Tuesday, December 30, 2008

You'd better resolve to...

This year I made a very long list of resolutions. I was so proud of myself. I had spent all year gathering them, noting areas that needed improvement and jotting them down in a notebook, sometimes several times a day.

Following this year’s list would make my life stress-free. There would be no grumpiness, no worries, just peace, love and joy year round. My house would run like a well-oiled machine. My floors would shine, my car would stay clean and full of gas, dinner would be served promptly when I got home from work. I really couldn’t wait for the New Year.

That is until my husband informed me I wasn’t allowed to make resolutions for him. As a matter of fact, he said he had his own set and picking up his socks was not at the top of it (or on it at all, actually). Furthermore, he had the nerve to say that resolutions began with “I,” not “You’d better.” And, to make matters worse, my children had the gall to ask, “What’s a resolution?”

What a let-down. To think I had worked so hard this year. Since I’m not one to be easily daunted, however, I sat down to revise my list. It just needs a dash of creativity, I thought.

See what you think of this version:

I resolve to disable the horn in my husband’s truck, so he can’t honk at me when I’m running late.

I resolve to put a basketball hoop around the clothes hamper to encourage its use.

I resolve to allow the kids to keep all of the money they find while cleaning out my car.

I resolve to put a television in the kitchen, so my husband will cook more.

I resolve to wash the whites with reds to see if real men do wear pink (and to find out how long they will before they breakdown and wash clothes themselves).

I resolve to place biohazard tape across the kids’ doors when their rooms need cleaning.

I resolve to hang a sign around our dog’s neck that says, “Please feed me, water me and walk me. This means you.”

I resolve to allow the kids to wear roller skates in the house, as long as they do it with a mop or broom in hand.

I resolve to let my family make a few resolutions for me, too. (But I don’t resolve to keep them!)

Happy New Year to you and yours. By the way, if you could make a resolution for someone, who and what would it be?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Until next year

The day after Christmas I opened the back door and tossed the tree out. Man, that’s a good feeling!

You know how some people take great pleasure in decorating the house and preparing for Christmas. Well, I take great pleasure in taking it all down. In fact, I found myself growing happier and happier with each ornament I packed away.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a great holiday, and I enjoyed it. Now bring on the New Year.

You see, while some people grow bored with their daily routine, I thrive on mine. I like to wake up at the same time (not too early), eat the same thing for lunch (baked potato), do the same work-out every day (free weights), and tuck the kids into bed at the same time every night (8:30). It just works for me.

My children, on the other hand, are already missing the excitement of it all. My son looked out the back door and asked, dismayed, “What’s the Christmas tree doing outside?”

I explained to him that it was over until next year.

“That’s okay; the next one is only 365 days away!” he said.

That’s quite a few potatoes, I thought. Maybe I should change it up this year. Live life on the edge a little more. Try some exotic dish, get up hours earlier to run, let the kids stay up to 9:00.

Nah! As my dad always said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Friday, December 26, 2008

The best Christmas gift ever

“This is the best Christmas ever,” my daughter proclaimed.

I couldn’t help but smile. She’s enthusiastically made this statement every year since she learned to talk. And, fortunately, so.

It was a good Christmas for me, too. As the kids grow older, they are more involved in choosing my gifts, which makes it more fun for me (no offense, honey). I never know what they think I can’t live without.

This year my son went shopping with my husband and came home strangely quiet. He’d smile and nod but volunteered no information about how they’d spent their day. This year’s present was going to be a good one; I could tell.

As I opened my gifts on Christmas Day, my son was too distracted with his own treasures to pay much attention to me. Eventually, he came over as I was slowly unwrapping and asked, “Did you open the one with diamonds yet?”

“With diamonds?” I asked excitedly, beginning to pick up the pace.

“Oops!” he said, as he clasped his hand over his mouth.

I tossed aside the gift I was unwrapping and ripped open his small package in anticipation.

Inside was the biggest, gaudiest, I mean, most beautiful, necklace that I’ve ever seen.

“It’s your birthstone,” he said of the huge bright purple piece of plastic. “And look at the diamonds. It’s covered in them.”

“Wow!” I said, impressed he knew my birthstone.

“Can you believe it only cost $25?”

“Are you sure it wasn’t $2,500 or $250?” I asked.

“No, ma’am. It was only $25! Can you believe it?” he asked proudly.

“Well, you really aren’t supposed to tell people how much their gifts cost,” I said, then seeing the disappointed look on his face, quickly added, “but I’m glad you told me. You are really a smart shopper, and I love it.”

My husband later told me that as they were checking out with my gift card, my son spotted the necklace and insisted I had to have it. The saleslady asked my husband if he needed a receipt, and he replied, "I don't think she'll be bringing it back."

He was right. I guess I could hide it in a drawer and pull it out for special occasions (like when my son asks about it), but I’m not. I plan to wear it as often as I can. I’ve worn it to the grocery store and the gym so far, although I must admit it’s raised a few eyebrows from other women. That’s okay. They may look at as $25 costume jewelry, but to me, it’s priceless.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It's not too late...

My son woke me up at 8:00 a.m. this morning.

"It's Christmas eve," he whispered.

I nodded, too sleepy to correct him by explaining that it is really Christmas eve day.

"Do you need any chores done?" he asked.

Apparently, he is still concerned about which list he is on. Looks like I may have a sparkling clean house after all, thanks to my little elves.

I'll let you know how he fares tomorrow. In the meantime, in case you're worried, Santa says it's not too late to make the nice list.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Why moms can't nap

My husband can nap as long as he likes, totally uninterrupted. In fact, if he is sleeping, the kids will tiptoe around, ever so carefully as not to wake him up. For example, one day, my son said in a hushed voice, “I need my shoes.”

“Well, go get them,” I said.

“But they’re in your bedroom.”

“Well, go get them.”

“But Daddy’s sleeping in there.”

“Well, go get them—quietly.”

I watched him as he peered into the dark bedroom as if it’s a cave and then made a quick dash for his shoes as if he were afraid of waking the sleeping bear inside.

Now to be fair, my husband’s really a nice guy, and I doubt he would yell at them if they woke him up. Of course, the kids make sure there is no opportunity to test that theory. It must be some kind of father/child rule. There’s even a board game about it called “Don’t Wake Daddy!”

Moms, however, are a different animal. After a wee late night with some friends followed by a way early morning cheering on my children at their sporting event, I decided I would try to take one of those naps that I had heard so much about recently. (It seems they boost your brain.) So, after trying twice, my research determined that it is physically impossible for moms to nap.

Here’s why:

As soon as you are on the verge of falling asleep, you will hear one or more of your children ask, “Where’s Mom?”

Then you will hear them call, “MOM!” as they frantically search the house.

You will shout, “I’m in here!” ten times.

The kids will run in, jump on the bed, and say, “We just wanted to know where you were.”

Next the phone will ring and ring and ring, and no one will answer it.

The phone will ring and ring and ring, and your kids will scream that they can’t find it.

The phone will ring and ring and ring, so you’ll get up, find it, answer it, and it will be your children. They are at the neighbor’s house and want to know if they can stay and play. It seems waking Mommy is always better than asking Daddy.

