Friday, January 30, 2009

Tomorrow is another day

I was asked to name my favorite quote, and the one that immediately came to mind was Margaret Mitchell’s, “I can’t think about it today; I’ll think about it tomorrow.” Scarlett O’Hara used this phrase (or something similar) throughout Gone with the Wind. And, it is probably fitting that it’s the first one that came to mind. It's practically my motto.

I have a tendency to procrastinate. Now, in case you are considering hiring me, I do not procrastinate when it comes to freelance work. Something about not getting paid until I have finished the job inspires me to work quickly.

My home to do list is a different story. I’ve been known to move items from one day to the next, until finally they vanish from the list altogether, which means, I’m ashamed to admit, they never get done. A fine example is my children’s scrapbooks. Don’t get me wrong; I’m very proud of my kids. I save every certificate, drawing and report card, but instead of putting them in a nice, organized, decorative album that they can keep for the rest of their lives, I shove them in a storage bin.

I’m so overwhelmed with it that I’ve been meaning to hire the teenage neighbor to help (Okay, who am I fooling?), rather, to do it for me. Alas, it’s yet to be done because I’ve yet to call. In fact, I’m not even sure that item has made it to my to do list. Perhaps this summer.

Otherwise, one day, when my children have graduated and are ready to move away, I’ll pass along my treasure trove of items to them. I picture them looking at the storage bins full of memorabilia, shoving them in the closet out of the way, as they shake their heads and wonder why I saved all that stuff. They might even make a mental to do list to put them all in an album someday.

In the meantime, I hope they won’t hold my procrastination against me. I pray they’ll remember me as a mom who was busy attending their events, laughing at their jokes, and praising their artwork, even if I couldn’t tell a robot from a snowman. And, as far as the rest of my list, I can’t think about it today. I’ll think about it tomorrow…After all, tomorrow is another day.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Call your mama

I have a freshman in college, and phone calls from her are treasured. Moms can only live off the “no news is good news” adage for so long, and then we start do what moms do best—worry.

The longer the wait in between phone calls (or e-mails or texts), the bigger the worries grow. Although I’m sure I’ve thought of every scenario, I’ve lived long enough to realize those aren’t the things I need to worry about. It’s the unexpected, unimagined things that turn our world upside down. Ironically, those often start with a phone call.

I had a call like that last spring. It was from my dad. My mother, who is active and young, suffered a severe stroke. She’d felt dizzy all day, I later learned. That was her only warning sign.

She spent 48 days in the hospital, most of it in the ICU. I went to see her during visiting hours, but I soon found that one of the things I missed the most was talking to her on the phone. There were several times I’d even pick it up and start dialing before it dawned on me that she was in a hospital bed.

I missed not being able to call her to tell her something funny that my son said, or which store was having a big sale, or who I discovered is “having coffee” with whom. I remember my mom used to call my grandmother, and they would talk for hours, sometimes to my dad’s exasperation. I would always wonder what they could talk about for so long. Now I know it doesn’t have to be anything.

Thankfully, my mom has made a full recovery. Some days we talk three or four times a day. And on the days we don’t—I worry.

My daughter called today from college, and I listened to her talk for nearly an hour. Her cell phone hadn’t been working, and it turns out that’s why I hadn’t heard from her. Funny that was one scenario I didn’t think of!

So, if you are fortunate enough, don’t wait until you have something important to say, or until you have more time to talk, and, certainly, don’t wait until Mother’s Day, go ahead, pick up the phone, and call your mama. Chances are she’s probably worried about you.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Morning question

Those who have read my blog know that my son usually wakes me up with a thought-provoking question, something that has obviously been burning in his brain all night.

This morning's was "Would you rather live in the wettest place on earth or the driest?"

