Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Shhh...I'm trying to watch the movie!

Movies are an important part of summer in Georgia. When it’s 100 degrees outside, air-conditioned entertainment is the way to go. Which leads me to my question: What exactly is movie theater etiquette these days? If anyone knows, please tell me. My husband and I went to an R-rated movie recently and were surprised to be surrounded by children six years old and younger. No, they didn’t sneak in—their parents brought them.

Now, moms and dads, if you can’t find a babysitter, just wait until it comes out on DVD. Is going to see a movie that urgent? I’ve heard some parents say that their kids will fall asleep after 15-30 min. Imagine the dreams they have, nodding off with gunshots and the f-word ringing in their ears.

Parents, there are plenty of kids’ movies out, and some are even free. In fact, I took my children today even though I would have preferred to have seen Sex in the City (again). Inevitably, I sit next to a mom who tries to explain the movie in detail to her three-year-old. I mean, does Veggie Tales really need an explanation? Her child seemed to understand the talking cucumber concept a lot better than I did.

We saw the movie Firehouse Dog recently, which was great, except for, again, the mom next to me. (I’ve never seen a dad do this, by the way. Of course, most dads are smart enough to avoid the free movie days altogether.) The mom felt she had to interject lines for the dog, otherwise her child wouldn’t understand.

During one dramatic scene, for example, the dog sees a fire, so he rushes to the boy, his owner, and tugs on his shirt (think Lassie).

The boy says, “What’s wrong?”

The dog barks and whines and looks toward the fire.

Then the woman next to me said, “There’s a fire! I’m trying telling you there’s a fire!”

Her own child, who was probably too young to speak, looked at her like “Duh!”

This went on throughout the movie. Perhaps we should go back to drive-in theaters. At least, it would be quieter, and the kids could sleep in the backseat like I did when my parents couldn't find a sitter.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Biscuits, gravy and boot camp

“Biscuits and gravy, biscuits and gravy,” chanted the woman next to me as we ran up the steps of the local high school.

No, we weren’t running to buy breakfast. We were participating in boot camp, and it seems biscuits and gravy was the prime motivator for my new friend. I didn’t ask if she was working off the biscuits and gravy or planning to eat some after class. Either way, she deserved it after that work-out.

My husband and I tried the class for the first time on a recent Saturday morning. Unlike a typical boot camp drill sergeant, our instructor shouted praises and encouragement during the entire hour class. Of course, I thought she was saying, “Nice, Leigh, done,” as in I’m doing such a great job that I could quit. Come to find out, she was saying, “Nicely done.” And not to me, I might add.

The group of participants consists of a variety of ages and fitness levels. Our work-out began with stretches, a few warm up laps around the track, and then we quickly progressed to climbing the hundreds of steps in and around the stadium, which was apparently designed to torture the human hamstring.

After tackling the stairs several times, we did sprints, two more laps around the track and just when we thought we were done--more sprints. My husband kept marveling (and trying to catch up with) the leader of the pack, a man who appeared to be his age. Later when we did our cool down, we discovered that he wasn’t middle-aged after all.

“Why, he’s a 30 year-old bald guy!” my husband exclaimed on the way home.

Amidst the sweat and groans, we quickly bonded with the group members. This was not a competition but rather camaraderie, with the seasoned participants coaching the newer ones.

Although I know I can go out and climb the stairs at the stadium by myself, I won’t. I’ve lived here all my life and never have except to get a Coke at a football game. Working out with the group really made me push my limits, and, as we ran the track, I thought, I have never been so proud to be in last place. And I can't wait to get my hands on some biscuits and gravy!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wonder Women

My kids decided this Mother’s Day that I needed the complete Wonder Woman DVD set. (Thanks, hubby!) Although it’s no secret who that gift was really for, the kids have loved watching it. And I must admit so have I.

I loved Wonder Woman as a girl growing up in the 70s. She could kick butt, and her hair and make up were never out of place. I was never sure about the invisible plane (I mean how do you find it in the parking lot?), but wouldn’t we women love to get our hands on her magic lasso of truth?

Just think of things we could ask our spouses: “Do you like my hair this short?” “Are you sure this outfit doesn’t make me look fat?” or “How do you really feel about world peace?” It would be very informative--and expensive with all the divorce lawyers we’d have to hire.

Watching Wonder Woman now brings back a flood of memories. What heroines we had then--Charlie’s Angels, the bionic woman. I refuse to count Daisy Duke, although she did save those Duke boys from a heap of trouble many a time.

It’s no surprise women my age think we must have it all, do it all, as the theme song says “in [our] satin tights, fighting for [our] rights.” Don’t blame our mothers; we learned it from Wonder Woman.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Name Game

A mom at my son’s school introduced herself to me recently. After talking, we discovered we had a lot in common. We even made a play date and exchanged cell phone numbers. Of course, I will never call her because I can’t remember her name.