Someone you don’t want to see will appear at your door. Go ahead, pick a person. It works like magic. Usually, it’s the most gossipy person in the neighborhood, and she will look at the dirty dishes in the sink, then at you, then at her watch and ask, “I’m sorry. Were you sleeping?” Next thing you know the world thinks you have a drinking problem.

The dog will get loose and reek havoc on the neighborhood

The kids will walk in and ask you a question as if you were wide awake.

Wait a minute…Did they just ask for candy, Coke and ice cream again?

Your husband won’t be able to find any clean forks.

Every member of your family will come in and ask “What’s for dinner?” at separate times.

Your husband will decide to work on a project that you’ve been trying to get him to do for six months, and he will need your help ASAP. Warning, saying no could mean another six months.

The world will stop spinning and fall off its axis.

You will give in and go out and play with the kids. After all, there will be plenty of time to nap once they’ve up and gone.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Planning for the New Year

As I sit here with a stack of unmailed Christmas cards, I begin to plan our New Year’s get-together. I’m a big planner, you see. From the moment I wake up in the morning, I’m thinking ahead.

“What do you want for dinner?” I’ll ask my husband as I wash the breakfast dishes. He looks at me like I’m crazy, and he is probably right. If he were to suggest filet mignon, it would be undoubtedly end up being hot dogs.

I’ve often heard if you fail to plan; you plan to fail. I’m sure that’s true in most cases, but somehow my best laid plans never come to fruition. The closet doesn’t get cleaned, the steak doesn’t get thawed, and the next chapter in my book doesn’t get written. Yet, being the optimist that I am, I wake up each day with a new list in hand and a new plan for getting all of my daily goals accomplished.

Of course, as parents know, there are boo boo’s to be kissed, cookies to be baked, disputes to be refereed and board games to be played, all keeping us from our to-do list. And thankfully so.

I sometimes wonder, however, if the more we plan, the harder God laughs. I’m not saying he shouldn’t. If everything had gone to my plan, who knows where I would be now? Certainly some of the best parts of my life have been entirely unexpected.

Each day is definitely a lesson in humility. Yet, I still make daily lists and yearly resolutions. Who knows, maybe they will come true. If not, I’ll plan accordingly.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Catching the Christmas spirit

It finally happened.

After months of complaining, dreading, fighting, and ignoring it, the Christmas spirit finally hit me—hard.

We went to get our tree today. For years, we’ve gone and cut down our own. The farm we go to has bunnies, hot chocolate, a trail by a waterfall, ducks to feed and a gift shop full of door prizes (My son even won a gingerbread house once). But this year, it was cold, and I was tired, and I thought, maybe, we can just grab one at Wal-mart since I’ll be there for the third time in three days.

But, tradition persevered, and I am so glad it did.

“This is my favorite part,” said my son, as he and his sister searched for the perfect tree.

Watching them run excitedly, I felt my spirits lift a little and caught myself humming a Christmas carol. We soon got the tree home and decorated. The stockings were hung. We have lights on the mantle, the banister, the tree and outside our house. The kids are happy and on their best behavior.

I thought to myself, “I love Christmas. Why have I been dreading it?”

Our stocking holders spell out the word “Peace,” practically chosen because we have five in our family; however, this year, in these tumultuous times, the word seems to take on an even greater meaning. And despite the chaos of the season, of everyday life, of the economy, I am truly happy and wish this time of year could last just a little longer.

Merry Christmas and peace be with you. Now go pass it on before it's too late.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The best Christmas pageant ever

My children were in the best Christmas pageant ever, and, no, the Herdman’s weren’t involved (like in Barbara Robinson’s book). Although my oldest daughter once played the part of Imogene, the bossy, domineering cigar-smoking sister, who casts herself as Mary, so well people were afraid to talk to her after the play.

What made this play the best ever was my only part was to sit and watch and take lots of pictures. I didn’t have to lip sync an Elton John song with my children, like I did during the church talent show, or learn to sew by fire backstage, or figure out how to make Styrofoam look like candy, as I have in years past when my daughters were involved in community theater. This year, I got to sit back and be totally amazed at how well they all did.

My daughter played Scrooge, Jr. and my son, Joseph, for the second year in a row. I hope he isn’t being typecast. The kids in the play also spelled out Christmas, which reminded me of a play I was in during the 3rd grade. I was the letter “S,” and repeated my lines over and over in my mind, causing me to almost miss my turn, which is hard to do when you’re the last one. Why I didn’t just write it on the back of my cue card, I’ll never know.

I starred in a lot of plays growing up. I’m not bragging. Back then, the quieter you were, the more likely you were to get a meaty role. And, I know my friends now won’t believe it, but I was very shy and quiet in elementary school. So, putting me on stage in front of the entire school body was torturous. I’d had rather been stoned to death—no exaggeration.

The worst part was the plays were usually musicals. And, no surprise to my friends now, I can’t sing. Furthermore, unlike the folks on American Idol, I was painfully aware that I couldn’t. The worst was my solo of “When you wish upon star,” dressed like the Fox from Pinocchio. You could have heard a pin drop after my performance. That is until my mom and dad stood up and started cheering.

Looking back, I’m sure experiences like this were supposed to help bring me out of my shell, and, maybe, they did. Fortunately, my children enjoy the spotlight. And I don’t mind painting sets, curling hair, and selling popcorn during intermission--or standing up in the front row cheering them on. Because the one thing my acting career taught me is your parents are always your biggest fans.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Making a list...

I received this eclectic list in an e-mail from a friend with instructions to bold the things that I have done. What have you tried? Perhaps you can add one or two to your New Year’s resolution list.

