Okay. So, the New Year is pending and just like everyone else, I feel compelled to resolve myself to significant changes, such as eating healthier, exercising more, getting organized, nagging less, living purposefully, etc. etc. In essence, I feel the pressure to do something monumental, something that changes the course of my destiny in 2010. Sometimes I get scared that I'll never do anything that counts as "life altering." Fear is what drives me to make resolutions I can't keep.
And I have this crazy fantasy in which I sell everything but my husband and children and we move to Costa Rica, where we have a family business giving tourists burrow rides through the rain forest. I trade in my humdrum, deeply rutted life for an adventure. And not just an adventure, but a release from the day-to-day obligations that bog me down and keep me from living an inspired existence.
But then I picture myself 6 months, a year, into my fantasy life, and what I see, along with a sore butt from riding a donkey all day, is arguments about whether we can afford new carpet in the living room, lecturing kids about doing their homework and the importance of learning math, driving carpool, volunteering to help the church youth raise money for summer camp, attending dance recitals, spaghetti for dinner, cereal for breakfast, repairing the roof, cutting the grass, paying the water bill . . . In essence, within months of our arrival in Central America, within months of our Great Escape, I'll be doing the same things there that I'm doing here.
And today you know that’s good enough for me. Breathin' in and out's a blessin' can’t you see. Today's the first day of the rest of my life, and I’m alive, and well.
This year, instead of making pie-in-the-sky resolutions with which I can't possibly follow through, I'm facing my fears. I resolve myself to the routine. Even though it means more of the same-old-same-old, the routine also means my children are reasonably well-adjusted, my parents are healthy and active, my husband loves me despite myself, and I'm still here to take it all in. In the big scheme of things, the routine isn't so bad. In fact, it's a pretty good sign that all is well and I'm doing fine; maybe even better than fine.
TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Let's brace ourselves for embracing the routine. Get ready for it to begin all over again on January 4th. As women, we have a noble purpose in the year ahead. We are the keepers of the routine and we must keep ourselves well-equipped for the job.
Today is the day to go out and buy a new purse, a new wallet, and a new pocket calendar. In fact, go ahead and splurge and buy a fancy new ink pen, as well.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Okay. So, the New Year is pending and just like everyone else, I feel compelled to resolve myself to significant changes, such as eating healthier, exercising more, getting organized, nagging less, living purposefully, etc. etc. In essence, I feel the pressure to do something monumental, something that changes the course of my destiny in 2010. Sometimes I get scared that I'll never do anything that counts as "life altering." Fear is what drives me to make resolutions I can't keep.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
"Daddy," says my daughter to my husband, while patting his belly affectionately, "looks like you've been ganging up on some sweets." They are baking together with the new Easy Bake Oven Santa brought. I think she's using the tried and true method of making him feel self-conscious so she can weasel out of sharing the final products with her father.
These are the merry days after Christmas. The most wonderful time of the holiday season. Neighbors up and down my street are snatching down their decorations, sick of staring at them since Thanksgiving day. They have no idea the magic they are missing.
In their haste, they're missing the tree lights twinkling like a fairy forrest backdropping the two-man hunting blind erected in the living room. They have no idea the beauty of nerf-gun darts dangling from Christmas tree branches, resting like unearthed grenades in the snow village, and threatening the serentiy of the manger scene.
The stress of finding the perfect gift is passed. The busyness of baking is over. The turkey and the ham continue to provide sustenance. No one cares, now, if the tree comes crashing down, spraying ornaments across the floor. This is when the memories are made. When the new games are played. When the New Year is anticipated.
This is the time to gang up on some sweets, during the merry days after Christmas.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
For your Christmas cravings . . .
My family calls my kitchen "Mama's Smoking Restaurant," because, well, I burn everything, from cheese toast to homemade hot chocolate. I just wasn't cut out for cooking gourmet meals. I stress about holiday entertaining.
I've dreamed of having the perfect kitchen and all the culinary skills to go with it; a kitchen in which my family and friends gather to talk and visit and take in the warmth and aromas while I prepare a sumptuous spread. And though I fall short of my vision, by the magic of the Internet, I can live vicariously through another woman who has it all - the kitchen and the talent. (I wonder if she has EVER even let her eyes gaze upon a box of Cheesy Mack, nevermind put it in her shopping cart and taken it home for that last-minute, just-in-case meal.)
Fortunately, writer and chef extrordinaire Karin Calloway, on her blog, shares her Viking kitchen, her ALL Viking appliances, perfect kitchen, and her sumptuous recipes for dishes I can't even pronounce but that make my stomach growl and my lips smack together just looking at the pictures. And she shares her chef secrets. She makes me believe that even I can overcome the casserole and defeat the frozen pizza.
For the New Year . . .
Parenting is hard work. I'm always second guessing myself and my motives and whether my children will turn out okay in the end. And despite all of my mistakes, I know that everything I do with and for my children is filled with the best of intentions. But every year, at the end of December, when I'm thinking about buying a new calendar, I resolve to be a better parent to my children.
This year, I've found a book to help me achieve my goal in 2010: Pressured Parents, Stressed Out Kids: Dealing with Competition while Raising Successful Kids by Wendy S. Grolnick, PhD. and Kathy Seal.
This book explains why we pressure our kids and how our competitive drive, when it comes to our children, which is manifested as pushing them too hard and controlling them too much, causes us to worry. Beyond simply explaining why we do the things we do, however, it provides helpful advice on how to overcome our anxiety and be the best parents we can for our kids. Learn how to transform worry and fear into positive parenting, aid your child in developing intrinsic motivation, maintain a strong relationship with your child while at the same time encouraging his or her autonomy, and to avoid the parent-child conflict we all dread.
