his carseat. That one made me a tad nervous. When another guy got a little too close to the snoozing father and son, I almost tackled him. No one was getting abducted on my waiting room watch.
A few weeks ago the conversation turned to favorite breakfast foods. Virtually everyone in the waiting room was fasting for their tests and that always makes for some great recipe exchanges and reminiscing about comfort foods. One woman said she was getting bacon and eggs when she got done, even if it was 3 in the afternoon. One guy wanted a big platter of biscuits and gravy. I just wondered if any of them were having cardiac testing done.
My favorite character so far was the elderly Russian woman in the nearly-floor-length mink coat who was trying desperately to make someone, anyone understand that she was “WERY WERY SEEK” and would only speak to male employees because “Wimmin zey do not know enny-zing”. Although I did get a giant kick out of the guy who the redneck-iest redneck I’ve seen (and that’s saying a lot considering who I’m married to), covered in piercings and tattoos, wearing shorts and socks with sandals when it was 29* outside and spent over an hour trading stocks over the phone. Loudly. And he made a lot of eye contact to be sure you were listening.
That was the day Kady, while sitting in the chair beside me, sent a text that said, “Dude is totes obnoxious. But I think he’s got the inside track on some IBM stock. Better call your broker. Or the FBI. He MIGHT not be legit.”
We sure hope the doctor gets us a diagnosis soon.
Sunday, January 31, 2016
Published in the Miami News-Record on January 31, 2016
I have a lot of confidence in my cooking and baking abilities and know my way around a kitchen quite well, thank you very much. But last week, I was a hot mess in the kitchen. Kind of literally.
I had decided to boil a chicken for a few meals over the next few days. I wanted a lot of broth so I used my big pot and filled it kind of full. Once the hen got to boiling in her hot tub full of onions and celery, the broth would occasionally splash out a little. I tried to keep things cleaned up on the stove as she boiled, but apparently, I missed some. Okay, like, a whole lot of it.
Since Paul works evening shift now, we eat our biggest meal of the day at noon when the four of us are home together. It has taken some adjusting to and even still I find myself busy with laundry or school or housework, will look up and realize it’s nearly time for Sam to be home from vo-tech and I haven’t started a thing. I guess I’m a slow learner.
And that was the case last week when I looked up from taking down that last Christmas tree. Oh, who am I kidding. That tree’s still up. Anyway, when I looked up from my crossword puzzle, I realized it was way past when I needed to start the chicken pot pie for lunch. I peeled my potatoes and put them on to give boil a little to soften them up before putting them in the pie. I was rolling out my pie crust, my back to the stove, when I heard this “WHOOSH!” sound – you know, that unmistakable sound of something catching fire. Apparently, while I did a great job cleaning the stovetop the night before, I kind of forgot about checking the drip pan underneath the burner and chicken broth has just enough fat in it to be dramatically combustible.
I turned to see my lovely red Guy Fieri saucepan engulfed in flames. You know when you see something you can’t believe you’re seeing and you just stand there in a state of stupefaction and incomprehension as chaos just kind of happens? Yeah. I did that. And suddenly I was transported back to the Home Ec kitchen at Wyandotte High, standing there in my tight-rolled, acid-washed jeans, my bangs reaching to the heavens, while the stove flamed right before my eyes. And in that memory I saw Mrs. Johnson calmly reach for the baking soda and smother the flames like it happened every day of her life. (Truth be told, it probably did. She was a Home Ec teacher, after all.)
My brain kind of did a mental face-slap and I came back from 1988. As I bolted to the cabinet with the baking soda I hollered, “Pauly? Uhm….fire. My stove is on fire. Fire! FIRE! PAUL. MY. STOVE. IS. ON. FIRE.” I don’t think that man ever came up out of a recliner so fast in his life. And as he hit the kitchen he, too, did the whole deer-in-the-headlights freeze. I brushed past him, tossed baking soda at the flames, and we both just stood there staring at the powdery disaster that was now my stove.
Once the mess was cleaned up I went ahead and continued on with the pot-pie-making. And it would’ve been Paula Deen perfect had I not opened the scoop-y part instead of the shake-y part of the paprika.
At lunch, while poking at it with his fork, Paul asked, “Why is the pot pie goop pink instead of the usual kind of…. yellow-ish color?”
It’s funny how one raised eyebrow can say so much and a query about pink pot pie goop suddenly becomes a non-issue. It was a very quiet and peaceful lunch that day.