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars (A tent counts, right?)
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world (That was why I couldn't afford what I gave to charity)
8. Climbed a mountain (See recent post on Blood Mtn. It's no Kilimanjaro, but...)
9. Held a praying mantis (And walking sticks and lizards and frogs--none by choice)
10. Sung a solo (This one wasn't by choice, either. "When you wish upon a star" in the 5th grade play. The selection was based on grade point average, not voice quality)
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea (Okay, it was really by lake.)
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables (Tomatoes, squash, peppers and goards--is that a veggie?)
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (Who me? cough, cough)
24. Built a snow fort (No, but we built a snowman that was over six feet tall.)
25. Held a lamb (How about petted one every year for seven years at the preschool's annual trip to the petting zoo?)
26. Gone skinny dipping (No comment)
27. Run a Marathon (Still trying to make it across the BBQ parking lot)
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice (I wanted to do this in Vegas but didn't, darn it!)
29. Seen a total eclipse (In elementary school. It was a very big deal. We made the little contraptions to look through.)
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset (More sets than rises. I still want to do an Easter sunrise service.)
31. Hit a home run (This will never, ever happen.)
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community (Good for them)
36. Taught myself a new language (Texting)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (I was seven, and my grandparents gave me a $100 bill.)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing (Indoors, but I'm counting it)
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke (I would like to sometime, if the memory of my solo ever fades.)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight (I may have staggered a little.)
46. Been transported in an ambulance (Why did that dog cross the road?)
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing (The day after a national Jamaican holiday; our guides were too hung over to care about helping us find fish.)
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (Does the one in Vegas count?)
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (It was fun as long as I had my life jacket within view.)
52. Kissed in the rain (Sadly, no)
53. Played in the mud (I grew up making mudpies.)
54. Gone to a drive-in theater (Mom and Dad would take me along as child. I'd sleep in the back while they watched the movie, in theory, anyway.)
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business (Does selling Mary Kay count?)
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies (Call me if you'd like some)
62. Gone whale watching (What??)
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma (Just blood. I did it for the cookies.)
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check (To the PTO, of all people. I was in the process of changing accounts. They didn't believe me, either.)
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (All of my Barbies, including kissing Barbie. My daughter won't go anywhere near them.)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar (Not as good as it sounds)
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades (What about the Okefenokee Swamp?)
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone (My son asked me today if anyone in our family had broken a bone. I said, "You aren't planning on being the first, are you?")
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle (Motorcycle, yes, speeding, I'm not sure)
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper (Growing up, I was in ads with my neighbor for the local dairy, even though I hated milk.)
85. Read the entire Bible (I'm ashamed to say, no)
86. Visited the White House (I would love to do this one.)
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (Are you kidding? I cooked deer meat once and got very sick just from smelling it.)
88. Had chickenpox (Guilty)
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury (Defendent was guilty, too; he actually wore the same thing in court that he did when he committed the crime.)
91. Met someone famous (James Garner and Mitch Gaylord. Gaylord was an Olympic gymnast who was in some movie. I think you've heard of Garner.)
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby (or two or three)
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone (How did we survive without them?)
99. Been stung by a bee (Numerous times walking barefoot through the clover as a child. I was also once stung on the lip while smelling a rose.)
100. Ridden an elephant (Did you know they have hairy backs? Check back--I'll try to find the photo to prove it.)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Have you seen my keys?

“Hi, my name is Leigh. I live in the house on the corner. You don’t happen to have a bottle and a diaper I could borrow, do you?”

This is they way I met my new neighbors seven years ago. I had locked myself out of the house with an infant and toddler in tow, not to mention a husband who was a state away at the time.

Ever since my dad tossed me my first set, keys have been the bane of my existence. I’ve been on the receiving end of many an argument regarding them.

As a teenager, I locked my keys in the car countless times. Why we didn’t have another set, I don’t know, but I used to dread making that phone call to my dad. Eventually, he got tired of coming to my rescue personally and began to send two guys who worked for him. Their names were Milt and Bones, and I was always glad to see them show up with a clothes hanger to jimmy the lock. They never fussed at me or made me feel silly. I guess because they were still on the clock, but, no matter, I will always be grateful to them for that. The only time I saw them shake their heads was the day I got my car stuck on a stump in my backyard. Although, I think they were silently impressed!

Either it must run in the family, or it is payback to me, because my daughter had the same issue when she turned 16. My husband could never understand my infinite patience with her, or why I would drop everything to run the extra set of keys to her. Apparently, he has never been in the “Key Club,” which caused me to wonder, “Is it only women who have this issue?”

I’ve heard story after story, and, yes, they’ve all been from females. I think it’s because we have so much on our plate--kids, work, dinner, errands. And, of course, at age 16--boys. I’m sure there are men who have locked themselves out. There has to be. Please, if you know of one, I would love to hear of it because my husband would squeeze down the chimney before he’d ever admitted it to me.

Which brings me to my latest key episode. Being the naturally sweet wife that I am, I started the car for my husband. Okay, I only do that, in part, so he’ll take the kids to school. Regardless, it was nice and toasty when he got in car and left. I decided to take advantage of the quiet time by taking a shower. I was almost in when I thought, “Did I lock the door?” Yes, Hitchcock’s Psycho made that much of an impression on me.

After I got out of my leisurely shower, I noticed my husband had returned from taking the kids to school and was still in the car. Hmmm…he must be listening to the engine run. Isn’t that what men do?

So, I continued to get dressed, checked my e-mail, did some laundry, put on my make-up. You know, stuff women do, when I heard the doorbell ring repeatedly. Uh oh, not good. I instantly remembered that the car’s key ring (for reasons unbeknownst to me) was missing a house key. I had locked my husband out in the cold. He forgave me but couldn’t understand why I locked the door in the first place. Apparently, only women do that, too.

I suppose I’ll be making a copy soon, but, in the meantime, I’m looking forward to the day when keys are obsolete. I’ll take a retinal scan any day. At least I can’t lock my eyes in the car. However, if I did, and Milt and Bones were still around, I bet they would jimmy them out, blow them off and put them right back into my head, somehow without managing to laugh.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Smile, you're on Candid Camera

I snapped this photo in Florida last year and discovered it again while searching for our Christmas card photo. It still brings a smile to my face.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Something to read while you wait...

You can tell a lot about doctors by their magazines. Unfortunately, it’s not all good.

I had an appointment at the dermatologist today. I was very impressed with their swanky new office, featuring computer check in, complimentary cappuccino and pagers that light up when the doctor is ready to see you. Having forgotten my book, I picked up a Reader’s Digest magazine and settled in with a steaming cup of Joe.

John Travolta was on the cover and inside was an article about how he stays up all night and sleeps during the day. I felt a little déjà vu. Hmm…somehow I already knew that, and it’s not because I’ve spent the night with him.

Next, I turned the page and saw an article on little known health facts. I knew them all and not because I’ve been to medical school. I flipped the magazine over; it was dated 2005--the last time I had been in to see that particular doctor. I couldn’t believe it; he had actually moved these outdated magazines. What a cheapskate!

I used to get so annoyed at my former OB/GYN’s selection. Nothing looks stranger than a waiting room full of pregnant women reading Golf, Fly Fishing and Sports Illustrated. Not exactly exciting reading for most women. Since it’s obvious he knew who his clientele was, one can only assumed he just didn’t care.

I really like my dentist, except my husband complains he charges too much. Perhaps it’s the copies of Travel, Gourmet and Sailing in his office that makes him feel this way. In my pediatrician’s office, all the magazines are in Spanish. I’m not sure what that says about him.

Of course, it’s really just as well. We all know that as soon as you find a good article and get half-way into it, your pager will go off just like mine did today. Oh, well, it looks like I may have to wait another three years to find out what the trends are in business attire for 2005.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Have yourself an edgy little Christmas

I’ve realized what it is about this time of year that makes me “edgy,” which is my husband’s word for b--, well, I’ll let you guess.

The period of time between Dec. 1 and Dec. 25 requires gift buying and wrapping, cookie making, party planning, light hanging, entertaining, scheduling, chorus-concert listening, tree selling, cutting and decorating, Christmas card sending, and, given the times, some penny pinching, all while doing the day to day things that must be done 365 days a year. It’s no wonder I’m bitc---, I mean, edgy.

The problem is I’m not naturally organized. Since I’m a writer, I guess I can say I’m “creative,” to explain the stacks of paper surrounding my desk, and, most of the year, I can get away with it.

But then Christmas rolls around, and I can no longer fool myself. Fortunately, the majority of people are none the wiser. I show up with freshly baked homemade rolls, my grandmother’s recipe, and they have no idea that I lost the recipe, drove to my mother’s, copied the recipe again, lost the recipe by the time I got home, found my recipe, and then had to go to the store a dozen times for the ingredients. Or that I actually gave up and let my husband bake the rolls. They just see Leigh showing up with the homemade rolls, and I am shamelessly happy to take the credit for it (unless my daughter is there to rat me out).