Just something to think about...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Love thy neighbor--anyway

My sister recently moved into a new neighborhood and had what we shall call a slight disagreement with one of the neighbors. It had to do with children as most neighborhood arguments tend to do. The woman's son was bullying my niece, so my nephew jumped in to defend his sister. Then the neighbor jumped in to defend her son. Then my sister jumped in to defend both children. Then the husband jumped in to defend his wife. Sort of like the song Farmer in the Dell.

My sister was, of course, horrified by it all. But, really, it is nothing new. Love thy neighbor has always been a tough one. Growing up, my family had our share of neighborhood disagreements. I always knew when Daddy started frantically wrapping his knees, something was about to go down.

It seemed most of ours had to do with dogs.

My favorite little dog, Waggy, was a dachshund mix who protected us like a Doberman. Once he barked at my neighbor, so he planted his boot right in Waggy's ribcage. Funny what people do when they think nobody's looking. Waggy responded by biting him-hard. I was just a little girl, not a very credible witness, and my parents had to fight pretty hard to prove he wasn't vicious and shouldn't be put to sleep.

Another time, the neighbor on the other side of us took in a huge Alaskan Malamute. He was as wild as a wolf and terrorized us all. I was once stuck in the treehouse for hours with the dog barking and snarling down below. When I didn't show up for dinner at 5:00, my parents grew concerned and found me. My dad "convinced" the neighbor to get rid of him shortly thereafter.

No matter what happened, though, no matter whose kid messed up the garden or whose dog snapped at whom, we were neighbors. Somehow despite our differences, I still remember taking turns having dinner at their houses, seeing Mom gossip at the fence and playing softball, adults and kids, in our backyard.

One day, our next door neighbor's three-year-old son went missing. It was only for a day, but what a long day it was. Our entire neighborhood, friend and foe, parents and children, combed the woods looking for him. His mother was frantic, absolutely beside herself.

We called his name over and over, until, finally, well after dark, several dads found him, deep in the woods in a broken down cabin that we weren't supposed to go near. It was a cold night but keeping him warm was his dog, a furry mutt that I'm sure someone had complained about at one time or another.

We went home that night holding each other tighter and vowing to love thy neighbor a little more. And, despite the fact that we may not know our neighbors' names or like their barking dog, I don't think that has changed much today.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Parents, leave them kids alone

Dun, dun, dun, dun…“Who’s on the $5 bill?” “What was the name of the final Harry Potter book?”

Oooh, oooh! I know! Of course, so did my elementary-school aged daughter. She tried out for the kid’s version of Jeopardy by taking an online test this week. She had 20 seconds to submit her answer, and, boy, did that time go by fast, especially when listening to the Jeopardy tune.

Watching her hunt and peck on the keyboard, I admit to shouting, “Get out of the way! You call the answers, and I’ll type them in!”

As I bite my tongue through several questions, I couldn’t help but wonder how many parents “helped” their kids, or, in other words, cheated. It’s a common problem in elementary schools. If you don’t believe me, just visit the local science fair.

The parent-projects are pretty easy to recognize. They are immaculate--neatly printed and hot glued, with all the words spelled correctly. During the presentations, the kids to whom the projects belong stand two feet away from them because they have been repeatedly warned at home not to get near them. Ask them a question about it, and they refer to the typed sheet their mom or dad prepared, often stumbling over the words.

I’m not blaming the children. I’m sure they would love to get their hands dirty with paper mache or glue or paint or marker or something to make it their own. One mom I know said her mother did all of her projects for her when she was a little girl, so she does all the projects for her daughter. Okay, sometimes we have to break the cycle. I witnessed one science fair in which the winner mumbled into the microphone, “My dad did it all,” and then ran off stage. What guts!

Personally, I love kid creations. They far surpass what adults do, and it’s the little imperfections that make them, well, perfect. In my house, my children use lots and lots of tape on their projects. I don’t know why. Perhaps we are out of glue. Usually whatever they create requires an obscene number of popsicle sticks, too. You name it—igloos, hot houses to demonstrate the greenhouse effect, castles--the sky’s the limit.