Friday, December 4, 2009
I hang my head in shame at the charade of joy masking my Heat Miser heart. While my children's heads fill with anticipation and excitement, my chest tightens with dread of another Merry Christmas. The shopping, the gift wrapping, the guessing, the decorating, the party going, the hostessing, the baking, and the pressure to produce a magical moment, within a few short hours on one morning of the entire year, that will carry lasting importance in the mind of a child are all too much.
I have a life here, and it doesn't stop just because some carolers come around singing Jingle Bells. The regular obligations of life don't go away with the turn of a calendar page. My family isn't all cozied up at home, drinking hot chocolate by the fire, awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus. My kids would fail their tests at school. I'd have teachers and coaches calling and asking why my children weren't completing their homework or attending practices. My boss would not wish me good tidings.
I hear you mumbling under your breath while reading this: Well, Lucy, you don't understand the meaning of the season. It's not in the gifts or the parties or the decorations. It's the expression of goodwill toward men, the hope for peace on earth, the celebration of the King of Kings. Christmas is in your heart.
In theory, that's all good, and I can latch onto it if I close my eyes real tight and click my heels together three times. But in reality, if we're all sitting around a plastic table top tree on Christmas morning twiddling our thumbs without any presents to unwrap and all our neighbors are mad at us because we didn't go to any of their parties or invite them to ours, there won't be any peace on earth or goodwill toward men. On the flip side, I probably will create a memory my children will harbor well into adulthood.
This confession is just between you and me. I wish to remain a closet bah-humbug, quietly nursing my stomach ulcer lighting up the yuletide. Please don't tell jolly old St. Nick a word of what you hear. I vow to start in January to get ready for next year.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Can you feel the tension rising? Within a few short hours, which will quickly pass like a speeding bullet train, you and I will be immersed in a Jell-O mold of family members. We will gather around a table of thanksgiving with people to whom we are alledgedly related, but with whom, in our opinions, we share little resemblance.
Then we'll retire to the living room to watch football, sitting on the sofa next to snoring cousin Edgar, who has his hand tucked into the unbuttoned waistband of his pants. We'll find ourselves asking, "Who is this cousin Edgar? Where did he come from? How can I possibly share a genetic history with him?"
The scene is surreal, but survivable with a few nips of the Turkey Tamer (from Peterson's Holiday Helper by Valerie Peterson).
5 pieces candied ginger (each about 1/2 inch square)
2 ounces Wild Turkey (or other bourbon)
1 & 1/2 onces pear juice
While hiding in the pantry, place 4 pieces of candied ginger at the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add the bourbon and get all your pent-up holiday aggression out by mashing the heck out of the ginger. Fill the shaker with ice and add the pear juice. Shake until condensation has formed on the outside of the shaker and you feel no more irritation at Aunt Ellie's probing personal questions. Strain the mixture into a glass filled with fresh ice or, if you are feeling particularly desperate, drink the concoction straight from the cocktail shaker. Put the 5th piece of candied ginger on a toothpick for garnish.
As everyone's holiday experience is different, some readers may choose to skip all the above steps, save money on the ingredients, and just down a shot or two of the Turkey and return, refreshed, to host his or her guests.
We must remember to pace ourselves, however, since this is only the beginning of holiday mayhem. I recommend seeking aid and solace and a few spine straighteners, for those truly difficult days ahead, in your own copy of Peterson's Holiday Helper: Festive Pick-Me-Ups, Calm Me Downs & Handy Hints to Keep You in Good Spirits.
Combine Valerie Peterson's guide to capturing the blissful days of yore with a few chuckles from If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny, and you have a recipe for making memories, some of which you might not remember and some of which you will never forget.
Above all, have a Happy, Happy Thanksgiving filled with gratitude for all the blessings in your life, including snoring cousin Edgar.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
If you live in the Atlanta area:
From November 12 through 14, Star 94 listeners will meet some of the biggest “stars” of all – the patients at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta – during the seventh annual Star 94 Cares for Kids Radiothon, presented by ForestersÔ. Between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on November 12 and 13 and between 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on November 14, listeners will hear not only the voices of Star 94’s personalities, but also the courageous voices of the children and families whose lives have been touched by Children’s.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
[The sound of a record scratching.]
Oh crap, that sound gives away my age.
[Substitute it with the sound of a blue ray DVD cracking and a Prius putting on its breaks.]
I can feel time slipping through my hands like a rope in a tug-o-war contest. This morning my 12 year-old, right after I blew out the more than a hundred candles flaming on my makeshift breakfast birthday cake presented to me by my children, asked, "How old are you this year?"
"Twenty-seven," I said, solidly, my tone daring anyone to question it.
He dared. "Haven't you been 27 for like the last four years in a row?"
"Mama, you're so old it's contagious," he replied, as if orienting me to reality.
While the look of horror still masked my young, wrinkle-free face, my oldest son hunched over and started grabbing his throat, saying, "I'm aging, I'm aging," in a crackly voice.
I put my fingers in my ears and sang, Hmm-hm Birthday to me, Hmm-hm Birthday to me, Hmm hm hm hm hm hm hm, Hmm-hm Birthday to me.
They yanked that tug-o-war rope through my hands so hard, it ripped the happy right out of birthday.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Every girl wants to avoid the dreaded double chin. It's very unattractive.
Yet, for some reason, we tend to inflict it upon ourselves. The double chin trap is an easy one for many Southern Belles to fall into, particularly those of us lacking confidence in our own beauty, accomplishments, or station in life.
I have a remedy, however, for the double chin: Don't look down on other people. It's as simple as that. When a girl looks down on someone, it causes her to draw her head back and tilt it forward to get a good gaze down the bridge of her nose. This action squeezes unsightly loose skin between the neck and head forming a ghastly double chin.
TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: In the mirror, pretend that you are looking down on another person and observe what it does to your striking beauty. It's not attractive is it? Today is the day to start building yourself up by focusing on YOU, being the best you can be at whatever you've chosen in life, instead of concentrating on how you're better than someone else. Remember, pretty is as pretty does and pretty does not look down on others.
