Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Traditions

Originally published in the Miami News-Record 

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 14, 2018

Wicked Day

(Originally published in the Miami News-Record)

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

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

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

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

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

I Mom So Hard

(Originally published in the Miami News-Record)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dot Com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Musically Speaking


 (Originally published in the Miami News-Record)

Music is a big part of my life and has been since I was a kid. We had an 8-track player in the old Nova and trips to church or Nan’s - or anywhere - were set to the musical stylings of The Gatlin Brothers, The Oak Ridge Boys, or the house favorite, The Statler Brothers. At home there was a giant cabinet stereo with giant speakers looming from the corner behind the fireplace and on weekends when Mom was cleaning house she’d sometimes play the radio, but mostly she just stacked a bunch of 45’s on the turntable before she dragged out that behemoth of an Electrolux and began her cleaning. Olivia Newton-John, John Denver, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Barry Manilow, and again The Statler Brothers crooned away as Sis and I half-heartedly dusted before finally giving up to just lay in the floor and listen. On snow days or sick days we got sometimes got to choose the record. “On Top Of Spaghetti” was chock full of awful, tacky, mostly pretty gross children’s favorites and to this day I can still sing every word to “Great Green Globs of Greasy, Grimy Gopher Guts.” There were countless Disney records and read-with-me book/record combos as well.

There was a lullaby record, “For Sleepyheads Only,”where side two was a trip to Lullaby Land where a magical train chugged its way quietly through London, Norway, Spain, Germany, and other parts abroad powered by fairy dust and childhood dreams. And I’m telling you, that record was truly full of some mystic, powerful juju because Sis and I could be climbing the walls like a couple of junior crackheads and by the time the record got to the Yiddish lullaby our eyes were so heavy there was no more fighting it. I’ve looked for it on CD because with two kids 14 months apart, Abby could use a magic lullaby when her very own crackhead children go insane. Alas, it’s only available on vinyl. 

My music tastes range from disco, 80’s pop, Broadway showtunes, and even some metal. I still love The Statler Brothers, but I reserve them for housecleaning day when the curtains are open and the sun is streaming in, just like Mom did when I was a kid. When the first harmonies burst forth from the speakers Kady runs for the hills. So their music playing is some guaranteed alone time. Sam and I are planning a trip to New York City after his college graduation. We plan to see “Dear Evan Hansen” on Broadway first and foremost and he’s lobbying pretty hard for “SpongeBob: The Musical” but I think he’s joking. Oh Lord, I hope he’s joking. I got tickets for the kids and me to see “Wicked” in Tulsa in September and my poor girls are less than excited. They got their father’s love for musical theatre – absolute zero. But they are humoring me and I adore them for it. 

I’ve been singing to Wemberly and Petal since they were born. My Nana used to sing “I love you [insert grandchild’s name here]” and it is a song totally made up by her, but I can’t imagine not singing it to my own grandkids. I can still hear Nana’s voice singing it. Wemberly always smiles when I sing it to her. Petal usually pulls my hair or whacks me in the nose with her binky, but she’s also a tad bit wilder than her sister. I really need to invest in some piece of recording equipment that can record from vinyl to CD because we gotta have something to calm that rogue baby with a gypsy soul and the attitude of a pit bull /chihuahua cross down some. Although, some days I’m not sure a magical train full of lavender and Benadryl can calm that one down. I think I’m better off just teaching her “Great Green Gobs of Greasy, Grimy Gopher Guts” and cutting my losses.

Insult and Injury

(Originally published in the Miami News-Record)

Now that life has settled down a bit, I’m trying to establish a routine at my house. Housework that has been done on an as-needed basis (read: only if I knew someone was coming over) is now being done because basically I’m only working a couple days a week now, there are no small children in the house, and really I have no excuse to not have a house that doesn’t look like crime scene investigators should be called in. I’m not aspiring for Chip and Joanna Gaines status, just less “There appears to have been a struggle” status.

A couple weeks ago I was happily doing my new Saturday cleaning thing. I sprayed down the shower and decided to dust while I waited for those scrubby little bubbles to work hard so I don’t have to. As I was finishing up the mantel I looked up and noticed the TV screen was fingerprinty. Not sure why since it’s mounted on the wall and it’s not touch screen, but in my house I have learned that my children are capable of just about anything and most of all, weird things. It’s pretty much a circus when they’re all together. My circus, my monkeys, nothing I can do about it even if I wanted to. I just embrace the chaos and wait to clean it up after it’s over.

I scrubbed all the fingerprints off at the bottom and saw some toward the top of the screen. I am all of 5’2” and the top of the TV is somewhere around seven feet so I was struggling. Having been this height since I was 13, I did what I have done for over 30 years - I stood on my tiptoes. I didn’t go full pointe like a prima ballerina. I just barely went up enough to allow my paper towel a liiiiiiiiittle extra oomph.

Then I felt a pop in the top of my foot. Followed by what felt like a horrendous cramp. Then I said a bad word. Followed by a few more. I sat down and did a few flexing and pointing exercises and felt the crampy feeling subside to a dull ache. I think I know now why people avoid housework the way they do – IT’S DANGEROUS. I figured I probably needed to put on my shoes to do housework from now on since I’m old and fragile, but instead of doing that, I went on with my vacuuming and then finished up the bathroom. As the day went on, I noticed the pain was intensifying and by evening my foot had swollen to comical proportions. Monday I shoved my foot in a comfy shoe and ate ibuprofen by the handful. Tuesday morning I could barely get any shoe on. I got a same-day appointment, they x-rayed it, and she said it sounded broken but didn’t appear broken on film. Then added that stress fractures don’t always show up immediately on an x-ray. She wanted to put me in a walking boot, but since it’s my right foot I begged for anything but that. I need to be able to drive because Kady is in physical therapy in Joplin twice a week for her very own foot injury. So instead she put me in a “surgery shoe” and scheduled me for a follow up in two weeks.

