Sunday, June 28, 2009

Chubby drinks, chubby kids

A crazy thing happened to me at “my friendly neighborhood grocery store” today (Their slogan, not mine). As I’m checking out, the clerk asks, “Would you like to donate $1 to go toward…” - No, not the Miracle Network, not March of Dimes, not the Boys and Girls club - “drinks for kids in local day cares?”

She points to a basket of small, round bottles of carbonated sugar that, ironically enough, has “Chubby” printed across the front of it. In this age of rampant childhood obesity, this store is actually promoting the donation of this worthless product to kids, whose parents probably already pack them artificial drinks in their lunch boxes.

On one hand, perhaps, the store’s heart is in the right place. On the other, maybe they’re just trying to write off some crappy products that won’t sell or are close to expiring. This same store donated a truckload, a truckload, mind you, of Little Debbie’s to my children’s elementary school.

I know because my friend works in the front office, and despite her tiny frame, managed to spend the afternoon eating one or two of every kind – Swiss rolls, oatmeal pies, Star Crunch, Cosmic Brownies, you get the idea. Imagine the children’s reaction. (To be perfectly fair, the school wisely did not distribute them to the kids).

But, back to Chubby, it seems this is a carbonated soft drink marketed specifically for kids under 12 with flavors such as bubble gum and cotton candy. Need I say more?

“No!” I told the clerk, shocked at her request.

“Not even one for .30?”

“Absolutely not!” I said.

I would be happy to donate a dollar for school supplies, clothes, fruit, jump ropes, but none of my money is going toward Chubby drinks, I thought, perhaps, out loud.

The clerk looked at me as if I were the most heartless person on the planet.

Later that day, I gave my teenager some money to pick up a few things I had (as usual) forgotten from the store. I was just venting to my husband about the clerk’s outrageous request, not to mention her pushiness, when my daughter came back with two bags of groceries and a receipt.

I thanked her profusely, and as she walked away, she said, “Oh, and I donated $1 for some drinks to kids in day care.”

Guess I’m doing my part for childhood obesity after all. I hope the store is proud.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Going the distance

A big part of my job as a writer is writing about stuff I know nothing about but making people think that I do. I (hopefully) accomplish this by interviewing “experts in the field” and through research.

You might say that I learn a lot that way, and I guess I do while it’s being written. But, truthfully, by the time I’ve hit the send button to my editor, it’s 95% gone. Just like when I was in college. I’d take the test, dump the information and then go get a margarita. I’m kidding about the margarita – sort of.

Recently, I wrote an article on “17 free things to do with your children,” a fact that came up during a recent conversation with a friend.

“Oh, that sounds great." she said. "What were they?”

I could only think of one. I guess I’ll have to read my article.

Perhaps the most difficult articles for me to write are on sports. I realize all too greatly that one slip could let the world know that “She doesn’t really know what’s she’s talking about, and I bet she’s never even seen an Olympic-style wrestling match!” Or is it called Greco-Roman? Or mat? And do they square-off or face-off or neither? That one is still in the works.

The problem I find with sports articles is that coaches assume you know what they are talking about, plus they really don’t say anything, no offense. When my daughter played high school lacrosse, I was in charge of writing press releases for the paper. I sweated out one article, in which I thought I did a pretty darn good in explaining the history of the game (Native Americans sometimes played it for days in preparation for war.), but, sadly, no one knew what actually happened during the game. Fortunately, for me one of the paper’s sports writers took over. If you ask me, those guys should get paid more!

So, here I sit, with the ball in my court, going the extra mile on my sports article, hoping that this one will be a homerun, and I won’t be the weakest link, out in left field or drop the ball. I’ll do my best to cover my bases, and I hope I won’t be blindsided, thrown a curveball or get knocked down for the count. If so, I’m calling foul play and then this will be a whole new ballgame! Sorry, just practicing.

Monday, June 22, 2009

It's never too late for Father's Day

So, I'm a day late and a dollar short, a trait I did NOT learn from my father (nor my mother, to be fair). And, in my defense, I was at the lake with my dad yesterday, which prevented me from blogging. And I admittedly copied this idea from a fellow blogger whom I follow; however, the sentiment is the same.

Dad - I love you! Thanks for everything you've done for me!

And, thanks in advance, Mom, for showing him this blog post!