Monday, September 28, 2009
My oldest son is now 14 years-old and taller than me. I've resorted to making him sit down when I need to fuss at him. I can't stand looking up to give him the evil eye.
Anyway, like most teenagers, he has a quick temper with his siblings, who can aggravate him just by walking through the room. Usually his anger is accompanied by a sharp insult, such as, "You're a dork," or physical contact in the form of a near trip, or something similar.
But on one recent occasion, when his youngest brother completely blanked on the teen imposed rules, "Don't go in my room. Don't touch my stuff. Don't breathe the same oxygen I'm breathing," my maturing lad took a moment to give his irritating sibling a solid piece of advice:
"You've got to think, even if it hurts!"
A piece of advice he drove home with a firm planting of his knuckle on the smaller child's upper arm, leading the smaller one to wisely observe, "If it hurts worse than not thinking, I don't want to go there."
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I've recently been enlightened on the way boys think, when they think at all, which isn't so often. But when they bother to put the effort forth, they actually are very calculating about it.
Last Saturday, we had a long day trip in the car, so I told my children to take their backpacks and work on their homework during the ride. My 6th grade son sat in the back, right behind my seat, with his backpack open, books pulled out. I could hear him rustling papers and zipping his pencil case open and shut, sounds that assured me he was diligently completing the task at hand.
Or so I thought.
Monday, I received three e-mails (plus a fourth on Tuesday) from his teachers, telling me my child had failed to turn in his assigned weekend homework. How could this be? I saw him put his backpack in the car next to his seat. I heard him doing his work.
Well, you can bet I asked him for an explanation. "Did you lose your homework?" I questioned. He shook his head, No. "Did you leave it in your locker?" I interrogated. Again, he shook his head, No. "Were you afraid your answers were all wrong?" I continued, trying to get at the source of his negligence. Another head shake, No.
"Well what then?" I exasperatedly asked. "Did you just not do it?"
The look in eyes was all the response I needed. "What were you doing the whole time in the car then?" I exclaimed.
"Drawing pictures," he admitted.
"Drawing pictures! Why didn't you do your HOMEWORK!" I shouted. I know I shouldn't shout at my children, but it just happened. I couldn't stop it.
"I forgot to bring home the books I needed."
"So, why didn't you tell me that? Why did you wait for your teachers to e-mail for me to find that out?" I was still yelling.
Sheepishly, he replied, "Because I thought you would fuss at me."
Now, I know what you're thinking. It sounds like it sort of snowballed on him and he was just a kid being a kid; that he didn't have the ability to see into the future and weigh the consequences of his omission, that he was living in the moment, as children do, and the moment caught up with him.
I assure you, information has surfaced that tells me otherwise. Boys plot and plan these things. He knew exactly what he was doing. I am certain of this because I heard the following conversation between two boys in the 6th grade hall of my son's middle school:
Boy 1: I tell you, I've learned something, Buddy.
Boy 2: What's that?
Boy 1: The less stuff you tell your parents, the less trouble you get in.
And there you have it. Boys, when they bother to use their brains, bank on the risk of only getting in trouble on the back end, instead of owning up to their actions and risking getting in trouble on the front AND the backside.
I'm living proof that the boy approach works, because, although I raked my son over the coals, he only had to endure it in the aftermath. Where as, if he had told me of his predicament in the car, I would have chided him into a fetal position then and then again on Monday when I was reminded of it by his teachers.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
I feel like I entered a contest in which the mom with the most miles on her mini-van wins. And as I'm dropping kids off at one place then back tracking to pick kids up at another so that I can turn right back around, without taking a breath, to be late to let them out at their next activity and collect the ones (I've lost track of exactly which ones) previously dropped off, I hear a voice in my head singing, That's what you get for waking up in Vegas.
I don't know what Vegas has to do with any of this, except that perhaps I rolled the dice in my early twenties and this is how they came up in my forties. On the bright side, odds are I'm going to win the miles on the mini-van contest. Problem is, the jackpot isn't quite what I expected when I rolled the dice all those years ago: bald tires and an empty gas tank and kids in the backseat singing, Get up and shake the glitter off your clothes, now, at eardrum damaging volume.
Ah, so, things didn't turn out the way I pictured them, all cakes and ale, when I first gambled on the family track. Such is life. And I'd roll the dice the same way again, if I had the chance.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
I entered the lingerie store looking for underwear that wouldn't show pantie lines while also not sawing me in half, either. I exited the store with something akin to fashionable granny panties.
Fashionable was the salesgirl's word for them, not mine. It was her evasive counter attack to my shock and awe and utterance of the word granny. She also used fashionable to make me feel better about being 20 years older than her and too mature to wear a thong, something, I explained to her, I reserve for footwear only.
She just couldn't get over her own youth, as she wrapped my unmentionables in pink tissue paper and tucked them into one of the store's larger shopping bags with handles, so I wouldn't strain under the weight of the largess. So offended, by her insulting customer service, I wanted to throw down a hissy fit right there at the cash register . . . but I maintained my composure. She had already run my credit card.
The good thing is, however, I don't have pantie lines anymore. On the other hand, the bad thing is, I have granny lines now.
Makes me want to tuck my skirt in my panties and run.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I'm face to face and eye to eye with the start of school and it's winning the stare down contest. So I've resolved to wrap my head around obtaining the mountain of sundry school supplies required for my four children, which, these days, amounts to way more than pencils, scissors, and a bottle of glue. Binders alone are, at minimum, $5 a pop, and they all gotta have at least a hundred.
Standing in the store aisle, lined with miles of folders, notebooks, loose leaf paper, clips, clasps, and so on and so forth, saying, "No," to anything and everything with cute puppies, WWF wrestlers, and porches on the front cover, I suddenly think of the Trapper Keeper I always, always coveted as a school child.