As she was walking out she cautioned, “Please be very careful the next few weeks. That shoe will affect your balance and you’re a fall risk.” I, being who I am, laughed and said, “Yeah, and at my age I’m probably at risk for a hip fracture as well.” She didn’t even smile, she just replied with, “Yes. Absolutely. So be careful.” Then patted my leg, gave me a sweet smile, and said I should probably schedule a bone density test.

Ouch. That hurt worse than the injury – or the fact that I have to tell people I am hobbling around in a Frankenstein shoe because I injured myself while dusting.


It's Who I Am

(Originally published in the Miami News-Record)

As I was standing in my bathroom this morning I stopped for a second as I caught a familiar image in the mirror. I was fixing my hair, but what made me stop in my tracks was the fact that not only is my hair turning a delightful shade of silver, the style is also resembling Mom’s. The best way to fix it is to tease it all over until you look like one of those fancy show chickens. Then you hairspray it like crazy and smooth it into submission. It was at the precise moment where I was between teasing and spraying that I had the revelation. I’ve seen my mom come flying out of her bathroom with hair teased to break up an argument between Heather and me on more than one occasion. I looked like Mom in teenage-daughter-argument-breakup-mode. Sidenote: It’s hard to be frightened of a woman whose hair resembles a fancy show chicken.

I get a lot of things from my mom: obviously my hair, my propensity to cry at old black and white movies (and pretty much everything else), my love of Oklahoma and Disney World, my ability to cook up a storm, my ability to organize pretty much anything, and so much more. Mom is my hero. She has taken all the bad life has given her and made it good through sheer will, determination, more than a few tears, and love. Always love.

My Aunt Shirlye took me to have my ears pierced and fashioned me a makeshift bikini out of fabric scraps once when I wanted to swim in her wheelbarrow. She is who I’m pretty sure I’m becoming as I age. Every new item of clothing or furniture or decoration I bring home in any shade of aqua/teal/turquoise, prompts Paul to say, “Alright there, Shirlye Jean. Let’s save room for the other colors, too.” She loved me so fiercely.

My Nana was my buddy. Nan’s house had few rules and there was always Coke in the fridge. She ate salt on everything. She and I watched Dick Clark many a New Year’s Eve. And so much Johnny Carson. Dresses with jingle bells in the hem, the smell of Vanderbilt perfume, and her singing “Happy Birthday” even when the tremors in her voice were so bad she was barely understandable – Goodness, but I miss her.

My Memaw was sick my entire life, but when I think of her I always think first of her smile. She was who I ran screaming to when Heather was flogged by the devil rooster on the farm and I will never forget the day I asked her if Papa was saved. We were walking hand in hand across the back yard. She smiled down at me and said, “Your Papa is a good person, Kristin. That’s important.” Now as an adult I know having to answer me vaguely was troubling to her but she would’ve never darkened my impression of my Papa. He was saved after she passed and don’t you know she was so happy to see him come through those gates on that November day!

Just today Mom told me that when it comes to worrying, I remind her of Granny Glenn. She said Granny would worry if she didn’t have something to worry about and I relate to that on a personal level. Granny fed us Vitamin C and alfalfa sprouts like our lives depended on it. And Tea Tree oil runs in my veins because of her.

I am the woman I am today largely in part due to the women I’ve had in my life. I sometimes feel like I fail in coming anywhere remotely close to who they were and are, but doggonit, I sure try. I hope I leave a legacy for my kids as colorful as the one I come from. I hope they remember laughter. I hope they remember forehead kisses and the blood, sweat, and tears I put into their over-the-top Valentine boxes. I hope they remember Momma wasn’t perfect, but she sure tried to cover the imperfect parts in glitter and cake frosting. And that I loved them with all that I had in me. Just like my momma did me.

Me and Gym

(originally published in the Miami News-Record)

I’ve been going to the gym. Now, I’m not a gym rat or anything like that. In fact, there is 100% zero chance of that ever happening. I may have a genetic propensity to addiction, but going to the gym is excluded from that in my DNA. If I were to go to one of those sites where they trace your genetic makeup and tell you that instead of being Native American you’re in fact Scandinavian (which leaves someone in your family with some ‘splaining to do), I’m fairly certain that my family history will show me to be a descendant of a little-known and long-extinct tribe of very fat, very short, very clumsy cave people who loved carbs and died out pretty early on for obvious reasons. I mean, you can’t very well escape a ravenous saber-toothed tiger when you’re in the midst of a sugar crash from eating an entire loaf of fresh cave-baked bread. And also you keep tripping over your own feet.

Aaaaaaaaanyway, so I’ve gone to the gym a whole four times in the past week. Okay, week and a half. The point is, I’m actually going. I don’t hate it, but I darn sure don’t like it. But after losing this weight I have some extra baggage. And I’m not talking about a cute, coordinating Michael Kors luggage set. I’m talking about some extra body just hanging out on me now. Y’all, I have some serious bingo wings going on. (Read: flabby arms) And my thighs are super weird – but in their defense, they’ve always been that way. They’ve always been jiggly, but I’m just more aware of them now that all the rest of me is jiggling in unison. Also, y’all my butt is sagging. Yes, I’m 45 and that’s not all that uncommon for a woman of my age, but I don’t like it. If I’ve sacrificed my beloved carbs in order to, you know, not die and stuff, I’d at least like to have a cute hiney while I’m out here living.