P.S. The baby my dad's holding is yours truly - some thirty-something years ago. The bottom photo contains my little sister and me with dad at Lake Weiss. My uncle's boat (Old Rag) is in the background. The motorcycle is a more current photo, although he looks so young it's hard to tell! (And, Dad, I promise I'm not about to hit you up for money!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Kate spanks the baby!

So, one of the eight got a spanking this week. Oh, my! Now the tabloid headline reads, “Kate hits her child. Should she have her children taken away?”

I should probably start by saying I’ve only watched the show once or twice and only for a few minutes at a time. My husband controls the remote and rarely will it land on “Jon and Kate plus eight.” On one hand, I guess she’s asked for this media frenzy herself by opening her home to cameras 24/7. On the other hand, a girl’s got to make a living, especially with eight mouths to feed!

And when did spanking become child abuse? I know it’s not what “Super Nanny” would do, but who among us was not spanked growing up? And remember the big paddles teachers used to hang on their walls?

I had the sweetest, prettiest first grade teacher, but if you misbehaved, she would take you out into the hall and whack you within (what sounded like from inside the classroom) an inch of your life. Students would come back in hysterical tears, and she’d be beaming. Gives me the shivers just thinking about it!

My two younger children are lucky. I gave up spanking when I told my oldest to clean her room, and she responded with, “Can’t you just give me a spanking?”

It just wasn’t working. As for Kate and Jon and their eight, I guess the verdict is still out. What do you think?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Game, set, match

I learned early on that if one doesn’t make fun of oneself, somebody else will. So, in that vein, here’s what happened at my tennis match. . . .

First of all, I received a surprise call from my team, the one I never practice with, saying that they needed a player. Apparently, one person had to attend a funeral, one was sick and one just plain flaked out. If I had to find a positive result of this pitiful economy, it would be that I am now available to play tennis at the last minute.

Despite the fact that I haven’t played in a full year, I recently picked up three new skirts at T.J. Maxx ($14 marked down from $50. Who could resist?) After much ado, I chose to wear the bright yellow one. I did not choose wisely.

Mapquest and GPS wanted me to go a back route to the match, so who am I to argue? Unfortunately, I had a bad address, and both failed to get me there. Running late and fearing a forfeit, I whipped the car into a convenience store (it was that or the tattoo parlor across the street), only to be greeted by a bunch of gestures from a homeless-looking man. It seems he thought I was going to run over him, and he wasn’t very happy.

Not wanting to get out, I cracked the window and asked the next person out of the store for directions. He had no teeth and questionable hygene, but, by golly, he could give directions. Although I doubted him for a minute when I swear I saw the very same homeless man walking three miles down the road.

I found the courts and ran to meet my partner for the first time. She was on the phone asking our sick team captain how she would recognize me. I don’t know what she said, but a good answer would have been, “Because she’ll be late and running to the courts.”

Once on the court, I felt at home, except my new skirt had the ball pocket on the right-hand side.

“Whoever designed this skirt put the pocket on the wrong side,” I proclaimed loudly. “I have to switch the racquet to my left hand to put the ball in. Whoever designed this has obviously never played tennis!”

I was quite outraged because, remember, I’d paid $14 for it!

“I just shove mine up in my shorts,” said my opponent, helpfully.

Well, okay, when in Rome …

I shoved the ball in my shorts on the left side of my leg.

“You have to shove them way up there,” she added.

Oookay, I thought, and did as I was told.

My next thoughts were “How do I get it out?” and “This is kind of gross! I’ll just use the right-hand side pocket.”

As the match went on, I realized that the decorative lace of my skirt was in back. Crappy designer? No, I was wearing my skirt backward.

It was around that time that I noticed the bees. Sweat bees. Frankly, I don’t sweat a lot and have never experienced them before, but they were swarming around my skirt, much to my dismay.

“They’re attracted to yellow,” yelled a spectator, “and they STING! It feels just like a regular bee.”

Someone later told me that neither is true, but, not knowing, I wasn’t taking any chances. I briefly thought about yanking the skirt off and tossing it for the bees (which look more like bugs) to chase, but, instead, I decided my best bet was to move and move quickly.

The result? I didn’t miss a shot for the rest of the set, much to opponents’ dismay.

My partner said, “Wow, you can really move fast!”

“I have to move to keep the bees off of me,” I said, which somehow came out in my slowest country Southern drawl, as I’m to want to do when I’m tired or slightly intoxicated, so it sounded more like, “Ah haaaf to mooove if ah wanna keep thah beeezzz off ah me.”