My devastatingly practical mother answered all my pleas for a Trapper Keeper, which was synonymous with cool-kid-in-school, "Your teacher doesn't have that on your supply list." Of course not. She wanted to start out the year torturing her students, laying the groundwork for crowd control even before the first day of school.
Oh, heartbreak, to be relegated to the side of the classroom with kids whose mothers sent peanut butter balls rolled in wheat germ for a recess snack and made them carry spiral bound notebooks with plain grey cardboard covers to school in their satchels.
Pamela Anderson in her red Bay Watch bathing suit waves in front of my face, snapping me out of my reverie. "Can I have this folder, Mama? Pleeeaase?" I didn't even know Pamela Anderson was still in. But, I guess in middle school any pretty woman in a bathing suit is in, whether the boy knows her name or claim to fame or not.
I think about the Trapper Keeper I longed for but never had. I picture myself as a child standing in the store watching all those other kids' mothers put Trapper Keepers in their shopping carts. I look at my son, desperation in his eyes, and say, "No. Your teacher didn't put Pamela Anderson on your supply list."
Why? Because I have to trust the practical wisdom of my mother. I am who I am today, because I never had a Trapper Keeper.
Monday, August 10, 2009
How do YOU define balance?
That's the question the Inspirista wanted me to answer if I had any chance of being a guest on her Blog Talk Radio show. Specifically, her media inquiry read: Looking to interview fun, energetic females who have a message to share with a female audience. In your response, answer this question, How do YOU define balance? Put your name in the subject line.
Ughh, I thought, she'll never have me on her Girls Night Out radio show. I mean, for sure, I'm mostly, usually fun and I think other people would describe me as energetic, although I try not to strain my delicate self. But I doubt very seriously that MY definition of balance will pass muster:
Balance in life occurs at that moment when I suck in hard as the teeter-totter teeters back in the other direction and for that split second before pounding the ground of the other extreme is exactly, perfectly level; also defined as the ahhh moment before chaos is released like a pack of snarling foxhounds after a coyote, determined to rip it to shreds in a frenzy of barking and mayhem.
To me, the question is not how to define balance - we all know it when we see it - the question is how to achieve it on a more regular basis. How do we get our body to sit just right so that the teeter of the teeter-totter is delayed for more than a second? How do we keep the foxhounds penned and give the coyote more time to meander through fields of daisies.
Okay, coyotes in fields of daisies is a bit melodramatic, but you southern girls get my meaning.
Today's Assignment: 1) In your Book of Lists, define balance, using as many metaphors and similes for it as you can think up. 2) List your personal strategies for achieving it more often.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
So, my husband and I are sitting out on the deck of one of those cheap little Mexican restaurants, sharing a pitcher, bowls of bean dip and guac, and some some much needed uninterrupted conversation. Yet, even though it was much needed and, most importantly, uninterrupted, my ears started doing that thing they do when I'm out in public places: listening in on the conversations at other people's tables.
I can't help it. It's a genetic abnormality I inherited from my daddy, who finds himself leaned so far into other people's private dialogues in public places that he's practically sitting in their laps before their meal is over. While I like to think I'm more discreet than him, I do recognize that I have a problem.
As my husband's voice faded into the background noise of silverware clinking against plates and ice shifting in glasses and waiters and waitresses coming and going, my ears started to pick up the hum of couples and families and friends jabbering on about the normalcies of life and the drag of the daily grind. Eventually my ears, like satellite dishes, focused on two college age girls at a corner table discussing gastrointestinal reactions to various foods and beverages.
Naturally, over bean dip and green guacamole, this type of talk caught my attention. And then I heard the gem that keeps me tuning in while I'm dining out; the pay off simile, the simile of the day. The heavier girl of the pair shook her head back and forth and confided in the slimmer female, "I tell you what. I was so sick, I was pooping like a cow."
There is absolutely nothing that that simile leaves to the imagination, at least not for anyone who as ever seen cow poop or, for that matter, bean dip and guac.
Monday, July 27, 2009
I tell my youngest son to go take a bath and he panics like I keep our pet piranha in the tub.
"Why do I have to take a bath? I just took one yesterday," he wheedles.
Before I can tell him, "Because you're a boy. You were born with dirt under your fingernails," my husband supports me, saying, "You're dirty. You've been outside playing all day."
"But Mama's rule is two days," he insists, trying to be as compelling as a smudgy-faced, blond, sweaty boy can be. And I have to admit, I've probably misled him. I have let a kid here and there skip a bath.
But I jump in. "No," I say, "my rule is you take a bath when you need a bath. And, buddy, you need a bath. That's final. Look at your hands. Look at your fingernails."
He begs, "Can I please just wash my hands, then?"
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
My neighbor's dog persistently, but unsuccessfully, tried to retrieve a tennis ball, from the interior of what I dubbed The Ball of Insanity, its snout shoved deeply into one of several holes through which the tennis ball would not fit, even if the dog could open its mouth wide enough to grasp the tennis ball, which it can't. The only way to get the tennis ball is to crack the plastic outer ball in which it is encased.
"Y'all must not love your dog," I joked. "That's pure torture. It'll be chasing its tail in a week."
That night I lay awake, my eyes wide open staring into the darkness, listening to the creak of the off-balance ceiling fan. I scrolled down my visual image of my t0-do lists, paying particular attention to every item without a line drawn through it. I didn't pick up my husband's shirts from the dry cleaner (I was supposed to have done that on Monday), I still hadn't mended the hem of my daughter's dress, I blew off writing the thank you note to my sweet great-aunt (who I picture sitting at her mailbox night and day awaiting my correspondence), and I forgot to take the team drinks to my son's baseball practice. Plus there were three things from Sunday's to-do list, one from Friday's, and four from Monday's that I had moved over to today's and would again be moving to tomorrow's.