See, fat is jiggly like Jell-O. It’s filled out and plump. Yes it jiggles, but in a uniformly pudgy kind of way. When you lose a significant amount of weight all that skin that was gently cradling the fat now has no purpose in life. So it just kinda….hangs out. It jiggles in an entirely different way. And it’s traumatizing and uncomfortable – for you *and* those who happen to catch a glimpse of you waving, jumping, or God forbid, naked. So I’m going to the gym in an attempt to tone up some of this extra junk. And to strengthen my heart because of the not-dying thing I’ve got going on.

I’m not very confident when it comes to working out. I don’t know squat. So in my mind, walking on the treadmill is a good start. Until I get in there and remember I’m not the best at walking. I’m incredibly clumsy and uncoordinated on regular ground, so imagine how I am on ground that is constantly moving. It’s sad, but amusing and also keeps those around me on their toes. See, I’m creating a stronger, healthier me while also providing a few much-needed services. While I am walking my way to prime cardiovascular health, I am also: 1) allowing those around me to feel better about their form and stamina. They don’t need to worry if they look inept – I’m doing enough ineptitude myself that everyone’s pretty much only focused on me and worry about proper form goes right out the window. 2) creating a vigilant community of fellow gym goers who make sure no one gets hurt in their watch. Forget about 81 year old Fred over there struggling on the kettle bell in the corner, y’all better keep an eye on the short youngish grandma on the rowing machine. She’s probably gonna lose a finger at some point. And finally, 3) I’m bringing humor to the gym. Because if you can’t get a kick out of me tripping over my own feet and subsequently tossing my phone across four treadmills and also accidentally almost strangling ol’ kettle bell Fred with the cord from my ear buds, then you have no sense of humor whatsoever.

Get Out of Town!

(Originally published in the Miami News-Record)

Given the fact we have had a slight stay in the usual October busy-ness at work, I had this brilliant plan to take a little quick weekend trip, just Paul and me. I should know that my plans never go as planned. He himmed and hawed as to whether we even *should* go, given Petal is a colicky, angry baby and Wemberly has just learned to walk and is cutting six teeth at once. He felt like we should stick close in case Abby needed us. I felt like I had threatened Dakota with his very life enough to be super helpful that we could safely leave town for a few days. Kady was going to see family down by Stillwater and we didn’t have to worry about finding a place for her to crash and I all but begged him to just relax, let it go, and for crying out loud, GET ME OUT OF TOWN. He relented. I think he finally saw the crazy in my eyes.

Work ran late on Thursday and I started to feel panicky he was even going to stick with the plan, but finally we got out of there. I hadn’t made any reservations or packed due to the fact he’s wishy-washy as all get out, so while I threw clothes in a bag I was scouring the Internet for a motel near Mt. Vernon since we wanted to check out Apple Butter Makin’ Days. Reservation made, bags packed, kisses doled out to grandbabies, we flew down the road. When we got to Seneca he said, “Go ahead and put the address in the GPS and we’ll see how long before we get there.” I pulled up my confirmation email and immediately realized I had made the reservation for Mt. Vernon ILLINOIS. I called Illinois to cancel, couldn’t find a room in Missouri any closer than Monett, but finally got a reservation. It was 8pm. We hadn’t had dinner. I was frustrated. Once we got to Monett I still couldn’t relax because I still had to find a place for us in Branson for the rest of the weekend. Fortunately I found a cabin fairly quickly that boasted seclusion and peaceful wooded serenity. I was sold. I could’ve cost $8,754 a night and I’d have been sold.

The next morning we drove into Mt. Vernon, took one look at the gigantic crowd of folks high on natural fruit sugar by way of inordinate amounts of apple butter, turned our Camry around and headed on to Branson. We shopped, we looked at the leaves, we talked, we laughed, we even held hands as we walked. Okay, really it was more of me dragging him by the hand from The Disney Store to Baby Gap to Osh Kosh and beyond. He was a trooper, though. Around 4 we decided we were tired so we headed out of town toward the cabin. The directions from the owner and the GPS didn’t quite match, but that’s not uncommon.

We ended up at the wrong entrance – the entrance where the fancy, rich owners of the glorious homes nestled in the woods go in. A quick call to the owner and we were back on track and went in thorough the back entrance. Then we got lost inside the resort. A security guard led us to our “secluded” cabin which was actually a duplex in a long row of duplexes. They’ve apparently never seen Hooverton Mountain. We know seclusion. The floor squeaked, there was a strange buzzing hum whenever you ran water, and Saturday morning a track hoe woke us up at 7:03am. But we got an early start to our day of more shopping and ended it with seeing Six, the a capella group.

There’s significantly less crazy in my eyes this week and my Christmas shopping is about 35% done. And if winter will hold off a little longer I can probably convince him another trip is in order. Or I might just shop online. In proper seclusion on the Mountain.



Smile!

(Originally published in the Miami News-Record)

Smile!

I dabble in photography from time to time. I’ve done several family sessions, a Senior session, and a couple of weddings so far. I don’t have any fancy “real photographer” equipment, so I specialize in outdoor shoots where light is more forgiving and I don’t need light boxes and those big umbrellas that I *think* are there for a purpose, but I can only picture Mary Poppins looking around like, “Blimey, I lost my giant umbrella once again!” And taking outdoor shots are all well and good until it’s January and you need your newborn’s pictures taken and Oklahoma is currently glazed in ice. So shortly after Petal’s birth I suggested that Abby try JC Penney portrait studio, see if she liked them, and let them do the pics I simply can’t until I win the lottery and buy equipment.