Ultimately, we lost the match. I was sweaty, dirty, sunburned and covered with sweat bees, but after a year without playing, I’d never felt better, poor economy or not. However, if you need some freelance work done…

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fender-benders: a female perspective

I heard somewhere that women tend to have fender-benders while men tend to have major accidents on the road.

Crazy as it sounds, I almost think the latter is better. At least, if you’re in the hospital, you get some sympathy. It’s hard to criticize someone’s driving while that person is lying in a hospital bed in a full body cast. Plus if you’re unconscious, you don’t have to make the call. You know, the “Honey, I’ve had a fender-bender (again)” call.

For every fender-bender I’ve had in the past 13 years of marital bliss (which have NOT all been my fault, not to sound defensive or anything), my reaction has been the following:

1. “Oh, ----” Now, I normally don’t swear at all, and especially not in front of my children, but this has been my reaction every time, which made me wonder if anyone’s ever run his or her car into anything without a curse word slipping out. Is it humanly possible? I could tell a story here about a preacher I know but won’t.

2. I apologize to the kids for the swear word. (I should have been Catholic - the guilt thing - although I believe they allow swear words.)

3. I make sure the kids are okay and not hurt.

4. Then I THINK, “Oh, ----,” now I have to make the call.

5. I say to my children, “No, I don’t know how much it’s going to cost, and, no, I don’t know why I backed into that car, and, yes, that is a big dent, and, yes, that does look like a brand-new car, and, yes, she does look a tad angry, and, NO, we are not going to Dairy Queen!”

6. I pull out my cell phone and stare at it, trying to figure out who else I might call and then decide that not even my mama loves me that much. Not to mention I used up my allotment of those calls when I turned 16.

7. I seriously consider jumping back into the car and telling the kids we are going to pretend we are “Smokey and Bandit,” and then hightail it out of there. In today’s case, however, I remind myself that I’m in a church parking lot and quickly dismiss the thought before God gets mad at me. Plus there are witnesses.

8. I stare at the phone, regret I said no to DQ and contemplate how many ice creams dipped in chocolate I would have to buy my children in order to prevent them from telling their daddy.

9. Apologize profusely to the person I hit and blame it all on the fact that I’m either driving my husband’s truck, or he hasn’t fixed the rearview mirror like I’ve asked him to a dozen times, or he told me to hurry home because he was hungry. Either way, it’s all his fault.

10. Dial the number and say, tearfully, “Honey, I’ve had a fender-bender. And, it was all MY fault.”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

No shoes, no shirt, no problem

I had to teach Sunday school today, so I was dressed and ready to leave the house by 8:00 a.m., which, believe me, is a miracle. On top of that, my son was dressed in a shirt that was button correctly and was not on backwards or inside out. Miracles never cease!

As I get ready to walk out the door to pick up my daughter from a friend’s house on the way to church, I tell my son to put his shoes on. He immediately gets a “deer in the headlights” look on his face. He has no idea where his church shoes are. Granted, in his defense, we’ve spent most Sundays at the lake, and he hasn’t really needed them.

So, the first place he looks is the closet that once contained a special shoe sorter. The one I bought to keep them organized and their shoes out of the middle of the floor. The one I made a big deal about. The one they never used, so I finally moved six months ago.

“Where’s the shoe holder?” he asked.

“Look in the armoire,” I said.

“The what?”

“The big piece of furniture in the middle of the room.”

He walks in and looks right at it and declares, “I can’t find it.”

Not his shoes, mind you, but the armoire.

Around this time, my daughter calls. She’s forgotten to pack her church shoes. Can I bring them?

“Okay, son, look in the downstairs closet, and I’ll look up in your room. Hurry, we’ve got 10 minutes.”

I walk into his room, pick up his shoes from the middle of the floor where he left them and come downstairs to see that, in his desperate search, he’s pulled everything out of the closet. All the while, I’m on the phone with my daughter who's trying to figure out exactly where her shoes are. Finally, she calls back and remembers that they are under her dresser. I swear that was just a lucky guess.

Meanwhile, my son is frantically attempting to cram his size 4 foot into a size 2 shoe. Not going to happen.

“Where are your tennis shoes?” I said. “Just wear them.”

He shoots me the same blank look, except this time there is a little more fear in his eyes.

“Forget it,” I said. “Just wear your sandals.”