As my list grew to monstrous proportions within my sleepless head, my heart pounded like I was running from a dream-world faceless stranger. Suddenly, the voice of my father-in-law popped into my head, a remembrance of a frantic day when he asked me, "Exactly what will happen if you don't mark off those things on your list?"
Trying to cross off every item on my to-do list was like that dog trying to get that tennis ball out of the The Insanity Ball. It would never happen. But because I was so determined to draw lines through random projects like wash clothes, make grocery list, call dentist, clean off book shelf, wash out kitchen trash can . . . , I made myself a slave, I lost my courage to let things go.
I couldn't quit uselessly sticking my snout in that hole. The key to setting myself free from the Ball of Insanity, I decided was to find a way to be glad that I had things to put on a list, and to focus on everything I accomplished, rather than the stuff I didn't. So, I grabbed the flashlight out of the basket on my bedside table, opened my Book of Lists, wrote Done List at the top of a blank page, and began recording everything I had completed.
It started with minor stuff like organized the medicine cabinet, sorted the dirty laundry, found my lost earring. As I got into it, I couldn't stop. I wrote and wrote and soon I acknowledged that I had sewn a kilt for my son, cleaned out the garage, spent a week at the beach with my kids, told my husband I love him, talked on the phone with an old friend, and visited with my mama and daddy on their screened porch on a cool summer evening while the crickets sang their hearts out.
Good stuff. Important stuff.
Measuring myself by what I have left to-do is not as effective as measuring myself by what I have done. The Ball of Insanity will never release that tennis ball, but I can live without it.
TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Do I have to say it? Girl, get out your Book of Lists and write that Done List. It will set you free.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Driving through town with my kids a couple of weeks ago, my 11 year-old breaks the backseat bickering, by urgently addressing me. "Mama."
"What?" I answer, fearing he will report that someone has lost an eye and the fun has abruptly ended.
But, no, that was not it. "Why do hospital signs always have errrr on them?"
This question baffles me. "Errrr? What are you talking about?"
"Like on that billboard, there," he points. "It says errrr underneath the name of the hospital."
I look, trying to keep one eye on the road while I study the lettering on the large billboard. Then I ask the only question I can think of. "Do you mean the capital letters E-R?"
"Yes, ma'am," he answers, making the phonetic pronunciation again. "Errr."
"E-R, honey. Emergency Room." I give him a shrug and an inquisitive look in the rearview mirror.
He sheepishly says, "Errrrrr."
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Wherever you are, make it better.
My chosen bathroom book is a little hardback by Donna Smallin titled, The One-Minute Organizer Plain & Simple. I flip through looking for inspiration, even though most of the suggestions are things I will never, ever do, like taking pictures of my shoes and labeling my shoe boxes with them. But that doesn't mean my I'm not serious about my quest for organization. It is my obsession despite its slipperiness. So I skim through Smallin's book periodically, in hopes of finding a tidbit I haven't yet considered.
Because I sometimes get rewarded with an "A-ha!" moment. One that changes the way I view not just my personal possessions or my home, but the way I view my life. For example, one of her suggestions for staying organized once you get there (as if that is a destination where anyone stays for very long) is to never pass through a space without making it better or improving it somehow.
I tried it. As I passed through the kitchen, I took a dish out of the sink and put it in the dishwasher. Walking up the stairs I grabbed a belt thrown over the rail and put it away. Resting for a moment on the den sofa, I plumped the pillows. I started to feel like I was making a difference, if not a remarkable dent, in my clutter. It was reward enough, since my family had failed to notice.
And it hit me, while wiping the top of the dryer with a rag, that this wasn't just a method for finding satisfaction in my immediate surroundings. This was a method for living - to make a small improvement where ever I am. To put a misplace can on the correct shelf in the grocery store. To pick up a piece of trash off the sidewalk. To write a thank you note to the housekeeper who cleans my hotel room.
Isn't that how we picture ourselves, we southern belles, making grand entrances and exits, sweeping gracefully through rooms, changing the world as we go? And aren't we brave enough to do it, even if we have to actually sweep, even if we are not dressed in a flowing ball gown, and even if nobody notices?
TODAY"S ASSIGNMENT: Stop where you are right now. Do one thing to make it a better place.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
V - Validate others
I - Identify your inner matriarch
N - Never quit (just change your mind)
G - Go until you get there (then keep going)
F- Find you passion
E - Evolve
A - Act the part
R - Roll with it
L - Live every day
E - Enlist your friends
S - Smile
S - Seek Adventure
L - Lose the clutter
Y - Yes, you can!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
My daughter came into my bathroom while I was preparing myself for the day. "I can't find my toothbrush," she announced followed by a long pause, during which she looked at me inquiringly but never asked if I might know where she had misplaced it.
Finally, since I said nothing but, "Mm hmm," and continued applying creams and tonics to my aging skin, she asked, "Can you find yours?" as if all the oral hygiene products in our household had been absconded.
"Yes," I responded, "it's right here," and I held it up to show her.
Another long pause ensued accompanied again by an inquisitive expression.
"No," I firmly stated, "you can't use my toothbrush."
"Why not," she asked.
"I don't share my toothbrush," I said.
"That's not nice," she huffed and left, determined to work the art of her manipulative silence on her daddy.
Friday, June 5, 2009
I've been browsing at my favorite boutique, Target, and I am incredibly confused about product labeling:
Is "natural" the same as "green?" And do either of those equal "organic?" And are chickens the only things that can be "free range?"
For example, could the watermelon that I just bought out of the back of that old man's truck, which he swears he grew unhindered by fences or trellises or pruning, letting the vine find its own way, and that he promises me was grown without the use of pesticides or fertilizers, other than manure from Old Bessy (his cow), be marketed as a natural, green, organic, free range watermelon?
Or would that be redundant?
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Last night, we sat around the fire pit in the back yard watching our kids burn their school papers and workbooks. Yes, I know it may have sent the wrong message to let them wantonly celebrate the beginning of their summer by destroying the evidence of their education, but we were low on wood. Don't judge me.
