Wednesday, December 26, 2018


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.


(Originally published in the Miami News-Record)


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 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.

We....the people

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