When Petal was a few weeks old, Abby, Kady, and I took the girls to Joplin for shopping and pictures. Petal was right in the middle of the worst colic known to humankind and yet onward we trekked. Wemberly fell asleep halfway through the mall on the way to the studio, of course, and when we woke her up she proceeded to cry like her heart was broken. The first thing we noticed when we arrived was the temperature. It was somewhere around 188* degrees in there. Abby set to the task of dressing Wemberly while I dressed Petal who was screaming like her arms were being removed with a spork. Abby pushed her sweaty hair out of her face, plugged a Goldfish cracker into Wemberly’s bawling mouth and said, “Right now, we are THAT family.” I smiled in agreement, lost track of my bouncing rhythm and Petal started screaming once more. Eventually I bounced her in just the right colic-busting way and she stopped. She was still scowly and fussy, but the screaming abated. At the height of the colic she had three moods: angry, angrier, and angrily asleep. We found a new setting that day: Maximum Angry. Best described as “like a tiny Hulk, just less green.”

The photographer was a champ and while neither girl actually smiled, there were still some cute ones. So we decided to do it again last weekend. Wemberly is now 15 months – the age all three of my kids were when they had their pictures taken in a pair of camouflage overalls Paul had bought for Abby and I want the picture recreated with all of my grandkids as well. The temperature in the studio was still tropical, but tiny screamy Hulk baby was considerably less screamy. Wemberly, dressed like she was headed out to the woods for a day of hunting, was as hyper as a chihuahua after an espresso and gave that poor photographer a run for his money. He rolled with it, though - and literally rolled around on the floor with her to get some adorable shots. When it was Petal’s turn I took Wemberly out to change clothes and let her run off some more of that energy. A Kindergartener named Brennon with a snotty nose and an obnoxious cough kept hovering over her and I was convinced she was going home with Ebola after that.

After all pictures were taken, the photographer disappeared. I don’t know if it was his corporate-mandated break time or if he was cowering behind a dumpster in the alley, chain smoking and searching Monster.com for jobs in an entirely different field, but regardless, dude was GONE. We finally managed to coax him back in with the promise we’ll request a different photographer next time and previewed their pictures. They turned out quite wonderful and I assured Abby every time we go it will get easier. That might be a tiny mom lie because I don’t remember picture day being remotely enjoyable until the last one was past Kindergarten, but young mommas need hope so I smiled and said, “Let’s make an appointment for Christmas pictures! And let’s ask if we can bring the new puppy!” I might’ve been borderline dehydrated from the heat in the studio when I suggested that. And fortunately they said no. Whew.

Hope and Avon Bottles


(Originally published in the Miami News-Record)

Hope and Avon Bottles

Mom’s hope chest was a crate of mystery that loomed ever so sternly in the corner of her room, never giving hint to the wonders inside. It wasn’t ornate, but beautiful nonetheless. I didn’t dare look beneath the lid; Mom made it clear Sis and I weren’t to touch it.

I have no idea how old I was the first day she opened it up for me, but I can still see the day in my mind like it was yesterday. It was summer – the curtains which usually kept her room dark were pulled back  and the windows were open. Her room looked entirely different in the summer sunlight. When she opened the lid I half expected brilliant light to burst forth from its depths. Instead, the smell of cedar wafted out into the room. I craned my neck to see inside better.

On top was a picture of a girl with BIG HAIR. I wasn’t sure who it was at first until Mom pulled the picture out and held it to where I could see. I knew immediately it was her. Her beautiful eyes still sparkled even under that big ol’ bouffant. There was a photo album entitled “Our Wedding.” Black and white photos of my very young parents made me giggle. My dad was super skinny. My mom under that seemingly ever-present bouffant looked radiant. There were pictures of Memaw and Papa’s dairy farm -  Memaw smiling in the backyard, young and happy before she got sick. Mom pulled out some very official looking slips of paper – savings bonds. Grandpa Glenn had bought them for Sis and me when we were born and she said someday they would be worth more money. I quickly planned all the things I would do with that money. (Whatever age I was, I was still young enough to think $25 was enough money to live like a queen.) There were old Avon bottles that smelled weird. Mom said those were going to worth more money someday, too. I didn’t see how and thought she was very silly for putting an ugly bottle shaped like an old car in her hope chest.

My own hope chest sits at the foot of my bed. It jumps out in front of me and stubs my toes in the middle of the night and makes me say bad words. It’s always covered in stuff. Right now I see a power strip, four bandanas, a set of Tupperware bowls for when Kady moves out and I have no idea where to stash them in the meantime, a curtain, and a Scentsy warmer I keep forgetting to take to work. My Senior picture doesn’t feature a bouffant, but that giant 1991 Aqua Netted, permed ‘do makes my girls cringe. Inside aren’t many pictures, but approximately 4,762 notes from DeLisa, Stacie, and Chloe, all folded intricately, some labeled “DO NOT OPEN – PASS TO KRISTIN *ONLY*.” I remember when the things in those notes were so important to our very existence. Now I shake my head over them and cringe a little myself. Stacie and I have been writing letters since college and they’re all in that chest. My letter jacket was in there until I cut off the letter and threw the jacket away. My Senior memory book, Senior shirt, one of my graduation announcements, and a few leftover wedding invitations are sitting atop the Bible Mom got for graduation and the Bible Nana gave me when I was Baptized. And if you’ve still got a cassette player you can borrow my Village People tapes that are housed in there, too.