In my attempts at organization, I’ve tried shopping in advance, only to forget where I’ve stashed the presents. Perhaps the hardest thing for me, however, is the ye olde family Christmas card. Just getting the family together for the photo is extremely difficult and then, of course, there’s the mailing. I hate to use a stamp to mail something to my next door neighbor, but when I keep forgetting to take it over there…One of my friends sends Valentine cards in lieu of Christmas cards, which I think is a terrific idea that I just might steal. Either that or resort to photo shopping some of my family members into the picture.

But, ready or not, Christmas comes, and somehow the world doesn’t end, even if the cards show up on New Year’s, and we find surprise gifts hidden in the closet six months later. Truthfully, if we find a moment or two to remember the real reason for the season, then all is not lost.

But for now, I’m breaking out the egg nog. We only have 23 days left, and it’s time to take the edge off.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Remember M.E.

“Look, Mom, there’s your name,” my daughter said, pointing to a very small sticker in the right hand corner of the trail’s information board that read, “Remember Meredith; Remember M.E.”

We were standing at the bottom of Blood Mountain, about to hike 4,500 feet up the Appalachian Trail to the top. The sticker was a poignant reminder of someone who was already on my mind—Meredith Emerson—the 24-year-old UGA graduate who was murdered on the trail last year by a vagrant.

I recall her story vividly because not only did we share the same name, I was writing an article at the time about a hiking trip that our family took in an area only miles away. The Blood Mountain trail was extremely busy the day after Thanksgiving, as I imagine it was New Year’s Day when Meredith hiked. I could see how she would have no qualms about hiking alone with her dog, especially since she was trained in martial arts.

This was our first time hiking this particular trail, and it was quite a tough one for me. My legs were already sore from working out earlier in the week, and I wore way too many layers for the beautiful 65 degree day. But, I’m not complaining, each step up lead us closer to one of the prettiest views I’ve seen.

I must confess, however, if my kids were younger and more gullible, there were a couple of points 1,000 feet from the top where I would have declared we were at the summit. Of course, other hikers wouldn’t have allowed this, either. As we passed people making their way back down, each would offer a word of encouragement. We heard “You only have ten more minutes to the top!” so many times that my son finally declared, “That’s a long ten minutes!”

The closer we got, the faster the kids moved, causing me to believe they must be part Billy goat. Once we reached the top, we enjoyed the view, laughed at those ahead of us who had set up camp, explored a stone shelter house, robbed our Chex mix of M&M’s, and I remembered Meredith, saying a prayer for her family--and for my mine.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy trails

It’s that time of year again. We dedicate a day to stuffing ourselves with turkey, dressing, casseroles, cakes and pies. Then the next day, my family rolls out of bed at the crack of dawn, puts on our boots and hits the trail.

It’s our tradition to go hiking the day after Thanksgiving. I think it started, in part, to get me as far away from the stores as my husband possibly could. Regardless, hiking with kids, although it may sound daunting, is a lot of fun. Just be sure to bring plenty of Chex mix (and make it heavy on the M&M’s).

Since we’ve begun our yearly hikes, we’ve been blessed with beautiful fall weather. We’ve also discovered many great trails around Georgia, but our destination of choice is Amicalola Falls, located in the North Georgia mountains in the midst of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Eight miles of trails lead hikers to the base of Springer Mountain, which marks the start of the Appalachian Trail. We haven’t made it there yet.

My husband and his friend used to hike this state park when they were teenagers. In fact, his mother used to drop them off with a backpack, some matches, and a frozen steak for the weekend. I guess this was before the Nebraska safe haven law.

Amicalola is a Cherokee Indian word meaning “tumbling waters,” quite appropriate for the 729 foot waterfall--the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi. Leading up to the falls are many, many flights of stairs. We’ve climbed them all once, counting each step along the way—all 425 of them.

And it was well-worth the effort. On top of the mountain is a beautiful lodge, and inside that lodge is a mouthwatering buffet, featuring all of our Thanksgiving favorites. Fortunately, we always stay the night, so we can spend the next day working it all off again.

Happy Thanksgiving and happy trails, y’all!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mrs. Clean

I’m not a neat-nick by any means. I can leave the dinner dishes in the sink and sleep just fine (albeit I may regret it the next morning). I can go for weeks ignoring the toothpaste on the counter. I can walk by the same pair of shoes left by the door day after day, until, suddenly, it hits—a cleaning fit.

I never know from whence it comes, but once it strikes, I’m at its mercy. My family must be able to see it in my eyes when I wake up in one of these moods. It usually starts at the breakfast table.

“We are getting this house cleaned today,” I say.

Silence. I can imagine the glances they are giving each other when I’m not looking.

“I mean it!” I say, which is always followed by frantic eating.

Then I get up from the table and pull out the Clorox, which leads to panicked looks in their eyes, causing my husband to declare that he has some important work in the garage to do. In fact, anytime I want the garage cleaned, I should just pull out the Clorox.

Of course, since I’m not raising any fools, my kids quickly say, “We’re going to help Dad!”

Then they are all out the door before I can pull out my scrub brush. Of course, I don’t blame them one bit. During these fits, I cannot rest until the house is cleaned from top to bottom. And when I clean, I clean vigoursly. In fact, today I actually hurt my knee cleaning out the bathtub—don’t ask.

Some of my neighbors have maids. I had a maid once—I mean it literally—once. It was too much trouble trying to clean up for her first. Plus she missed a few spots.

So, it's just me and my cleaning fits. During these times, my kids will innocently ask, “Are we having company?”

They have a point. I should invite everyone I know to come over and see because, unfortunately, when these spurts leave, they are gone.

And I’m left with the satisfaction that although I may not wash a dish or a stitch of clothes tomorrow, today my house is clean. Sorry, you missed it!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Say "cheese"

A friend stumbled across a photographer’s Web site and pointed out his guidelines for family portraits. One of them was “Don’t argue the night before.”

“What about the day of? Or, even better, while you are getting your portraits made?” I asked, because I’ve done all three.

It’s not easy to get a family of five, dressed and smiling in front of a camera, especially when only one out of five wants to be there. Fortunately, our church updates its directory every three years or so, or there would be no family portraits.

I don’t blame my family too much for grumbling. You see, I was very ambitious in the every years when it came to color-coordinating. One year, I made my daughters wear matching plaid monogrammed dresses and hairbows, even though they are eight years apart. Even worse, I wore a plaid skirt and dressed my son (too little to protest) in a matching romper. My husband took one look at us and asked if he was supposed to wear a kilt. Okay, so, it was funny, just not at the time!

After our photo session, I dragged the gang to dinner, where an excited woman rushed over and thrust a catalog into my hand. It was filled with photos of 30-something-year-old mothers wearing dresses that matched their 10-year-old daughters. And the majority of their outfits were plaid from pastel to primary colors.

“I’m a sales rep. for mother/daughter wear. Please call me,” she said. I tried to explain that we don’t normally dress this way, but I don’t think she heard me over the laughter from my family.