Friday, January 29, 2016
Originally published in the Miami News-Record on January 24, 2016.
I am writing this on my 43rd birthday. By the time you read this I’ll be 43 and three days. Remember when age was able to be broken down into increments? “I’m 15…and a half.” Or when your kids were little you’d proudly say, “She’s two and three quarters.” At the age I am now, 43 is 43 for an entire year and there is really no point in halving it or quartering it. It is what it is: old.
Being a January baby, it usually snows on my birthday. Sometimes it’s just rain. I think I can only recall maybe three years out of 43 that it hasn’t precipitated on my birthday. This year, as I look out the office window, I see…..bleh. There is just enough moisture in the air to glaze the world with a dangerous sheet of ice – a scary thing for a woman who is at a stage in life where she is genuinely concerned about breaking a hip.
The first time I met one of my best friends in the world, the girl who would be my sidekick (and I, hers) for many a year, was at my 5th birthday party. Mom opened the front door to behold a brown-eyed neighbor girl named DeLisa who was standing under a yellow umbrella with her mom in a torrential downpour. We remain friends to this day. 38 years. I haven’t even known my husband that long.
It was probably my 8th or 9th birthday that school was canceled due to a major snow storm. I was devastated because school birthday parties rocked. You got to skip that last subject of the day, your mom brought cookies or cupcakes and Koolade, and you usually got to be the first “doggie” in a game of “Doggie, Doggie, Who Has the Bone?” To soothe the disappointment of having to stay home, Mom sat me up behind the loveseat at the sliding glass door with all of my Strawberry Shortcakes and gave me a present every hour. By day’s end, I was getting individual outfits for the dolls, a shoe here, a hat there (they were probably part of a multi-pack, but I think Mom had to get creative after about ten hours of presents), but it remains one of my most memorable birthdays.
For my 11th birthday, my parents decided I was old enough to have a slumber party. Stacie, Chloe, Necia, the ever-present DeLisa, and I stayed up suuuuuuuper late (like, MIDNIGHT!) and began a tradition that lasted for many years: we drank soda from baby bottles. Do not ask me why. My kids have asked repeatedly and I cannot even begin to tell anyone why on earth that became a thing. But I have photographs that seriously amuse my children regaling the entire weird thing. Thankfully, by the time we got to 9th grade we let that one go. Whew.
Birthdays have lost a little of their excitement as the years have gone by. When the kids were little I was showered with crayon drawings on construction paper, kisses, hugs, and promises to not fight with each other and pick up their toys. Paul has been good to try and always take me to dinner, even during the lean years when money was tight. Those were the years when McDonald’s was a treat. He’d even let me Super Size. I don’t find myself struggling to fall asleep the night before anymore – in fact, I was dozing in the recliner by 9:30 last night. I intended to slouch around the house all day long, but am on my way to put on a little makeup because Mom is insisting I have dinner out. And I was thinking that maybe later, I’ll round out this special day by taking down my last remaining Christmas tree. Hey, don’t judge me. We old folks forget things. And sometimes it’s things like 6-foot tall Christmas trees in their dining room.
Monday, January 18, 2016
Most weeks I succeed in achieving my goal of not going off the place for days on end. And then sometimes I have weeks like the past couple where I find myself in town pretty much every dadgum day. I don’t like those weeks.
Homeschooling is a flexible adventure, but at the same time I like order and well, it’s their futures at stake, so yeah. We don’t take many days off. We don’t even take snow days as a general rule. (I know, I know, I’m awful, just ask the kids.) They’re in 8th and 11th grade, so most of their work is self-directed, but they still need me around to guide them and keep them from “accidentally” playing X-Box and Candy Crush when they’re supposed to be learning about percentages, Puritan settlements, and Moby Dick. The weeks I have appointments and errands, I leave them in the capable hands of their daddy who works evenings and is here to help during the day. Of course, he loves him some Candy Crush as well ….. but that’s a story for another day.
Week before last I ran to town on Tuesday to pick up a prescription for Paul. Then the next day I realized we had four car tags due (poor car-buying planning on our part), two of them overdue. I hauled myself back to town to pay the overdue tags because ignorance is bliss and the fact that I was suddenly aware of the overdue tags meant I just KNEW I’d get a ticket. The day after that I had a dentist appointment. Friday and Saturday I got to stay home and do laundry. Sunday was church, Abby’s boyfriend’s baptism, lunch with the family, more church. I had officially been to town more times in four days than I usually am in an entire month.