I don’t get into it very often because that involves me having to clear the stuff off the top and ew, housework. When I do, though, I’m instantly sucked into hours of pilfering and remembering. And buried deep within are my share of Mom’s Avon bottles. They smell even weirder now. I don’t have much hope they’ll be worth a lot of money, but for some reason it just seems right to keep them there.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Liberating Plankton, Part 3: The Finale

Up until this surgery, my biggest stressor regarding anesthetic was the whole waking up and feeling like you had just closed your eyes and having lost time where you don't remember a damn thing. Like, it would freak me out to just think about it. But this time I didn't have that bewildered "Where TF am I?" panic moment upon waking. Again, I think that was another little knuckle bump from God.

So last we left me in the capable hands of "Guy Who Smelled Amazing and Had the Go-Go Juice In His Possession."

I woke up a couple hours later and, when asked, reported my pain as a 5. Post-Op Nurse Craig (who smelled almost as good as OR guy) (what's with these hospital guys smelling so dang amazing?) said, “Well, let me get you some Dilaudid for that.”

Y’all. I am 100% convinced still, six weeks later, that a magical sparkly unicorn delivered that blessed medicine to me right there in the recovery room. Soon my pain subsided to a 3 and apparently the goal was ZERO because I got even MORE of it. More unicorn. More awesome. The only thing that could've possibly made it better was if Deadpool himself had delivered it on that magical unicorn.

Turns out, there was a slight complication during surgery. The plan had been to remove the dastardly uterus and leave both ovaries which had appeared 100% normal in the ultrasound. Once he got in there, he discovered the left ovary had a big ol' cyst on it. And still, his plan was to simply remove the cyst and leave the ovary. Then, that ovary, who had probably been colluding with the evil uterus and was a full-fledged member of The Dark Side, decided to hemorrhage. Yes, actually hemorrhage. He tried to cauterize it. It wouldn't stop. He was considering an anti-coagulant, but given my Factor V, decided to not do that (thank God). So that ovary got evicted. There was also an almost-complication with my bladder, but just as he had called in the urologist, things rectified themselves and that was that.

I got the post-op report a week or so later. I had Adenomyosis, an ovary riddled with cysts, a shortened Fallopian tube, and an angry/inflamed cervix. So you could say, it was a gynecological shit show up in there.

I'm just glad it's all gone. I've since gone back to work (new job), my hormones seem to be doing a fair job of behaving (thanks to some Maca root) and I feel 900% better than when I was bleeding to death --or recovering from bleeding to death-- three weeks out of every month.10 out or 10, highly recommend. Go get ya a hysterectomy. You won't regret it. 

And every night in my dreams I search for the magical Dilaudid unicorn and well, as I typed that I realize that makes me sound slightly deranged, so yeah, forget I said that.

Liberating Plankton, part 2

Oh GAH! I told you I was going to TRY to be better at writing. Yeah, apparently I'm failing again. In my defense I started a new job last week, so hush.

So to continue.....

So surgery date scheduled, I had a lot of stuff to do. I am a worrier, a fretter, a preparer by nature. I try to be better about this, but sometimes it's just how I am. Kady and I sat down and made a menu for the first two weeks post-surgery. If it were up to her it would've been 14 solid days of frozen pizzas and tacos on a steady rotation. It was not up to her, so there were things like hamburgers, Cheesy Bacon Chicken Casserole (low carb), and some crockpot meals in there. Turns out, two actual weeks out from the surgery, she and Paul already went through the frozen pizza stash, so you can see the menu worked well.

I paid up as many bills as I could. Paul drew unemployment all summer and I had only been working two days a week, but God was good and the whole summer we didn't pay a single bill late. I cleaned the house furiously and would occasionally walk to the doorway of the craft room/office, then quickly turn around again and shut the door. Abby and Dakota and the girls lived with us for a year and that had been their room. When they moved out, it became the Room of Requirement - everything went there. Kady decided to paint her bathroom and bedroom, so the contents of her room stayed in there while that was happening. Heck, parts of her room are STILL in there, so that's fun.

Sam had been living on campus at Crowder for a year, but had come home the weekend before to hang out, love on his momma, and use my washing machine before he left for Falls Creek the day before my surgery. This was his third year to go with this church - first as a camper, second as a Junior Sponsor, this year as a Real Big Person, Fully Powerful Adult Sponsor. That Monday I took him to meet the church crew at the buttcrack of dawn and then went back home to finish freaking the hell out preparing.

My pre-op instructions included such horrifying phrases like: "No hair products" and "No lotion, moisturizers, or deodorant." Yeah, I was more upset over those things than the fact that very soon my doctor was going to pull organs out of an incision up in my lady bits. I am very dependent on lotion and deodorant. Oh and also, on top of not being able to properly moisturize my aging skin, I had to wash the night before AND the morning of surgery with Dial Gold. That golden bar of skin-drying, antibacterial soap which they say will kill germs, but also any of your body's own ability to retain moisture. I stepped out of the shower the night before and put on lotion. I had to. I could feel panic rising as I'd grab the lotion, set it down, pick it back up and stare at it longingly, then set it down, pace a few times as I'd feel my skin starting to resemble a raisin. I finally gave in. The morning shower I managed to refrain, but in my defense, it was like 4am so I really think being incoherent and half-asleep helped there.

I slept like a log the night before. I think that was God's way of just giving me a little knuckle bump.