Growing up, we had our family “portraits” taken at the local county fair. Dad would comb his hair, and we would all climb up into the little trailer belonging to the same photographer couple. Year after year, they would snap our Polaroid, and we would excitedly wait for it to develop. You see, we couldn’t ride any rides until we had a photo taken. You never heard my sister and I complain about having our picture made.

We never planned our wardrobe, either. That’s evident because Dad wears the same shirt several years in a row. Nevertheless, it’s a moment in time (10 years worth, in fact), and that is priceless.

Over the years, I’ve relaxed my standards. As long as we are wearing clean clothes and have our teeth brushed, I’m okay. I’m just thankful we can be together long enough to have our photo made. And maybe one day, they will be, too, even if it’s just to laugh at the crazy things their mom made them wear.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bond, James Bond

Bond, James Bond…My husband and I and some friends went to see the new 007 flick, Quantum of Solace, yesterday and enjoyed it immensely. Lots of action for the guys, and, for the ladies, well, there’s Daniel Craig. Need I say more?

I didn’t think it was quite as good as last year’s Casino Royale. Of course, I missed the ending to that movie—twice. The first time I drank a movie-theater large Coke, and being female and unable to wait a moment longer, I dashed out to the bathroom, and returned to find everyone leaving. I had missed it.

You can count on my husband to never divulge the ending of a movie, which is great if you don’t want to know, but I did. He hinted around to it, gave me a few scenarios, which I didn’t believe, and finally said I would just have to wait until it came out on DVD. So, I pouted, then forgot about it until a few days ago when we rented it. I watched the entire movie and then somehow, ten minutes before it was over, I fell asleep. I awoke from my cat nap to see the credits playing. I had missed it again.

All I could get out of my husband this time was “She died,” referring to Bond’s love interest, Vesper. Fortunately, seeing the confused look on my face, he relented and filled me in during the opening scene of Quantum of Solace. Otherwise, I would have been lost but not disappointed. Did I mention Daniel Craig?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cute kids' quotes

My son polished off a can of Sprite and said, “We need to take this to school. We are collecting cans for Thanksgiving.”

As I explained to him that they meant cans full of food, I thought about some of the other cute things he and his sisters have said. Fortunately, I wrote down a few; otherwise, I’m sad to say, I would not remember, no matter how unforgettable they seem at the time.

Here are a few of my notes:

  • Things you only hear from little boys … Scrambled eggs and sausage … My son just finished his breakfast of scrambled eggs and sausage, threw his plate away, and proudly exclaimed, “I can put my fork back in the drawer. I didn’t even use it.”
  • My daughter was singing the song “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog” at the top of her lungs. Only her version sounded like this: “If I were the king of the word, I tell you what I’d do; I’d throw away the cars and the bars and make ‘sweet tea’ with you.”
  • My son said his teacher asked him to write a letter to someone asking them a question. We asked who his teacher told him to write to. He said, “I didn’t know her, but her name was Dear Abby.”
  • After Halloween, my son observed, “The more men eat, the more hair they lose.”
“Really?” I said. “Who told you that?”

“No one,” he said. “I just noticed that most bald-headed men have fat bellies.”

  • My son has a stuffed pig that I use as a pillow while I read him a story. Tonight he said, “Mama, you are lying on the wrong side.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You are lying on its ‘rare’ end.”

  • My all time favorite thing that my oldest daughter, who is now in college, said when she was three is “I smell McDonald’s French fries!” I didn’t have the heart to tell her at the time that we were driving past a dog food factory, not the golden arches. We've had a great many laughs about it since, however.
It's interesting how some expressions kids use stick. For instance, my daughter used to say "Bednight" until my neighbor told her last New Year's that it was actually "Midnight."

My son has always said, "Sweet, home, sweet," instead of "Home, sweet, home." I haven't corrected him to this day. In fact, I use it whenever we pull in the driveway after a long trip.

Can you still remember the funny things your kids have said? If so, please post, or, at least, write them down somewhere--before "Bednight" strikes, and you forget.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wide world of boys

Soccer, baseball, football…Wide world of boys. I’m raising my first, and everyday is a new but fun adventure.

I came home from work yesterday, and my son was waiting outside with a football. It never occurred to me that he was waiting for me until later when he said, “You never play catch with me.

“That’s because I can’t catch or throw,” I explained.

You see, I wasn’t a tomboy growing up. I didn’t have any brothers. I did tap dance, ballet, cheerleading, and my favorite, baton. I took art lessons, and I loved books.

To my defense, I wasn’t a “hot house” child, either. I also water skied, played in the woods, and later learned to lift weights. But when it came to ballgames, I used to infuriate the boys next door by going inside to read, leaving them with unequal teams.

When I was in the seventh grade, we were required to play softball. The outfield would move in the minute I got up to bat.

How insulting! I thought one day. I’ll show them.

So, I swung as hard as I could, determined to make it to at least second base. The ball took off like a rocket, hitting the pitcher, a boy named Will, in a very bad spot. He went down like he’d been shot. And didn’t get up for a long, long time. I graduated from high school with him and swear the boy never forgave me. Let’s just say, I was very relived when I got a birth announcement from Will and his wife a few years ago.

When my son was five, I felt like he wasn’t getting enough baseball practice, so frustrated with my husband, I took over. Our lesson was going great until I stupidly decided to let him pitch to me. He threw a perfect pitch, I swung, and the ball hit him right in the eye, knocking him flat on his back. It was horrific. I scooped him up and ran inside to get an ice pack. Fortunately, he was fine and enjoyed telling everyone within earshot for weeks afterward how mommy gave him a black eye.

Last night, as my son promised to give me my first lesson in football, we reminisced about my almost killing him with the baseball. He said, “I remember that day. It was the only time you let me eat a popsicle in the living room.”

As his interest in sports grows, I’m sure it won’t be the last—not if his mom has anything to do with it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

It's beginning to look too much like Christmas

My family and I rode through our court square last night. The kids ooed and aahed at the Christmas lights and then proceeded to tell me everything they wanted Santa to bring.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “We haven’t even had Thanksgiving. In fact, it’s not even Veteran’s Day. Why are these lights on?”

I promise I’m not a Scrooge. I love Christmas--when it’s Christmas. I guess it’s the way I was raised. Growing up, we got our tree the week before Christmas. Actually, it was usually the Sunday before Christmas, so if Christmas fell on Wed., we got to enjoy it for four whole days. I’m not complaining. We loved it, and now that I’m an adult, I can certainly appreciate the simplicity of it.

Needless to say, the week before Christmas was a busy one. Mom made the most delicious homemade fudge. My sister and I would wake up and go to sleep with sound of her stirring the pot. We had a spare room that was kept closed off from the heat of the wood burning stove. We called it the cold room (or the hot room in the summer), and mother used that room to cool the hot pans of fudge. Our job was to lick the bowl and metal spoon after each batch and occasionally relive Mom’s arm by stirring.

I’m ashamed to admit that if it were up to me and my arm, I would probably only give a batch to a few select people. But not Mom, she was (and is) amazingly generous. We gave fudge to everyone we knew. I can even remember putting a pan in the mailbox for the mailman. (Does anyone give the mailman a gift anymore?)