Was it Mary, Margaret, Millie, or maybe Jane? I truly have no idea. I’ll admit it; I’m not good with names.

Yes, I know there are mnemonic devices out there to help me remember. I know that I’m supposed to repeat the person’s name several times during the conversation to make it stick. I’ve tried and still get it wrong.

It’s very embarrassing, especially when it’s someone I’ve known for a while. I hate to say, “Excuse me, I know we’ve been meeting every Friday at the park for a year, so the kids can play, but what is your name again?”

Men have it easy. They can just refer to one another as buddy, man, dude or coach. Heck, they can even call each other derogatory names and still be friends.

In fact, my husband doesn’t even try to remember names. This makes it very difficult for me to gossip—especially when it’s a juicy tidbit that I can’t tell my girlfriends because (a) the gossip is too good to wait, (b) I don’t want them to think I’m a gossip, and, (c), most commonly, the gossip is about them.

A recent conversation with my husband went something like this:

“You will not believe what I heard Elizabeth Jones say when she came into Paper City today.”

“What’s Paper City?”

“It’s a shop downtown. That’s not the point. You remember Elizabeth Jones, don’t you?”

Blank look.

“Elizabeth Jones, married to Roger, works at the bank. We’ve known them for ten years. Their son and our daughter have been friends since elementary school. Remember we had cocktails at their house a few years ago?”


“E-LIZ-A-BETH JO-NESSS,” I say slowly and very loudly, hoping it will jar his memory.

“Never heard of her.”

Really, he takes all the fun out of gossiping.

By the way, Elizabeth Jones is a fictional name. I would tell you her real one, but I have long since forgotten it.

Monday, July 21, 2008


This Father’s Day, my husband, along with the vast majority of men, got a Global Positioning System (GPS). I would like to say it was a surprise, but since he clipped the photo from the sales ad, and I called him twice to consult on the model while I was at the store, I won’t. But still, not a bad present, and he loves it—or should I say her.

I call her Ms. Garmin, and she has quickly become the other woman in his life. She has taken over several of my duties, much to my relief, I might add. I no longer have to struggle to read the maps. I no longer have to apologize for getting east and west mixed up. I no longer have to strain my eyes to read the road signs ahead. Now when we are traveling, I relax and let “her” tell him what to do. And therein lies the problem.

It seems my husband isn’t used to taking orders from a non-Southern gal. Somehow, we Southern women have a way of sweetening our commands. You know, we can make it seem like it really was HIS idea to take the scenic route and stop by the antique stores since it’s on the way.

But not Ms. Garmin. She’s crisp, harsh, abrupt and doesn’t sugar-coat it when you turn in the wrong direction. Although my husband appreciates her input, it’s her accent, or lack there of, that really irks him.

I began to wonder why not make a GPS with a Southern accent. I would even volunteer to do the voice-over. It would sound something like this, “Turn rite here, sugah” or “Go down past Bubba’s filling station and take a left.”

I even imagine she would toss in a few bits of advice as Southern women are apt to do. For instance, if you make a wrong turn, I can hear her say, “I don’t like to impose, but I don’t believe I would go that way if I were you,” or “Slow down now; what’s your hurry?”

In the meantime, however, we are stuck with flat mid-western snippy-sounding Ms.Garmin. She’s the one responsible for getting us where we are going. She’s the one to blame if we get lost. So, if we drive in circles for hours on toll roads looking for Disney World with three hungry kids because she couldn’t tell the difference between east and west, it’s all her fault now--not mine. As we Southern women like to say, bless her heart.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How did you spend your summer vacation?

How did you spend your summer vacation? School will be starting soon, and kids across the state will be asked that age-old question. What will they say? I’m sure Disney World, Six Flags and White Water will top the list. We went to all of these places and more when I was a child, but my most memorable summer vacation involved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cokes in a bottle and Georgia’s Civil War battlefields.

It was the 70s--the price of gas was high, and the economy was down. Sound familiar? Times were lean, and an extravagant vacation was out of the question. Despite the oil crisis, each weekend my parents would fill up the tank of our ’64 pea green Chevrolet, pack a picnic and off we would go on our adventure du jour.

My little sister and I would bounce excitedly in the backseat. There were no seatbelts in the back, or if there were, they were buried so far in the seat, we couldn’t find them. Dad would play tour guide, giving us a history lesson along the way, yelling so he could be heard with all the car windows rolled down.

The ghosts of 45,000 Union prisoners, 13,000 of whom died from disease or overcrowding, came to life for us at Andersonville in Southwest Georgia that summer. On top of Kennesaw Mtn., where some of the heaviest fighting in the Atlanta campaign occurred, we smelled the smoke from the Confederate cannons atop the mountain as we envisioned them firing on the Yankees below. At Chickamauga in North Georgia, we heard the Rebel yells of one of the last major Confederate victories.