Kady and I arrived at the hospital, checked in, then proceeded to people-watch until I was called back. She's nearly 17 years old, but leaving her alone in that waiting room was hard. The nurse assured me she could come back once they got my IV in. My mom was going to be there after a doctor's appointment, but it was still hard to leave her right then.

My pre-op nurse was sweet. Quiet, but sweet. She tried to get my IV in, blew the vein and refused to try again. She called in another nurse who managed to get it in the other hand after some digging around. She brought me several heated blankets since I was all naked under my gown. Dr. B came in to briefly visit. He said he had a baby trying to decide if it was going to be born any time soon, so I might be delayed a little. He was in the delivery room with Abby during Petal's birth around four hours so I was really hoping this new kid was a little speedier than my second granddaughter.

After he left, my nurse meekly - and without making eye contact - said, "Part of your pre-op is being shaved. So.....I need to do that......if that's okay." Sister. Is it "Okay?" Look, I'm about to let strangers cut on my naked body, yes it's okay. I'm okay with y'all doing whatever you need to do to make sure I don't die of infection like I'm having surgery in a third-world country. Also, sidenote: I'm pretty chill when it comes to medical procedures and my body. I don't enjoy my yearly well-woman exams, but I'm also sensible enough to, you know, not want to die, so I get my mammograms and pelvics like a good girl. But having her awkwardly announce she was getting ready to shave my downtown? Weird. So weird. But I smiled, trying to make things less cringe-y, and I told her to have at it. I flipped back my gloriously heated blankets and laid back.

And when she brought out this industrial-looking electric shaver that looked like something out of Mad Men I nearly lost it. Had her personality been less quiet and gentle, I'd have made a joke of some kind, but as it was I just kept quiet. I'm sure she misjudged my shaking as nerves or being cold, but it was really just me trying not to laugh. I just decided to look at the ceiling. And as I looked up caught a horrific glimpse of myself being shaved by a stranger in the reflection of the overhead light. And then I was just fascinated by this out-of-body body-hair-removal experience and all I wanted to do was text my friend Stacie and be like, "DUDE. You are never gonna believe what is happening to me RIGHT NOW!" Once she finished shaving me (super drafty, btw) she then said, "Okay, now I have to uhm.....get the little hairs with......this....." and donned what looked like a cafeteria-lady plastic glove. She giggled and said, "It's sticky!" Then for the next minute or so she just patted me down with that thing. And I was still trying to not die laughing.



After all that was over, they finally let Kady in. She immediately asked if I was "okay" which is code for "Are you freaking the actual f*ck out right now, Mom?" to which I answered, "I'm actually okay." And I meant it.

Dr. B came back in to discuss the use of Lovenox and the conditions of whether yes or no, I would be getting it. Because I have Factor V, I am at risk for blood clots after surgery, so that's always something to be on top of. A few minutes after that they said they were ready for me in the OR, I kissed Kady, and they wheeled me out. She chatted cordially as she pushed me along. I didn't have my glasses on, so I couldn't tell you much about the decor, although I doubt there was much actual decor. She she turned a corner she announced, "And here we are!" She pushed another button, the OR doors opened wide and everyone in the room looked up and said, "KRISTIN!" I felt like Norm from Cheers. The nurse who brought me in introduced me to everyone in the room. I just wanted to really look around some, but one, they were already in full OR Team Six mode and two, I didn't have my glasses on.

As I was scooting from bed to tiny little table meant for people with much smaller rear-ends than mine, the two gals on either side of me had a conversation:

"Dude. Remind me to tell you about what Mom said."
"Okay, dude. *eye roll*"
"Like, you're not gonna believe it."
"Oh, I'm sure."

I don't know if they were sisters or if "Mom" was code word for someone they don't like, but at that point all the laughter I'd held in while having my cooter shaved by a stranger, just bubbled out. And then everyone joined in and honestly, I think I could've had the entire OR team over for Thanksgiving dinner and we'd have gotten along just fine.

Settled in on my Barbie-sized table, a fella who smelled really good, told me his name and made some conversation I don't remember. Then there was a mask on my face and he told me to breathe deep and then it was lights out.


to be continued.....

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Make An Effort

Published in the Miami News-Record July 27, 2018

Mom and I have had the conversation on several occasions, but this week I have thought about it a lot. Anyone who knows me or reads my blog or this here column knows that family is utmost for me. Without my family I’d be so very lost. The tragedy that happened in Branson was devastating on so many levels, but the woman who lost her entire family just keeps staying in the forefront of my mind these days. Kady and I were talking about it a day or two after it happened and how the woman was brave and composed enough to give a television interview. I told Kady there’s no way I could’ve been so brave and I’d just be curled up in a ball wondering how I would go on. And Kady’s reply brought tears to my eyes: “Mom, I’d be dead. There is no way I could survive without you guys. I literally would not be able to go on. My heart would be so broken.” I’m so glad I’ve instilled this family connection in my childrenalthough her answer crushed me. Those are the things we just don’t like to think about. And for one family last week, it became a sad, stark reality. 

I had the opportunity to visit with a cousin last Saturday and as he hugged me so tight he asked, “What happened to our family? Why aren’t we close anymore?” And the best thing I could come up with was: “We let it happen.” When you’re little you have gatherings and holidays at your grandparents’ house with your many, many cousins (first, second, third, removed, step, whatever) and life is good. Then you start growing up and becoming a parent and sadly, grandparents start passing and the whole family dynamic starts to shift. Suddenly your parent is the grandparent everyone gathers with and cousins do the same with their parents and well….it just kind of fizzles out. Sure, you still love them and when you do see them the stories are recounted and laughter abounds, but it’s all just different now. 