My dad was not a big fan of Christmas carols, or, perhaps, our singing voices, I’m not sure which. Either way, we were only allowed to sing carols on Christmas morning as we drove to my grandmother’s house. We could sing them as loudly as we wanted that day, as long as it wasn’t “Little Drummer Boy.” Dad hated that one, and, I must say, it’s not my favorite now, either.

Christmas night we would ride around and look at lights. Then we would come home the next day, take our tree down and play with the boxes that our toys came in. That’s it. No, two or three months of build up, no listening to radio stations with endless Christmas carols, no time to add more and more items to the Christmas list. Just a week of giving, love, excitement and the smell of fudge.

And if the desire for that makes me a Scrooge, then bah humbug!

Friday, November 7, 2008

A wrinkle in time

I woke up with my first wrinkle this morning.

It was a very shocking occurrence because I know it definitely was not there last night. I stumbled out of bed, went to wash my face, glanced up into the mirror and there it was. Not a fine line, mind you, but a full wrinkle, with some depth to it, too.

At first, I thought maybe it was just a line from where I slept, one that will go away. I checked back 30 minutes later. No, it’s still there. An hour later, yep, still there.

What was I dreaming about last night to cause this? I thought.

Two hours later…okay, we have to destroy all the mirrors. Of course, I exaggerate—a little.

Now, I fully realize that there are FAR worse things to wake up to. I have a long list of things that I’m thankful for, including the health of my family. And I’m sure in ten years, I’ll have gained some perspective and will say something about the lines around my mouth reminding me of all the laughs I’ve had through the years.

But, for today, I’d like to just go back to bed. I need to rest up. I’m expecting my first gray hair tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I voted. How about you?

Having voted early, I spent Election Day shopping with my daughter. As we browsed the sales rack of the department store, I noticed that a girl I knew from high school worked there. I started to say hi, but just then she and her co-worker began bragging loudly about being unregistered voters. They were so proud they even gave each other high fives.

I wanted to cover my daughter’s ears. Imagine all the elections they have missed, not just presidential ones, but local ones as well. Do they care if our county adds a one percent sales tax, or if we can drink alcohol in restaurants on Sundays? Obviously not.

And why aren’t they registered?

It seems they haven’t had time. Now, since I graduated with one of the women, I know exactly how long it’s been since she turned 18. Let’s suffice it to say that she’s had PLENTY of time to register.

Their second excuse? They didn’t want to be called for jury duty. Are these people that important that they can’t serve on a jury if called? I have only been called once and was more than happy to do my part in convicting a known drug dealer.

Right or wrong, for better or worse, at least I vote. And that is something to brag about at the next high school reunion.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Day humor

It’s the night before the big presidential election. And, fittingly, enough I am watching Saturday Night Live’s Presidential Bash. If you think the show picks on your favorite politician, just watch the clips dating back to the Nixon and Carter eras, and you’ll know they have been an equal opportunity offender through the years.

And, good for them. If we didn’t find the humor in this madness, where would we be?

We have been inundated with increasingly negative television ads. The battle between Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin for U.S. Senate here in Georgia has reached fever pitch. I keep waiting for one of them to say, “Oh, yeah, and your grandma wears combat boots!”

Not to mention the phone calls. As someone who is on the “Do not call” list, I have a big problem with candidates and their friends calling my home at all hours. During dinner tonight, Hank Williams, Jr., left a message telling me to vote for McCain. I couldn’t help but listen to that one.

Although I’m not sure if my 18-year-old daughter will make it to the polls, my elementary school-aged son sure is excited. He told me that he persuaded his buddy to vote for our preferred candidate, telling him all the negative things his opponent would do, such as raising taxes. Apparently, those commercials work.

Fortunately, my son’s teacher has taken advantage of this historic moment. He comes home each day with a little known presidential fact that he has learned. Do you know which president got stuck in the White House bathtub? (Answer: our heaviest, William Howard Taft)

Do you know the story behind Teddy Roosevelt and the Teddy Bear? (Teddy refused to shoot a bear cub that his dogs cornered during a hunting trip. The story was published in a cartoon, and he was later asked to lend his name to a toy bear, hence the teddy bear.)

Did you know that the first female reporter to interview a president sat on his clothes while he skinny dipped in order to do so? (Anne Royall was the journalist and John Quincy Adams the president)

One day my son declared that if our preferred candidate’s name was James, he’d have a better chance of becoming president. It seems we have had five James’. Maybe he has a point.

Only time will tell how the election will turn out. Either way, let’s look for the good and find the humor where we can. If all else fails, our candidate can change his name to James and try again in four more years.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hair, hair, everywhere

The things we women do to be beautiful. I’m not a frou frou girl, by any means. I don’t do my nails, no facials or hours at the spa, but my hair, that is another matter. Through the years, I have had every hair style imaginable. From Farrah Fawcett to Dorothy Hamill to Katie Couric to Kelly Ripa, I’ve copied them all. And now, along with the rest of the nation, I boast Sarah Palin side-swept bangs.

I’ve gone from spiral perms to a straightening rod. And I won’t even mention the products that I use. Today I spent two hours and 15 minutes with my head wrapped in aluminum foil, so I could look “natural.” My hair has now been hand painted. Every 4th strand is blonde, and I must admit, it’s beautiful.

Yet, sometimes, I can’t help but ask, “Who are we doing this for?” I mean, do men ever comment on it other than to ask, “How much did that cost?” If he does, ladies, he is a keeper—or gay. You decide.

Changes in style can lead to changes in hairdressers, but only a few. Although most women dream of greener pastures, they are reluctant to change. Running into your old hairdresser with a fresh new do is just too awkward. I mean, how do you explain it? Not to mention the guilt!

Fortunately for me, my hairdresser is also a good friend of mine. She tells me when I need a cut, when I should change my color, and when I should just trust her. It works out great—as long as I am not late for an appointment. Otherwise, all bets are off.

Monday, October 27, 2008

God's speed, beloved trees

It’s a sad day for my home town. The big water oak trees that have provided shade for our court square for over 100 years are being chopped down. The arborists proclaim that they are dangerous, said they are a threat to the sidewalk and possibly folks passing by should a limb fall. The experts say the oaks are at the end of their natural life, so the local powers-that-be are doing what people are apt to do when that time approaches—get rid of them.

These majestic trees have faithfully guarded each corner of our 1904 courthouse, witnessing it become a hospital for Civil War soldiers, watching the streets change from dirt roads to paved, overseeing murder trials, and swaying in the wind as generations of citizens played checkers under its branches.

Today, my children and I are mourning the trees untimely demise. My kids loved playing under them after we had dinner on the square. Our favorite tree had a knoll that looked like a face—it was the first to go. By the end of the week, they’ll all be gone.

My children said they wanted to start a petition, but, honestly, there’s not enough time. I thought of chaining myself to one of the trees, like I’ve read about what I considered crazy people doing. Of course, that’s not practical, but now I see those people aren’t so crazy after all. I guess all that's left to say is God's speed, beloved trees.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rip Van Winkle

“Mom, look at the Christmas tree!” my son exclaimed as we walked into a store lobby today. I felt like Rip Van Winkle. Did I sleep through Halloween and Thanksgiving?