As we traveled, we would stop at other Georgia state parks and areas of interest. A few stand out for what seem like small events now but were memories in the making for an eight-year-old girl. For example, at Providence Canyon, also called “Georgia’s Grand Canyon,” we had to finish our lunch in the car because of yellow jackets, at the Etowah Indian Mounds, I was stung by a wasp, on the way to Westville, Georgia’s working 1850 town, I got car sick, and at the historic site of Jarrell Plantation in Juliette, GA, we saw a snake.

Today, with children of my own, I can’t imagine traveling in the hot, humid July heat in a car with no air conditioning, no DVD player, heck, no power steering, plus no fast food for lunch. Yet, in spite of that, or, perhaps, because of that, somewhere off the beaten path, my mom, dad, sister and I bonded in a way that can never be done at amusement parks. And that is something to write about. (Sorry, Mickey!)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ode to clothes

So, just after writing about my last post on religion, a miraculous thing happened. I went to the laundry room, reached down in the hamper absentmindedly for an armful of dirty clothes to wash and felt…nothing.

Hmm…that’s odd, I thought.

I then peered into the bin and discovered an amazing thing—I had gotten caught up on all of the laundry! Every item of clothing in my house, down to the last stray sock, had been washed. I don’t think this has happened since 1997. This may not seem note-worthy, but if you are a mom (or dad) who is responsible for the laundry, then you know what a momentous occasion this is.

Now that I’m caught up, I am considering joining a nudist colony. After all, do we really need clothes?

Actually, I know the answer to this one. You see, when my husband and I were on our honeymoon, we took a stroll off the property of the all-inclusive resort where we were staying. After a little while, we noticed the “scenery” began to change a bit. In fact, several of the joggers who passed us weren’t wearing shirts. Oh, did I mention that they were NOT men? (Ladies, there is a good reason jog-bras were invented.)

Since we were honeymooners, we pretended not to notice as we held hands and continued our romantic walk down the beach. That is until we reached a sign that read: “NO CLOTHING BEYOND THIS POINT.”

Our eyes grew wide as we realized that we had stumbled onto a nude beach. About that time, a man whom I estimate to be 70 years walked by completely naked. He looked like he needed ironing. In addition, several large women were sunning themselves, cellulite and all, by the sea. They were not sitting very lady-like either, I might add.

I now knew why God invented fig leaves. We really need to cover up.

My husband and I looked at one another, glanced down at our clothes, turned around, and walked, okay, ran, the other way.

And on that day, I vowed never to complain about doing laundry again. Now about those unmatched socks…

Monday, July 7, 2008

New Year's in July

I decided to treat this 4th of July holiday like New Year’s. And I don’t just mean drinking myself silly while I ooh and aah over fireworks. I am making 4th of July resolutions. Here I am half way through the year, and I’m sure I have broken every resolution that I made for 2008. Of course, I don’t remember a single one, but if I could find my list, I’m sure getting organized would be on it.

I know some people don’t believe in making resolutions, much less making them twice a year. I guess the theory is they will just break them anyhow. As for me, I say when all else fails—it’s time to lower my standards.

So, without further ado, here are my low-key Independence Day resolutions:

  • Train for next year’s Peachtree Road Race—Gosh, it looks like so much fun on TV. This one may have to wait for cooler weather, though.
  • Visit the lake more often—We haven’t gone as much because we have to pack, load the car, unpack—In short, we have been too lazy to go to the lake, which is pretty darn lazy.
  • Start my Christmas shopping—I just put that one on here to make me laugh.
  • Catch up on my teenager’s scrapbook (grades 3-12) before she starts college in the fall—okay, now it’s your turn to laugh.
  • Hire a maid—Sounds easy but first I have to clean the house. I don’t want the maid to think we are slobs.
  • Print out my digital photos, put them in a box and forget about them until the kids are about to graduate.
  • Take the kids to a pick-your-own berry farm. I’ve always wanted to do this, but have you seen how good the produce looks at the new Kroger? (Plus it’s air-conditioned)
  • Work less, play more—Now this one I can handle!

Thursday, July 3, 2008


It’s so delightful when mothers hear the first mmmma, mmmma sounds coming from their babies’ mouths, especially after hearing da da, da da for months, even though we still feel the pangs from giving birth (those never go away, mind you, they just move up to your heart).

I taught my children to call me “Mommy” since that is what I called my great-grandmother, whom I adored. My mother actually wanted my children to call her that, but I said, no, that name belongs to me. Oh, how I loved to hear them say it in their sweet little voices.

I discovered, however, that somewhere around the age of six or seven, Mommy gets shorten to Mom and then shortly thereafter becomes, “Hey Mom!” And that is what I’ve been called ever since.