Most families aren’t perfect. If yours is, well, I hope you’re not too bored. Because my crazy, imperfect, dysfunctional family is what keeps me going. Whether it’s phone calls where you and your sister laugh so hard your husband has to turn up the TV, text conversations where your mother repeatedly falls prey to autocorrect and you screenshot everything because you know you’ll go back to it and laugh again later when you’re having a bad day, or the wild, loud dinners and game nights that mean you *will* go home with a laugh headache and no mascara left and oh, the memories – those are the things that make a family close. But those things don’t happen if you don’t put forth the effort. If you sit around and wait for the next funeral for all the cousins to gather, number one, I personally always feel sorta guilty for laughing so much with all the cousins in the midst of sadness (although in my family, usually the deceased would probably appreciate a good round of laughter and togetherness even at their expense), and number two, you shouldn’t really just sit round and wait for a funeral to happen. Just saying. That’s kind of weird, dude.

So yes, it requires you making a few phone calls and a few plans, maybe rearranging your calendar a little bit, but maybe it’s time to call up a cousin or seven and tell stories about your great-grandma’s love of tea tree oil, listen to the recording of her voice telling the bear story, whip of a batch of your Nana’s homemade noodles and drink Coke in wine glasses for old time’s sake. And most importantly, embrace the wonderful, the related, the skeletons, the bruises, bumps, and scratches and just do what families are supposed to do: love each other.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Liberating Plankton, part 1

So I'm 45. I haven't dyed or bleached my hair in years and have fully embraced being silver-haired. I have wrinkles - more so now that I've lost 75 pounds - and my boobs are definitely slacking these days. I am well-versed in crossing my legs to avoid the dreaded Sneeze Pee and I also think 9:00pm is a perfectly acceptable bedtime.

I've been doing an intricate and somewhat emotionally hot-flash-punctuated dance with perimenopause for the last six or seven years now. Both of my grandmothers and my mother had hysterectomies and I was determined to be the first to just fade out into an estrogen-less wasteland somewhere in my 50's. My periods had gotten angrier in the last year, but again, I wrote it off as age. Then about six months ago the proverbial shit hit the fan. In six months I had 10 periods. All lasting 10 days or more. All painful. All horrible. I was getting maybe one good week a month if I was lucky - one week where I didn't cry all the time, spend it in bed with a heating pad against my gut, or just plain feeling like I was going to bleed to death. One of my best friends and I would send secret coded texts to each other every time we were on the ledge contemplating a self-directed hysterectomy with a serving spoon. We nicknamed our uteruses (uteri?) Plankton. Yes, like the evil single-cell organism on SpongeBob.



At my regular six-month checkup with my PCP I mentioned all of this. She said it could be age, but it could also be a fibroid. She sent me straight to radiology where they did an ultrasound. And sure enough, a week or so later the radiologist confirmed there was a fibroid.


Because I use Indian Health Services for most of my healthcare, they said they wanted to send me for a surgical consult in Claremore. Claremore Indian Hospital is not where I wanted to have surgery, so since I have insurance, I asked if they could just send the referral to the doctor of my choice outside of the Tribal Health System. The choice was immediate: Dr. Billings. I work for his in-laws, Kady nannies for his kids, he delivered Petal. I trust him.

On June 12th I saw him in office. He looked over my ultrasound and agreed there was a fibroid and my uterus was very large and "not normal." He gave me options, all of which sounded like bandaids to fix an organ I no longer had any use for. Trust me when I say, ol' Plankton and I were no longer friends. He agreed that given my age and the quality of life (or lack thereof), a hysterectomy was a valid choice. He did some endometrial biopsies in office that day. He made sure my mammogram was up to date. He said my ovaries looked perfectly healthy and he'd like to leave them for hormone regulation. (Mind you, radiologist who read the ultrasound also concurred the ovaries were healthy. I'll come back to this.) I was in agreement. He said as long as the biopsies came back normal I could schedule the surgery with his nurse. She said she had an opening on July 3rd. If I were physically capable of doing a cartwheel, I'd have done one right there with my paper drape a flappin' in the breeze. As it was, I politely and maturely agreed.

That gave me three weeks to get my house cleaned, my family prepared, tie up loose ends at work, and probably have another period. But oh well. I was *this close* to freedom. I felt like I could safely stop googling "How to remove an angry uterus at home" at this point.

...to be continued...


Monday, June 25, 2018

A Hearty Attempt



I started a blog back in June of  2004. Let that soak in a minute.

14 years ago. Redneck Diva was born 14 years ago. *blink blink*

Somewhere around 2016 Facebook began slowly and methodically picking off bloggers one by one. The song says "Video killed the radio star." Well, social media killed the bloggers.

Sure there are still blogs, but blogging as a whole has changed exponentially. Gone are the days of "Mommy Bloggers" writing posts about their kids and day-to-day life in MomLand - now the Mom Blogs are vlogs or podcasts. So pretty much, video blogs killed the written blogs. Damn you, video. You are kind of an attention hog, aren't you?

I renew my domain every year even though I haven't posted in forever. I just can't let it go. Selfishly it's because I can't stand the thought of some other woman out there going by Redneck Diva. That's me, yo. I can't let that go to someone else. I mean, the vanity plate on my car is RDNKDVA. The Sonic carhops know me by my license plate. Last week the receptionist at my OB/GYN's office asked if my license plate was the same as my email and said she sees me all over town. (Please dear Lord, don't let me have driven bad that day or flipped the bird.) I am famous in my own mind and to about a dozen people, so I'm not letting it go.