Anyway, one of my 9 year-old son's friends, in the middle of tossing his science notebook onto the raging flames, announced, "Do you know what my goal is?"
Of course we all said, "What?"
"To be valedictorian of my senior class."
"Well that's quite an ambitious and worthy goal," I encouraged, knowing that he's fully capable of the achievement.
My son, of course, just had to reveal his lack of vision by asking, "What's a baledectrian?"
"The valedictorian," I corrected, "is the student who has earned the top grades over four years of high school or college. He gets recognized at his graduation and he gives a speech to the graduation guests and his fellow classmates. It's quite an honor," I explained. Then I gave him a chance to redeem himself. "So, do you have a goal?"
He thought for a minute, then said, "Yes. My goal is to be the prime meridian."
It was my turn to get clarification. "The what?"
"The prime meridian, the center of attention. I won't have to wait until graduation to get recognized or to get people to listen to what I have to say."
What can I say? At least he has a well thought-out goal. And he's fully capable of achieving it.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
For Mothers' Day, my husband and kids took me to see a University of Georgia baseball game at Foley Field in Athens. For my mom for Mothers' Day, we took my dad with us.
Instead of chocolate, flowers, and sparkling diamonds, I got general admission seats, serenaded with, "Take me out to the ballgame," and Diamond Dawgs.
On the way home, feeling like he had helped the kids plan the most successful Mothers' Day event of all time, my husband asked, "So, next year for Mothers' Day how about we get you a tube top and a push-up bra and take you to Talladega?"
"Sounds great," replied my dad.
And I'll go along with the sordid idea, too, if it includes another day of eating peanuts and saying to heck with the laundry.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Our school librarian received an urgent phone call right around lunch time on a Thursday. "Your house is on fire," the voice on the other end exclaimed. With that, she slammed down the receiver, grabbed her purse, ran to the office to announce her immediate departure, and flew down the hall out the doors to the parking lot.
I work in an elementary school and by nature it is filled with estrogen. So of course, it is a grand incubator of female behavior patterns. News of the disaster traveled quickly up and down the corridors, in and out of classrooms, until every teacher buzzed about it in hallways, beyond closed classroom doors.
As soon as she caught wind of it, one teacher ran out, hot on the librarian's heels, saying, "I can't let her be all alone when she sees the damage."
Another teacher, in response to the news, remarked, "Oh that is just terrible. But thank goodness it didn't happen at night when she was asleep."
A third colleague, teary eyed and weeping, said, "My students keep asking me why I'm crying. I told them it's because I'm so sad. I just called my burglar alarm company and made sure my fire alarm is connected to their system so that if my house catches on fire the firemen will get there fast. It's just so scary when you think about it. And I left my cat in the laundry room this morning. If my house did catch on fire, I worry about what would happen to my cat. I should put a note on my door when I leave home to let firefighters know to try to save my cat." She shed more tears and blew her nose and went on and on.
There is empathy. There is sympathy. Then there is downright thievery.
It's funny how the very women who shun thrift store fashions, are the same ones who crave hand-me-down drama. They latch on to another person's crisis and make it their own tear-filled, fate changing, woe is them, life altering meltdown. In essence, out of fear that they will never have their own perfect storm of attention demanding drama, they steal another woman's crisis right out from under her.
How to spot 'em:
Sympathizers: They keep a distance, and are known to give a pat on the hand accompanied by a platitude such as, "Dahlin', everythin' will be fine. You all will be just fine." Casseroles and hams often come with the reassurance and are used as a barrier between the sympathizer and the scene.
Empathizers: These women come to your house, clean it without judgement, and sit in the bathroom with you while you cry until the well runs dry. No empty words cross their lips. They don't just bring a meal, they dish it up and serve it to you to make sure you eat. Empathizers never fear your pain.
Thieves: These ladies pat your hand, bring a casserole, and take your tissues. Before long, they've got themselves so worked up about all the what ifs and how they narrowly escaped such and such, that you're comforting them with, "Sugah, it'll be alright. You hang in there."
Which one are you?
Think about it.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
My 9 year-old son plopped down beside me on the sofa this afternoon. I guess because we were deeply engrossed in the televised Master's Tournament, he felt like he could float one out there. I don't mean a smelly one like he normally floats. I mean one designed to catch his parents off guard.
"You know those chocolate rabbits y'all put in our Easter Baskets?" His question drifted into the airspace. I was only half paying attention, and his father didn't even know anyone else was standing alongside the fairway on the 10th hole in his imagination.
So again, "Hey, y'all know those chocolate rabbits you gave us?"
That time he got our attention. "I don't know what you're talking about," his daddy answered. "We didn't give you any chocolate rabbits," I replied. "Why would we, with all the candy the Easter Bunny brought?"
He ignored us and continued. "Well, they don't taste like real chocolate. I think the Easter Bunny must shop at Wal-mart, like y'all."
As he does with his normally smelly floaters, he dropped the bomb and promptly left the room.
And I'm left to wonder if it's sneaking suspicion or if he knows a thing or two about the Easter Bunny.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Although I'm old enough now to anticipate the general idea of what my paper fortune will say, I still love the surprise of pulling that slip from the crumbled cookie and reading, You have great mountains to climb and valleys to travel or Nothing is as precious as the voice of a friend or Seek your treasure in large portion.
But my fortunes, they are a changin'. I can tell by the way they end. In my twenties, I read my fortune aloud and tagged on in the bed. Reading, You will know your success by the sound of the cheers . . . in the bed or Let no insult take your pride . . . in the bed or A person's hands reveal his heart's intent . . . in the bed, makes twenty-somethings giggle.
In my thirties, with the arrival of children, I had to tame my wit. I ended manufactured fortunes with in the tub. Saying, Mind your own matters and let your neighbor mind his . . . in the tub or When the sky falls may your sun rise . . . in the tub or Avoid no opportunity for self-discovery . . . in the tub, makes pre-teens laugh and teenagers blush.