I understand that retailers are encouraging an early shopping season. I suppose the theory is to get people to spend what little money they have now before the economy takes a nose dive. Maybe all the decorations work on some people, but it makes me feel anxious and want to stay far, far away from stores full of frantic shoppers.

I’m not an early shopper anyway, although I do admit I’ve picked up a few things already. Where I’ve put them is another matter, however. My theory is we should forget spending all of our money on items from China that we don’t really need. If things get that bad, we just have to get creative.

Goodness knows, I’ve been there before. One Christmas I re-gifted all my childhood stuffed animals and dolls to my daughter. She was the first (and only one) of her friends to receive an original Cabbage Patch doll and Miss Piggy puppet. Fortunately, my mom had gotten rid of my Betsy Wetsy.

Another Christmas, while I was in college with very little money, I carefully picked out gifts for my family. They were quite delighted and made a fuss over each present, telling me what a great job I did choosing it. I was so pleased with myself that I blurted, “Can you believe I got them all at the Dollar Store?”

They dropped them like hot potatoes. So much for it’s the thought that counts.

Seriously, though, I hate to see retailers rush the season. Thanksgiving doesn’t even get a nod anymore, which is a shame because it’s really the best holiday. Family, food, football, parades and no silly gift exchange.

Forget Santa. Maybe we should go back to sleep and wake up in, say, March. You know, come to think of it, St. Patrick's Day isn't such a bad holiday.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dealing with dumbbells

I walked into the gym today and saw a wimpy, skinny guy, trying hard to stick out his chest. Nothing unusual, it is a gym, right? Well, he was telling a very muscular, obviously physically-fit woman what exercises she should be doing.

What’s wrong with this picture? I thought.

To her credit, she put down her 35 lb. dumbbells, smiled and nodded politely. Seemingly satisfied, the young man moved on. I couldn’t help but wonder why do men feel they can approach women and give them unsolicited advice in the gym? Is it too much testosterone? Are they flirting? Or are they really just trying to be helpful?

I grew up a “gym-rat,” surrounded by “weight-woosters” (my baby talk for weightlifters) since before I was old enough to walk. With an Olympic weightlifter for a father, even our family vacations centered around weightlifting meets. I started training at a young age and am by no means an expert, but I can spot a phony, male or female, a mile away, in the gym.

At the local YMCA, there was a guy who continually advised women on what exercises they should be doing, and some of them looked pretty strange. Ladies, if it feels unnatural, it probably is.

When I was eight months pregnant, this same guy approached me and told me about some shoulder exercises that I could do. Was he serious? That’s the last body part pregnant women care about. Finally, enough women complained about his “helpfulness” that he was banned for life from the Y. We later found out he belonged to several gyms and portrayed himself as a guru to many, many women around town.

I can see why women are drawn to ladies’ only gyms. As for myself, I have joined a gym in which the medium age is 75 years. Those men may actually have some advice worth hearing, but they are smart enough to keep it to themselves.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tennis, anyone?

My introduction to tennis began when I was asked to model a tennis skirt in a charity fashion show despite the fact that I had never held a racquet. I was so smitten with the look that I bought the entire ensemble that day and immediately arranged for lessons, so I would have a place to wear it.

Flash forward 15 years, and I am still playing. I love the sport. The only problem is I am at approximately the same level--C--which is average in school and average on the court. I actually worked my way up to B once, then unable to master the drop shot, sat out two seasons, so I could drop back down to my comfort level.

In my own defense, I haven’t played 15 years straight. I’ve done my share of starting and stopping, learning to dread it when a teammate asks, “So, how long have you been playing?”

I can just about chronicle my adult life by my tennis teams. The first was a young party crowd. We celebrated every point with a sip of champagne and topped off every match, win or lose, with a trip to the bar. And that was a Sunday women’s league.

I later played to the tune of eight months pregnant, sporting maternity shorts in place of my once cute tennis outfits. I knew I was addicted to tennis when I didn’t divulge to my ob/gyn that I was playing, justifying it with the fact that doctors recommend continuing the activities that you’ve been doing.

I think the doctor suspected, however, because, with my due date fast approaching, she said, “If you are doing something you shouldn’t be, now’s a good time to stop, unless you want to have this baby early!” She must have seen me on the court. With her warning ringing in my ears, I played my last pregnant match, defeating a younger, fitter team, much to their shock and horror. Then I celebrated with a banana split.

When I was a stay-at-home mom, I found a great team. We hired sitters for our children, arranged play dates, luncheons, tennis socials and practiced at least three days a week. Oh, those were the days.

In time, I realized these women considered tennis to be a job, not a hobby. The team increasingly questioned how much time I spent on the court. They even got mad at me because I opted to accompany my son on a kindergarten field trip instead of practicing. Sigh, it was time to bow out for awhile.

The inspiring fact about tennis, however, is that it is a lifelong sport. I once played doubles against a mother/daughter team—the daughter was 60. She wore support hose and stood in the same spot the entire match, strategically placing her shots. The mother was a chain smoker who kept a lit cigarette on the court. They kicked our butts.

Now my daughter is taking lessons and doing quite well. She’s even learning the ever elusive drop shot. I think it’s time for me to get back on the courts, and fast. Perhaps she and I will be the next mother/daughter team, minus the support hose. After all, ultimately it is all about the outfits!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Growing up Green

Despite the fact that I have an English degree, I find myself using expressions that I’m not sure exist. I think it’s because I grew up Green. No, I don’t mean environmentally conscious, although we did dry our clothes on the line. I remember because taking them on and off was my chore, which I didn’t mind until a pop up thunderstorm came, which was practically every afternoon in Georgia. Then I had to run out with the basket and rip the clothes off the line as the thunder clapped, and the first big raindrops began to fall.

But I digress…No, Green is my maiden name, and there are times, usually when I’m tired or annoyed, when crazy words slip from my tongue. My husband has coined these “Greenisms.”

Growing up, if something unlucky happened such as the car breaking down, my dad proclaimed the whole lot of us “snakebit,” and, believe me, with the clunkers we drove, that happened a lot. Broken toys and things we no longer needed ended up in something called the “sump hole,” which I pictured as a big, black, gurgling hole of ooze. Later, I realized it was just the dump.

Whether you call these expressions Greenisms or Southernisms, they are a part of me. And there is no denying them. Recently, when we were on a trip, my husband asked if he could have a sip of my water.

“It’s from the spicket (or is it spigot?)” I replied, referring to the bottle I filled from the hotel sink.

Good heavens, I thought, horrified, could I sound any more country?

Later, someone ran into me on the crowded street, and roughly said, “Excuse me,” to which I promptly replied, “More to you!”

Where did that one come from?

Perhaps my favorite Southern expression is one I learned from a lawyer friend. She was in court in my hometown, standing in the large courtroom surrounded by walls adorned with portraits of great Southern men. The judge looked down at her and said, “Own yew.” She looked around, perplexed.

“I said, own yew!”

Finally it dawned on her, he was saying, “On you,” meaning it was her turn to deliberate. I’ve used this expression time and time again, especially when I'm in a disagreement and feel I've made my point. Try it sometime. Southern or not, you’d be surprised how often this one hits its mark.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What happens in Vegas...