When I checked out the calendar on Sunday night and it showed a fairly easy week with lots of time at home. I was glad.
Then…this week happened. A homeschooling friend invited us over for lunch. I had forgotten about Kady’s orthodontist appointment. We spent a day in Tulsa at doctor’s appointments. I attended the visitation of a dear lady from a family that was a major part of my growing-up.
I was missing my house, my routine, my sweats, my husband. My heart was heavy. After the day in Tulsa I left Kady at Abby’s house while I attended the visitation and had plans to just get her and go home afterward. But Abby had had a bad week and I was kind of missing her so I said, “Be ready when I get back and we’ll all go grab dinner.”
No boyfriends, no husbands, just me and my girls. We sat at a corner table at Arby’s for much longer than it took to consume our food. We laughed. We solved the world’s problems. (Now to get the world to listen to us.) We laughed some more. We got a few dirty looks from people who were not having near the fun we were. At one point Kady made a face that prompted Abby to say, “You looked like a lion….if that lion were about to eat a deer…..and you were possessed by a demon….yeah, that’s what you just looked like.” I laughed so hard I nearly cried off my mascara.
I think much too often we get caught up in our exhaustion, our stresses, our schedules, and our running that we forget to slow down, breathe, soak up time with the people we adore the most, laugh loud enough to get weird looks, and just be loved. I didn’t know how desperately I needed that crazy dinner with my girls. And I’m looking forward to this week and a ridiculous amount of time in my sweats. And I hear my husband is still hanging around, anticipating seeing my face again soon. I remain hopeful.
When I was a Junior, our school got a speech and debate program. I was no stranger to the stage what with me reciting Luke 2:12 proudly on the stage at Hudson Creek Baptist Church at the ripe old age of five and other church plays, skits, and the occasional special on Sunday morning. I was SO in when Mrs. Enoch and Mrs. Sharbutt suggested I be part of the team and went to state competition both years I was on it. I was also a busty Bertha Beaumont in our production of “Greater Tuna” my Senior year. I may be an introvert, but I have always LOVED being on stage.
So when the pastor’s wife stood up in front of the church one October Sunday and said she’d be in the foyer after the service with a sign-up sheet for the church Christmas play I nearly got filled with the Spirit right there before the offering was ever taken up. I was down the aisle and had pen in hand before the last strains of the invitation hymn faded. I think the poor woman was a little taken aback at my excitement and was probably thinking, “What on earth have I done?” when I did a kick ball change and yelled “FOSSE!” while showing her my best jazz hands. I enthusiastically told her I had stage experience and would help out any way she needed. She just smiled and nodded and patted me on the shoulder.
The next Sunday she approached me with script in hand and I was nearly light-headed. She smiled and said, “Here you go. You’re Anita.” And ohhhhh the thoughts went through my head as I clutched the script to my chest. Anita! It sounds like a female lead’s name. Ohmygosh she gave me the LEAD! Stop shaking and for heaven’s sake, don’t cry. Okay, cry. It will help when Anita has to decide whether to have the surgery that will save her life or spend her last days courageously fighting alongside her long-lost twin sister against the savage guerillas in the jungles of Alaska.
Turns out, Anita was not the female lead, but rather the heinous and evil, self-centered department store manager who got what she deserved in the end. It didn’t involve guerilla warfare or even a life-saving surgery, but I did manage to scare every small child in the church with my evil antics. One week at practice a sweet little girl sat down next to me, gave me a sideways glance, then quietly asked, “You’re not really mean, are you? You don’t look mean now, but….you sure are up there….” I asked her what she thought as I raised an eyebrow and looked over my glasses into her tiny face. She didn’t come to practice much after that. And when she did, she sat on the other side of the sanctuary.
But the true test of my acting skills came when a mere week before the play, we found ourselves without our male lead. The original “Barry” and I had finally managed to conquer the scene where I flirted rather aggressively without him quivering in fear and suddenly, I was going to have to swiftly break in another poor soul. Turns out, that poor soul was my son. My 17-year-old son. The first run-through with Sam as lead was….awkward. At best. We muddled through the scene with red faces and giggles, but managed.
As I walked off stage after the scene, one of the deacons approached me and said, “I know y’all are new to the church and all, but I had no idea y’all were from Arkansas.” Once again I found myself with a raised eyebrow giving an evil stare over my glasses.
When we got in the car after practice that night Sam said, “Soo….that was weird.” I said, “Yes, weird indeed. But here’s the positive: at least we don’t have to kiss.” The poor kid nearly fainted.