Aah, but now I'm in my forties and obligated to dress my age and cultivate wisdom, neither of which has stopped me from cracking open a cookie full of fortune. Some of my best lecture lines delivered to my children come out of Chinese cookies; probably because, these days, I attach an entirely new tag: in this recession. Announcing, Hot air makes balloons rise, but men fall . . . in this recession or The calling that has sounded will not be the last calling . . . in this recession or Bow to your foe with humility, but never close your eyes . . . in this recession, garners few chuckles.
It only shows my age . . . in the bed, in the tub, and in this recession.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Win One for a Mama You Love
If Mama Apron
Win One for Your Mama
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Oh to be young and carefree and bolder than is warranted by good common sense.
My brother-in-law and his wife, expecting their first baby, are celebrating Match Day today. After four years of medical school, he now has a residency to conquer. And med school seniors have a very special process for finding out where they will spend the next 2 years of their lives - Match Day. In a formal ceremony, after professors and other speakers have ceased speaking all their obligatory words of inspiration, they begin handing out white envelopes filled to the seal with destiny.
Each student, when his or her name is called, walks across the stage to retrieve the envelope designated as his or hers. Then the students makes what must seem like an even longer walk back across the stage, clutching mystery in a sweaty palm.
The Envelope Please.
The crisp, clean, white envelope contains the name of the city and hospital of each M.D. candidate's residency. With a rip and a tear, which they all swear is no reflection of their surgical precision, the mystery place is revealed, and life turns on a dime and shoots off in a different direction. And they find themselves free to lay down the burdens of one place to seek and find the thrills of another.
I want an envelope.
Frankly, I'm jealous. I want an envelope. I want that freedom to just go where someone told me to go, without ever having to make the decision myself. I want to go on an adventure that makes left turns and zig-zags to places I wouldn't have chosen for myself. I want to experience that emotion of change.
But, I'm a southern lady, and I well know the difference between foolish and fearless. It is foolish to believe that life would be any different somewhere else than it is right here. When the sport of it wore off, I'd have the same problems in a different place.
The quality of my life depends more on what I do with it than where I live it. (Although, admittedly, if I drew an envelope that took me from my southern home, I would probably try to rig my next draw to bring me home.)
Making my own Match Day.
That doesn't make my desire for venturesome behavior any less intense. So I stuffed some envelopes of my own. I put in slips of paper that say things like, "Go get ice cream," "Take the kids to a movie," "Have your nails done," "Take your husband on a date," "Day trip to the beach," etc. When I need a little fearless fun, I plan to pull an envelope and do whatever it says.
TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: In your Book of Lists, brainstorm a list of things you would like to do but rarely make time for or let yourself indulge in. Then write the ones you really like on slips of paper and seal them in envelopes. Keep your stack of stuffed envelopes in a safe place, and pull one whenever you feel like you're making too many right turns and you need a curve in your road. Commit yourself to going wherever the envelope sends you.
Friday, March 13, 2009
. . . failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was.
--J.K Rowling, June 5, 2008, Commencement Address to Harvard Graduating Class
I must have been about 12 years-old when my grandmother, Mama T, visiting us from Memphis, sat me down and said in her aristocratic drawl, "Lucy, I think it's time I told you about our heritage." A few years later, when she met one of my high school boyfriends, she calculatedly whispered loud enough for him to hear, "Tell me, who are his people?" She didn't want me shooting the fish at the bottom of the barrel, for certain.
My heritage includes American heroes, Civil War officers, powerful family matriarchs, n'er-do-wells, outlaws (by trade and by name), and some sorry s.o.b.'s, alike. My people are genteel, aristocratic, alcoholic, crazy, and proper as they come. Our background initiated Mama T and her female descendants into exclusive women's organizations like Junior League, Daughters of the American Revolution, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Colonial Dames, the local garden club, and the choice bridge group. She took exquisite pride in who we are and where we come from.
Like most southern ladies - like my grandmother - I learned to define myself by my name, my husband's occupation and income, who my daddy is, my home, my family history, my "stuff." Belles cling to these things like a lifeline and display them like neon letters on theater marquees, lest anyone mistake us for someone or something we are not.
Who are we, though, when these things fall apart, stripped away from us? Divorce, financial ruin, family scandal, downsizing - these things DON'T jive with our personal definitions. As J.K. Rowling told the Harvard graduates, ". . . we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it." And as we all know, the southern world, for all its sweetness and charm, gladly welcomes the drama of a failed Dixie diva. Front porch frequenters thrive on it.
But in these circumstances, we are forced to make a decision to drown in our sorrows or discover who we really are. We must, therefore, define ourselves, following three essential rules:
- Let go of the need to rely on breeding, history, or husband to tell the world just who you are. Those things are all fine and well, but they aren't the complete depth and breadth of us.
- NEVAH, NEVAH let other people decide for you.
- Be flexible. Change your definition as needed.
- Lucy, n. - A woman of great talent who is always happy, but never content.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
A dream I had the other night has plagued me ever since.
Somehow, I hemmed up a horse in a three sided enclosure. Brown and muscular, the horse anxiously pranced forward and backward. It pumped it's head up and down as if pulling on invisible reigns. It's smooth, sleek coat reflected light.
Seeing all of this, I knew I had to do something to keep this animal contained, so I slid a long board between the highest slats of two sides of the enclosure, fencing in the horse. Right as I secured the plank in place, to my great surprise the horse jumped over the right-hand side of the enclosure.
That's where the dream ended. But it didn't really end, because I've been continually questioning what the horse symbolizes, what I'm keeping in that needs to get out. Where is that horse going and why is it so anxious to get there?