As a writer, I work from home most days, quietly pecking away at the computer, which works out great nine months of the year while the kids are in school. Once summer hits, however, I should pack up my keyboard because the “Hey Moms!” start in earnest.

A typical day goes something like this, Hey Mom! Time to wake up; Hey Mom! I’m hungry; Hey Mom! Can I drink in the living room? Hey Mom! Can I give the guinea pig a bath? Hey Mom! Tell her that a rhino is to tougher than a crocodile. Hey Mom! I’m hungry again.

Of course, my personal favorite is the one I hear when I’m on the phone. The minute I answer, I hear a frantic HEY MOM! HEY MOM! HEY MOM! Since I see that they aren’t bleeding, I put my finger up to say wait a minute as I shoot them a look. Next the kids mouth, “HEY MOM!” while I nod my head firmly, no. Then I finish my phone call, search all over to find the children, start to become worried because I can’t find them, finally locate them at the neighbors and ask, “Now, what did you need?” And without fail they always reply--say it with me—NEVERMIND!

You might think this is something they grow out of—it’s not. I have a teenager and whenever I hear Hey Mom, I cringe. It’s Hey Mom! I’ve wrecked the car, Hey Mom! Can I borrow some money? Hey Mom! I need (fill in the blank from bathing suits, to make up, to some other need du jour).

My husband will occasionally throw a “Hey Mom!” my way also. Those are the most dreaded because it’s usually something he feels that only a mom can take care of like “Hey Mom! Your son needs you in the bathroom,” which usually ends up “Hey Mom! Too late, he couldn’t make it.”

Of course, there are those times when it’s music to my ears like when my daughter says, “Hey Mom, snuggle with me.” and my son says, “Hey Mom, I picked a flower for you” and my teenager says, “Hey Mom, want to hang out?”

Then I’m reminded that one day soon, way too soon, they will be up and gone, and I will no longer go to bed with a days worth of “Hey Moms!” ringing in my ears. The thought brings tears to my eyes, but I can’t reminisce about it now…the kids are calling.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Talkin' Suthern: How I became a ma'am

Although I grew up in the Deep South, I was never a debutante, and, yes, we do still have those here in Georgia. As the only Southerner at a recent conference, however, I felt like the belle of the ball.

I found myself surrounded by fast-talking Jersey natives, plain spoken Connecticut folks and fun-loving guys from Wisconsin. For many, it was their first trip to the South. I was the first real Southern girl they’d met besides the waitress at the corner Waffle House where they’d stopped for lunch, served smothered and covered.

As soon as they heard my slow drawl, I became an expert on all things Southern. And this group had plenty of burning questions.

“What are grits made from?”

That’s an easy one, I thought, smugly, “Corn, and you eat it with salt and butter, not sugar.”

“What is the gnat line?”

“Well, it is an invisible, yet well-defined line separating north and south Georgia.”

“How do you get there?”

“Take the hard road—the highway—south, anywhere, roughly, from Augusta to Macon through Columbus. Stop for peanuts and Coca-Cola in the bottle along the way, and you will know you’ve crossed it by the cloud of little black gnats encircling your face,” I said.

“What does 110 degrees in the shade mean?”

Another easy one, I thought.

“It means it is so hot you can fry an egg on the sidewalk,” I said. “In Georgia, folks might say it is a ‘bit warm.’”

“What is the difference between a redneck and a hillbilly?”

Hmmm…a little trickier.

“Well, hillbillies sometimes live in the mountainous region of north Georgia, and rednecks can be anywhere in the country,” I said.

I then went on to describe the characteristics of rednecks, noticing confused looks on their faces.

“Are their necks really red?” asked the New Jersey native.

Uh, oh. I’m losing them, I thought.

“At what age do women become ma’am?” asked one of the ladies.

Oh, boy, I’m in trouble now, I thought, silently recalling the day I officially became a ma’am. It was my neighbor’s son who had recently returned from college. He went away a chubby kid and came back a broad-shouldered, handsome man. He entered a restaurant where a girlfriend and I were having dinner.

“What a good-looking guy,” I drooled. “Look, he’s coming this way.”

He approached our table and flashed me a gorgeous smile.

Do you remember me, Miss Leigh?” he asked. “I’m Jenny’s son.”

Realizing who he was, I managed to mumble some question to which he replied, politely, “Yes, ma’am.”

I blushed, embarrassed, and my friend snickered, loudly.

I felt like crying.

Years have passed, and I have grown to accept being called ma’am as a term of respect. I teach my son to say yes and no, ma’am. It is truly one of the things I love most about the South. Having said that, there are still times like when I see Jenny’s son jogging through the neighborhood that it makes me cringe.

“So, when do women become ma’am?” the lady at the conference persisted.

“I’m sorry,” I replied. “I wouldn’t know.”