A lot has changed since the early days of blogging. Not just in regards to blogging as a whole, but for me personally. I don't guess I even know how I'm going to run this thing anymore. I'm ready to resurrect the behemoth, but I'm not sure how/where/when/why to do it. Gone are the days of mundane updates about laundry and raising my kids. I mean, they're done raised for cryin' out loud. I'm a grandma now. (Note to self: Look into "Grandma blogs" - see if that's a thing.)

Anyway, yeah, so I'm a grandma. Two granddaughters. They're pretty much the most awesomest things since sliced bread. They are 14 months apart. Both Abby's.

Yes, this Abby:



Except now she's a full-fledged grown up who has expelled two human beings from her lady parts. So there's that.




Oh and that sassy looking little thing next to her with the wildly curly hair?  That's my Kady.








Yeah, this Kady:





My little Kady-with-a-d is 16. Every bit of 16. The attitude is real, y'all.

 




And then let's not forget my sweet Sammy.



 




Who now looks like this:

 


(The first pic is a stage pic from his most recent theatre performance.)


And of course, the granddaughters:


 

Wemberly and Petal

Wemberly will be two in a few weeks. Petal will be one in September. Wemberly was born at 29 weeks and Petal was full term. I will share their stories soon, but I'm going to need more time to formulate those stories because 1) I'm a grandma and I don't have a wallet full of pictures -  THIS is my wallet full of pictures and I need to upload about four bazillion of them and 2) their stories, especially Wemberly's, are emotional to tell and I need time to get them right and do them justice.


In the past year I have lost 70 pounds. I have been at a standstill for a few months. I'm okay with that for now, but not forever. My life has been tumultuous since April, so I am extending myself grace at present.

This was me at nearly 300 pounds.























Me now:

 



So for now I'll say welcome back. It's been awhile, I know. Knock the dust off the chairs and settle in.  I'm learning how to be again, so let's enjoy the ride together. I hope to be back soon and often. I still can't make Rice Krispies Treats. I still cuss a little lot. I still love Jesus. I'm still awkward and ridiculous and funny. I'm still a redneck and still a diva. I still embarrass my mother with the things I write.

Some things change. Some things never will. Mom can attest to that.



Sunday, June 24, 2018

We Were Nine





Nine of us. Seniors. Sitting on the front steps of Wyandotte High. We thought we owned those steps. Everyone else did, too. It didn't matter who was on them or how long they had been sitting there, when The Nine decided we were going to sit there, we sat. And no one else did. That was just how it was. Call it some strange hierarchy of the teenage universe, but when the Senior herd is dominant, the underclassmen get booted to the lawn or the hallways or the curb. No one questioned us. They would just get up and shuffle away. Maybe it was because we had our bluff in on everyone, maybe were bullies, maybe...just maybe...we were obnoxious. Probably a little bit of all of that.

This particular picture was snapped on a sunny day near the end of our high school adventure. I know it was May because The Teddy Bear and I were dating. Graduation was looming. We were smiling. Genuinely. There were no duck faces, peace signs, tongues, or goofy faces. It was natural. It was relaxed. It was happy. We were all thin, fit, our hair was dark (and for us girls it was BIG thanks to Aqua Net). We were 18 and we. knew. everything.

There were five guys (The Class Clown, The Aggie, Mr. All-American Nice Guy [who was my knight in shining armor the night I got stupid drunk on Boone's Farm], The Quarterback, The Quiet Guy/Teddy Bear) and four girls (The Most Popular Girl in School, The Athlete, The Ag Queen, and me, The Nerd). Six of us started Kindergarten together. The other three came in somewhere in junior high. We didn't hang out together until Senior year and to this day I honestly don't know how or why we even started. Because we hadn't before then.



After high school Mom, Sis, and I moved to town and I remember one night everyone came over to my new house to watch movies. I think that was the last time we were all nine together. The Teddy Bear and I broke up that summer and he went on to marry one of my best friends a few years later. He doesn't care much for me now. He's a biker with a cool beard. The Most Popular Girl and I moved to Stillwater together. I moved back home about six weeks later. I missed my momma. All four of us girls went out a few years after graduation, got in a huge fight while we were out, and didn't speak for years. Fortunately we grew up and three of us are Facebook friends now. One isn't on Facebook (or maybe she's blocked me) and hasn't lived in the area since shortly after graduation. The Class Clown is a teacher now and he and his saint of a wife own a snow cone business in town. The Aggie bought a fireplace where I work a couple years back. He's a farmer and on the school board. We both live in the 'Dotte. All-American Guy is still around, but our paths rarely cross. He served our country as a Marine. He used to be a golf pro and my husband was so envious of his job. The Quarterback stays to himself. He has a job down on the lake. A few of us have lost children. Three of us are grandparents. One hasn't married. A few of us are divorced.

And as it turns out, we did NOT know everything. I still don't. Maybe the other eight have gotten it together in the past 27 years, but for this ol' gal, I'm still living by the "fake it til you make it" way of life. We sat there on those steps that day never dreaming of the things we'd encounter. Pure, real love and true, deep heartache. Unimaginable joy and unfathomable loss. Ups, downs, and all the in-betweens. That inevitable changeover from cool car to sedan or *gasp* minivan. The expanding of hips and waists, the graying of hair, births and deaths, laughter and tears. I keep going back to that picture a lot lately. I wonder if that girl in the jean shorts and NEO t-shirt would want to know how her life will look in 20-some years.

Nah. She's still trying to figure it all out anyway.



Originally published in the Miami News-Record on June 22, 2018. 


Day of Thankfulness

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