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Living in a small southern town, I can rest assured that when life gets so chaotic that I don't know what I'm doing, if I'm coming or going, all I have to do is ask a neighbor. Around here, the neighborly motto is we make your business our business. I just hope they haven't heard something I don't want to hear.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Some romantic fool thought it would be a good idea to send me a list of Man Rules right before Valentine's Day. To show him how much I care about his feelings, I listened and responded.
The Man Rules
These are our rules!
Please note.. these are all numbered "1 "ON PURPOSE!
1. Men are NOT mind readers. (FIRST & FOREMOST RULE)
Or instruction manual readers or map readers or fashion magazine readers. That's why we have to tell you what to do and where to go and what to wear for the occasion. AND we're saying it all OUT LOUD, so when you feel like you're straining to read our minds, that's really you choosing not to listen.
1. Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.
We also don't hear you falling into the toilet in the middle of the night.
1. Sunday sports, it's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.
Ditto on PMS, another pair of shoes, a night out with the girls.
1. Crying is blackmail.
No, it's revenge.
1. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one: Subtle hints do not work! Strong hints do not work! Obvious hints do not work! Just say it!
We have told you, OUT LOUD, during every diamond commercial that we want diamonds, but you're never listening because you're straining to read our minds. Then you act bent out of shape when we're disappointed that you gave us another something that isn't forever.
1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.
Then why do you pout when we say, "No?"
1. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.
You have no idea how much our girlfriends sympathize with us.
1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become Null and void after 7 Days.
Usually, whatever you said 6 months ago, you also said yesterday, just in different words. Therefore, whatever you say or said will always be in the 7 day window. Thus, all evidence is admissible and you will be found guilty as charged. Case closed.
1. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us.
If you think we gave your ragged out, sweat stained St. Louis Cardinals hat to charity, we probably did. Don't ask us.
1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad, we meant the other way.
You meant the interpretation that makes us want to go Loraina Bobbitt on you? Wow. Thanks for the insight. We never would have guessed.
1. You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it , just do it yourself.
We're going to keep asking and telling, because there is nothing more satisfying than saying to our girlfriends, "Can you believe he really didn't know how to . . . ?"
1. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.
Why? Is that when you're at peak mind reading capability?
1. Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.
Christopher Columbus could, however, read the stars. You can't even read minds. You do need directions.
1. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.
Quit stressing. We're not going to test you on it.
1. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.
It's the itching, not the scratching, that concerns us.
1. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," we will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.
Don't ask what's wrong if you already know it's nothing, unless you're trying to turn it into something.
1. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.
If you give an answer and don't like our reaction, then expect us to say, "No," to your question.
1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine... Really.
When you tell us that, we know our relationship with you has gone on too long.
1. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as Football or Hockey.
When we can't take time to listen to you talk about football or hockey, you know your relationship with us has gone on too long.
1. You have enough clothes.
Can you quantify "enough?"
1. You have too many shoes.
You never say that when you're asking us to wear them to bed.
1. I am in shape. Round IS a shape!
Congratulations, you know a shape. Unfortunately, you're more like an amoeba, which is shapeless.
1. Thank you for reading this. Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight; but did you know men really don't mind that? It's like camping.
Then enjoy your vacation. And while you're there, don't forget to get me something nice for Valentine's Day; maybe something that is forever. That is not a hint. I am telling you I want diamonds. While my girlfriends sympathize with me, only you can solve my problem: I don't have enough diamonds. I will remind you of this during the next diamond commercial, when you have just returned to the sofa from using the restroom where you did not fall into the toilet.
Shall I go on, or do you think you've got it, now?
Next time you think I'm trying to get you to read my mind, don't hesitate to let me know.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Valentine's Day is next weekend and Dove chocolate has upped its ad saturation to push its new innovation on the candy bar: Three individually wrapped portions, "For now. For later. For much later."
Are they crazy? Who came up with this campaign? Obviously a man who doesn't understand the psychology behind chocolate.
Sure, we like to think we might save a little bit for later. And sometimes we even manage to do it, but never an entire third of the chocolate bar. Whatever we do re-wrap, planning to enjoy it at our next craving, nags at us. We know we've tucked it in our purse, or desk drawer, or behind the flour container in the pantry. We hear its sweet little voice calling out to us. We are powerless to resist.
The commercial should say: "For now. For in a minute. For a couple of minutes from then."
We get all the illusion of delay of gratification without any of the guilt associated with instant satisfaction.
That really speaks to my heart.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Things are bad, and according to Obama, they're going to get worse before they get better. Woe is us. Cash flow is low; job instability is high. Uncertainty prevails.
My husband and I have micro-analyzed our family budget, looking for even the smallest expenditures we can cut. At dinner the other night, we announced to our kids that we are having our cable turned off. They moaned. They griped. They groaned.
"Why?" they whined.
"Well y'all," I explained, "we've just got a bad economy right now."
"If you've got a bag of money," said the youngest, exasperatedly, "can't you use that to buy our TV shows?"
She understands what's happening about as well as the rest of us. And there truly is no use sitting around listening to pundits explain it or trying to decipher it ourselves. It is what it is, and somewhere in it is a fresh opportunity, a door waiting to be opened.
In the meantime, here's how I'm keeping up the fearless life in the face of darkening adversity:
1) I've decided to value making memories over purchasing products, substance over stuff, experiences over expenses. Instead of spending money, I'm spending time. A happy memory lasts a lot longer than the thrill over a new pair of shoes.
2) There is no guarantee that my job will last past May. My contract may or may not be renewed. No matter. I will continue to perform my duties to the very best of my ability. If the economy causes my position to be eliminated, I will walk away with my head high, knowing I couldn't have worked any harder.
3) I'm being honest with myself about the things over which I have control and the things I don't. In the past, God has used the chaos or confusion of a difficult situation to build me into a better person. I have faith that those things I can't control are in His hands. He will take care of me.
And maybe, somehow, some way, on the other side of all this, the bad economy really will turn into a bag of money.