I spent most of Monday alone in a city of over one million. I can’t say I really like being alone nor can I say that I dislike it. Like a lot of moms, I haven’t been alone enough to have an opinion either way. Regardless, that is the situation I found myself in, having tagged along on my husband’s business trip to Las Vegas.

At first, I felt strange wandering through the crowded casinos and shops. It didn’t take me long to get over it, however, as there is not a better people watching place on Earth. Las Vegas is a voyeurs’ paradise.

I wasn’t the only one solo. And I couldn’t help but ask who are these people sitting alone at the slot machines at 9 a.m.? Have they been there all night? All week? Where are their families? My imagination flew--Vegas is great for writer’s block.

As I explored, I couldn’t help but notice the many couples, both old and young, some just married, bright-eyed and excited, and some lifelong partners, comfortable and contented. Of course, there were some that I wouldn’t dare speculate on. They don’t call it Sin City for nothing.

I dined all by myself, too. My teenage daughter used to say that eating alone was only for losers. As I sipped a glass of wine at a 5-star restaurant, waiting on one of three waiters to deliver my appetizer of scallops, I thought one day she’ll realize how wonderful being a loser is!

After lunch, I shopped, did some more sightseeing, and visited the gym and pool, feeling completely invisible and wonderfully alone. My only pang of loneliness came when I happened upon the wax museum in our hotel lobby. I really wanted to have my photo taken with Nicholas Cage but couldn’t bring myself to ask a total stranger to snap a photo of me with a fake celebrity.

As for the rest of the trip, as the saying goes, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” unless, of course, it ends up in my novel.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Big girls don't cry

I’ll admit it; I cry like a girl. Not that I think crying is unhealthy. In fact, I’ve tried to teach my son that it’s okay to cry. Still he’d rather cut off his foot than let anyone, especially his daddy, see tears. I guess it’s a guy thing.

Maybe if I’d been taught from an early age to suck it up, I could control my tears, too. Maybe, but I doubt it. Therein lays the problem. I don’t cry at the appropriate times. I’m dried eyed at funerals, unblinking in emergency rooms and matter-of-fact after car accidents.

The tears come when I least expect them. And once the floodgate is opened, it doesn’t shut off until it’s empty, which may very well be hours later. I handled my grandmother’s battle with cancer and funeral like a rock until All Saints Day at our church. Our preacher’s sermon turned the valve, and I cried and cried and cried. Everyone stared, and still I cried.

Same with my daughter’s graduation. I remember thinking, “Do I cry now or later?” Of course, it really wasn’t up to me. The tears came when they were good and ready, which happened to be a breakfast one morning, much to my family’s bewilderment.

Certain things are known tear-triggers. For example, since the birth of my daughter 18 years ago, I’ve cried every time I heard the song, “Cats in the Cradle,” by Harry Chapin, and I do mean every time. When I was pregnant, I watched “The Baby Story” every day for nine months and cried as each baby was born. Those were the sweetest tears.

Once I got called into my boss’ office. He reprimanded me, or I least, I think he did. I’ll never know his true intentions because I started crying. My boss immediately apologized, took it all back, and came around the desk to give me a hug. I left with a box of Kleenex and a raise.

Okay, so, sometimes crying isn’t all bad.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Morning glory*

I bought a set of T-shirt sheets yesterday. Oh, how wonderful. They are soft, warm and wrap around you like a cocoon. I had the best night’s sleep. It reminded me of my childhood.

I’ve always loved (and needed) my sleep. I guess the converse of that is I hate to get out of bed. I was so horrid about it as a child that my mom brought me breakfast in bed for years and years. Eventually, my dad decided to put an end to my princess upbringing and forced me to join the living at the breakfast table.

I know no one will feel sorry for me, but it was a traumatic experience!

We had a wood-burning stove that would die out during the night, so it would be freezing in the morning. (I know it’s Georgia, but winters do get cold.) During the night, I would roll around and around, and my sheet would wrap tightly around me. I would be sleeping so peacefully until YANK…Dad would grab a corner of the sheet and pull with all his might (Did I mention he was an Olympic weightlifter?), literally dumping me out of bed.

Now, I know I needed to get up, but couldn’t there have been a happy medium?

I would then stagger down the hall to the couch, where my younger sister and I would kick one another, fighting for position. Pity anyone or anything that crossed my path on the way to the breakfast table. I once did battle with a balloon that had lost its helium. I’m pretty sure I won.

My antics and appearance (My hair would stick straight up) was a great source of amusement to the rest of family. I would glance up from my cereal bowl and catch them snickering at me. My attempts to scowl would usually bring howls of laughter. Sigh, it’s hard being a princess.

I’m much better these days once I’m out of bed; however, I still don’t like getting up. In fact, my very responsible elementary school daughter sets her alarm, wakes up her younger brother, and then comes down to wake me up, a routine we’ve had for years. I reward her with breakfast on the couch, and, no matter how much it sticks up, I never laugh at her hair!

*Note: My grandmother spent some time with us and started calling me "Morning glory." She was the only one who was able to put a smile on my face before 8 a.m.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Eating my words

There comes a time when every parent has to eat his or her words. And believe me, they don’t taste very good the second time around. I know because I’ve eaten my share.

Let’s see…I recall saying I would never let my child ride on the outside of the shopping carts at the grocery store. He ended up riding them like a cowboy on a bucking bronco.

Once I was on a day trip with my friend and her children. The kids were hungry, so she tossed a bag of chips into the backseat, which they promptly devoured. I gasped in horror. I’ll never let my children eat chips for a snack, I thought. Now we buy Pringles by the case.

When my oldest child (now 18) was born, I said I would never use the microwave to heat her bottle. I was afraid it would zap the nutrients. Of course, by the second child, I was nuking my heart out, and with my third child, I didn’t even bother to heat it up!

These days most of my friends have younger children. Since I have one in college who still speaks to me (on occasion), that “qualifies” me as the go-to-girl for advice on child-rearing.

My advice to them is simple: NEVER, under any circumstances, begin a sentence with “My child would never (fill in the blank).”

At last year’s homecoming game, all the senior boys and girls decided to “paint up,” which, as you know, means painting their bodies with the school’s colors. The boys were shirtless and had baggy pants falling below their bottoms, but that wasn’t the issue with a group of moms that I was with the next day. The issue was the girls—they all wore sports bras.

One mom declared loudly and vehemently that she would NEVER allow her daughter to leave the house looking like that. The others quickly agreed, expressing their disbelief.

“What kind of parents would let their child do that?” they asked.

My face felt hot, knowing my daughter had been right in the thick of it at the game. As the crowd of women reached fever-pitch, I grabbed my friend, Dana, and pulled her outside.

“I just can’t take anymore of that,” I said. “They have no idea.”

“Do you know what they are saying in there?” I asked Gail, who has grown children.

I told her, and we laughed heartily, as she relayed all of the things she said her kids would never do.

“Those poor fools!” we said of the women.

In the meantime, I noticed Dana had grown very quiet. Her face was red as sheepishly raised her hand.

“It was me,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“I started it. I was the one who said I would never let my child do that.”

I hugged her and said, “It's okay, honey. I doubt your daughter would ever even want to leave the house dressed like that. You have nothing to worry about.”

As Dana walked away, feeling better, Gail and I winked at each other. She has eight years before she has to eat those words. Let her enjoy them.