When my oldest daughter was in 4th grade, her school held a decorative hat contest. She told me about it as I tucked her into bed. It was the next day. She asked if I would make it for her, and I told her to just wear her ball cap. I could tell, however, that it was important to her, so I found a straw hat and gave it to, along with a bottle of glue, some tape and a stapler, and told her she had ten minutes to get it done.

The final project was a beauty, a dazzling array of glitter and feathers, dripping with beads, and the piece de la resistance—a book. She took first place, which if I recall was a coupon to Burger King. We celebrated with a cheeseburger that night. I still have that hat.

There’s nothing better than popsicles, tape, misspelled words, and the creativity of little kids. Parents, let them be. They’re all winners.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mom of the year

“Please try to do better in the morning.”

“I get right out of bed.”

“Then you grab your cover and go straight to the couch.”

Mother/child? No, it’s a conversation I overheard between my daughter and son.

“But I woke her up the past two days. Why don’t you do it?”

Wait a minute, they’re talking about me! I thought.

“I’m not really asleep!” I protested, entering the room. “I hear you. I’m just resting!”

“Uh huh,” my daughter and son exchanged looks.

To my defense, my daughter is very independent. She’s used her own alarm clock since kindergarten, and she likes to get up first. I kept pushing my clock back to get up before she did, and she would do the same. Finally, when we reached 6:30 a.m., I folded, and said you just wake me up. And now she and her little brother do.

I just never know how they are going to do it. Sometimes I have this creepy feeling that someone is staring at me—because they are. They stand at the side of my bed and look at me without speaking until I wake up. Trust me, it’s creepy. To add to the effect, sometimes my daughter will whisper something so low that I can see her mouth moving, but I can't hear her. I wake up several days a week thinking I've gone totally deaf.

Other times, my son will walk in wide awake, asking me complex questions about life such as “Which is tougher--a rhino or Nile crocodile?”

This morning, he bounced in and said, “Bugsy’s doing great! He slept all night”


“You know, my new friend, Bugsy!”

“Huh?” Did someone sleep over? I think.

“My guinea pig!”

“Oh, yeah, that’s good. I’m getting up now.”

Did I mention I’m not a morning person?

Although it sounds unconventional, it’s normal for us. I know I may not make Mom of the Year. Just don’t tell my kids—they haven’t figured it out yet.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Merely an observation

I went into the local grocery store last night, after receiving a call from my daughter telling me that Dad said he wants Manwich for dinner, so we need buns, hamburger meat, Ruffles potato chips, oh, yeah, and a can of Manwich.

Being the wonderful wife that I am (it just comes naturally), I immediantly stopped what I was doing and rushed off to purchase the above items. As I entered the store, I was shocked by the huge Valentine's Day displays--chocolates, champagne, cards, balloons, romantic meal ideas--you get the picture. Love, love and more love, thrust right in my face.

Which caused me to think, if you are a man or woman, and you are actually thinking about Valentine's Day already, then you must not be married. And, if you are, then, geez, what did you do to get into the doghouse? And whatever it is, maybe you shouldn't wait until Valentine's Day to send those flowers.

Merely an observation...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Book worm

My daughter spent much of the holiday buried in a good book. Seeing her curled up on the couch reading, totally oblivious to the rest of the world, reminded me of myself when I was her age.

During the holidays, I would find a cozy out-of-the-way spot to read, while my rowdy boy cousins wrestled, tossed the football and occasionally commented, “You mean you actually like to read? No one is making you?”

I remember when I was very young, I really liked comic books and would beg my mother to read them to me over and over, which she did with an infinite amount of patience, until finally one day the small print got the best of her, and she exclaimed, “I’ll be so glad when you learn how to read!”

Soon after, I was flying solo. I would walk around the house with a book in my hand. I could go the kitchen and fix myself an iced tea (using ice trays, mind you) without skipping a sentence. Sometimes my mother would ask me to get the mail, I’m sure to keep my blood circulating, and I would walk out to the mailbox, reading the entire way. I wonder if I can count that as a talent.

As I grew older, there were two very influential people who encouraged my interest. One was John Coffee, a weightlifter friend of my dad’s. Coffee could be a bit eccentric. His car was filled with books, among other things. When it became full, he would simply buy a new one. I read many great novels courtesy of his roving library and a few rather strange science fiction ones.

He is also the one who encouraged me to pursue an English degree. I had selected another major, and when I told him, he said, “I thought you would have chosen something more intellectual like English or Literature.”

It had never occurred to me to major in something I loved. I thought I had to have a degree in which I could actually make money! I changed majors at my first opportunity.

My second influence was Al Braselton, my dad’s first cousin. I further expanded my reading list, thanks to his suggestions. Al also encouraged me to write. I remember bringing him an essay once and saying, “It’s not my best.”

His reply was, “Well, bring me your best. I want to read your best.”

Al was a writer himself and wrote a wonderful poem about my grandfather that I’ll post soon. He was also good friends with James Dickey. The two took a canoeing trip down a North Georgia river, during which the idea for Dickey’s Deliverance was developed. The book is dedicated to Al.

Today, as I write my first book, I appreciate my early influences more than ever. I was very fortunate to have them encouraging me, as well as a mother who would read comic books to me over and over, and a father who continues to share the same love of books.

I’m delighted to see the same trait in my children. And if they can one day make a living out of their love of words, God bless them. If not, they can always start a blog.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Come Monday

I don’t know what I expected. Perhaps I thought the pudgy little top hat-wearing New Year’s baby would sprinkle his magic dust, and make today, the first Monday of the new year, be different. Apparently, I got him mixed up with Tinkerbelle.

Today was supposed to be the grand start of all of my resolutions. I should have waken up rested after a full night’s sleep, ready to exercise, feeling grateful for the new year, thankful for the day, and, above all, cheerful, #@#* it!

But instead I woke up tired after having a nightmare. (Shouldn’t I have outgrown those by now?) Not to mention the fact that I woke up late, headachy, thanks to the nasty rainy day, and all together out of sorts. It was indeed a Monday, just like every other Monday in 2008—and, as I predict, every other Monday in 2010 will be--miserable.

As I rushed to the dermatologist to have a pesky wart removed from my knee (That’s always fun!), I realized I was out of gas, so I stopped to fill up. After repeated tries, I got the pump working and promptly splattered myself with gas. I guess that makes up for the shower I didn’t have time to take.

After spending hours in the waiting room inhaling my own fumes, I finally saw the doctor. Not to be daunted, I moved on to my next errand—the bank. I’m a Girl Scout leader, and the big bank where our account is had started charging us a monthly maintenance fee of $13. Two more months, and we’d be out of business.

This mistake was no longer a big deal because it has happened for the past six years, and I’ve grown used to it. Usually I go in and explain, and they fix it in the system and vow to never, ever charge us again, because we are the Girl Scouts, and they love the Girl Scouts. Then they give me their business cards, which I now throw in the trash as I leave the door because these people are never around for more than a year.

Sure enough, I sat down before a new lady today to explain our situation. She looked confused, so I mentioned several people at the very same branch who had helped me in the past.

“Never heard of them,” she said.

Then, frustrated, I more or less said, “We go through this every year. Now click the button and make it go away.” Maybe I could have put it a little nicer.

“Nope, sorry. Nothing we can do.”

So, I, having recently watched a rerun of the Beverly Hillbillies in which Granny tells Mr. Dresdale that she wants all of her money back, so she can put it under her mattress, tell the lady, “I know you could care a less, but if you don’t fix this, I’m going to pull all of the money in my personal account out of this bank.”

She glanced down at my pitiful, post-Christmas balance, raised an eyebrow and gave me a look that said, “You’re right. I could care a less.”

“Six months without charge,” she said. English was not her first language.

This called for drastic measures. I moved in closer, looked dead into her cold eyes, and said slowly in a low but firm voice, “I’ll remember this come cookie time.”

I saw a look of fear cross her face, her fingers frantically tapping on the keyboard.

“I see, Ms. Knight. It looks like we can take this off for another year after all and refund the charges to the account ASAP.”

“Thank you,” I said. “Shall I put you down for a box of Thin Mints?”

I guess her mama never warned her not to mess with the Girl Scouts, especially on a Monday.

(Disclaimer: Just in case some staunch Girl Scout official reads this blog, the last five sentences happened merely in my imagination. I, as a leader, would never threaten someone by withholding Girl Scout cookies. It would be way too dangerous.)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I need a hearing aid for God's word

The following is an essay that I wrote a few years ago. I wrote it after being asked to accept a very important position within the church. Today in church, our guest preacher said God is leading him and his family in a certain direction (and I have absolutely no doubt that He is); however, it made me think of this recently rediscovered essay. Here it is:

Why is it that the Holy Spirit only whispers softly to me, so softly, in fact, that He is barely audible?

He seems to shout at other people, giving them clear direction and purpose in their lives, leaving them without a doubt regarding which way to turn. Twice in the paper this week were reports of “God told me to” and “The Holy Spirit said for me to do it.” One was to donate a car and the other was to purchase land for a daycare.

There have been times, twice, recently, in fact, when I thought God was leading me to do something. However, that something would be hard and very inconvenient to my family. I’d have to change my routine, step way out of my comfort zone. I’d even have to pray in public! Maybe he’s not telling me to, after all, I thought. Would God ask me to do something that would be a burden to my family? I know how some would answer that, but would he really?

Both times I have said no. Both times I have regretted it and prayed for another chance to do His will. I just hope He’ll shout at me next time. I’m a little hard of hearing.

Friday, January 2, 2009

My home office--the pool table

I cleaned my office in honor of the new year. Now, when I say office, I use that term loosely. I have a computer desk pushed into a corner in front of what was once the side door of our sunroom. Or at least it was a sunroom. I guess it still is, except instead of wicker furniture and pretty potted plants, we have a pool table in the middle, surrounded by kids’ toys.

Twice a year my husband insists I clean all of my “junk” off of it. He has no idea that’s where I keep our most important papers—kids’ book reports, insurance cards, photos, voter id’s. Who needs a safe deposit box when you have a pool table?

I surrounded my office area with two large screens in order to block the glare from the sun, as well as block the amount of time I spend daydreaming as opposed to writing to my family. I like my little home cubicle, despite the noise. In fact, if the phone weren’t ringing, the kids weren’t laughing (or bickering) and the dog next door weren’t barking, I don’t think I could write a thing.

Anyway, an amazing thing happened while I was cleaning. I found a stack of essays that I had written five years ago, sort of blog posts before the blog. I can’t believe how I’ve changed.

In one I describe my frustration over scorching the chocolate for the chocolate ├ęclairs I was preparing for the ladies' lunch/Bible study the next day. Apparently, I had a sick child on my hip, one who coughed continually into the pot (sorry, ladies). It sounded like a delightful lunch, something out of Martha Stewart. I’m sure the ladies enjoyed it, but I was no doubt lost during the lesson because I admitted in the essay that I had not found time to crack open the Bible. My point of view was wrong on so many levels back then—chocolate ├ęclairs, what was I thinking?

Another essay talks about my saying good-bye to big hair (Yes, I clung to the 80s for a long time), while others discuss my faith or my struggles with faith. Some of my problems at the time seem so trivial; their solutions so crystal-clear now that I can’t remember ever worrying about them.

But all recorded a moment in time, and I’m so glad I wrote—and found—them. Maybe I’ll keep them on top of the pool table with all my other precious belongings. At least until my office undergoes its next cleaning, or we decide to finally play pool--whichever comes first.