After all, isn’t that what Jesus would do?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

THAT shirt

So, I went to Florida recently, and all I brought back was a stupid t-shirt. I’m kidding, but I did see a lot of those down there. It seems restaurants name themselves with t-shirts in mind. In fact, I saw one that advertised, “Home of the world-famous t-shirt.” Considering the name of the restaurant, it’s a good thing. I can’t imagine anyone eating there.

Although amusing, I’m not always crazy about these type of shirts. When my daughter was a pre-teen, she went shopping with her grandmother and came home with a shirt that said, “Get laid—Hawaiian-style.” My mom shrugged and said, “I thought I’d let you explain it to her.”

Thanks, mom!

One of the first really big fights my husband and I got into was over an inappropriate t-shirt. We’d been to New Orleans, and he couldn’t resist buying one with a slogan that I won’t repeat, except to say that Big Easy during Mardi Gras after 2 a.m. may very well be the only time that shirt was appropriate.

So, one Sunday, shortly after we were married and before children, we rolled out of bed close to noon and decided we would have lunch on the square at a certain meat and three restaurant. Once we got there, we noticed a big line of well-dressed folks. We’d timed our late breakfast with church-goers Sunday dinner.

Smelling the fried chicken, we decided to go in despite the crowd. It was somewhere in the middle of the buffet line that I realized he was wearing THAT shirt. The one he bought in New Orleans. The one with the dirty slogan. And he was wearing it in front of God and everybody.

I told him we needed to leave immediately. He was a little too hungry to agree. I won the argument (My son has already noticed that mamas tend to), but not before we drew a little bit of attention to ourselves and, worst of all, THAT shirt.

I guess it runs in the family. Years later after we became church-goers, we were at a church social when I heard our preacher ask my daughter, “How is that barbeque place? We’ve driven by it several times but never stopped.”

“Oh, it’s good! I stopped there with my grandparents, and they bought me this t-shirt,” she said, right before walking away and revealing a slogan on the back that read, “BEST BUTTS IN ALABAMA.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Purse of the month club

I’ve never had a shoe fetish. I don’t care much for jewelry. I prefer T.J. Maxx to Niemen Marcus, but when it comes to purses...expensive, cheap, big or small, I love them all.

My husband said I should join the purse of the month club, and he is probably right. I don’t know the psychology behind it, but I am always searching for the perfect one - right color, right size, right strap, pockets in the right place, zip up, not too heavy, easy to organize and, above all, stylish. See my dilemma.

I realized I had a problem today when I found the perfect Vera Bradley bag. It’s a brand-new style and made for freelance writers/moms who carry notebooks, water bottles and everything else her kids hand her to hold. It’s appropriately named the mailbag and has a cute little strap that slings over the shoulder. Ladies, I know you are with me.

I tried it on for size, opened it and fell in love. My heart ached for it, but I had two stumbling blocks. One was my son had looked at the price tag. Not only had he looked at it, he had blurted out, “$72! Who would pay $72?”

“Boys aren’t supposed to know how much their mamas’ purses cost,” I said, sternly.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because they tell their daddies!”

And, believe me, he would, immediately, with gusto, and he would also add that I told him not to. Don’t ask how I know this. Just trust me on it.

My other problem is my husband has begun to notice my purses. For years, life went merrily along with me happily sporting new purses as I pleased. Then, suddenly, something happened. Perhaps it was the bright pink one that got his attention, but my husband began to notice. And it’s been that way all year. He noticed the yellow one, the white one, the Vera Bradley that was too small, the Liz Claiborne, the maroon one and the black, and he even noticed those two were the exact same styles. And, I don't mean noticed in a good way.

It was when I was standing in front of the purse today and seriously thinking about sneaking it into the house that I realized I’d better quit cold turkey. At least until the season changes.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Writing's a beach

Sorry for the delay in posting...We just returned from a week at the beach. Here's something I wrote while I was down there:

Here I am at the beach. Having declared after a few Coronas that I could write anything while I’m here in paradise--novel, short stories, poetry, blogs--you know, basically, anything except the articles that are due next week, I decided I’d better get to it. And also it’s raining, and I have nothing better to do.

I have a love/hate relationship with writing. I love to write. With writing I can tell stories without losing one’s attention mid-sentence to the television, without being interrupted and losing my train of thought by my children’s request for candy, without mispronouncing a word (although I may use one incorrectly now and then) and without forgetting the punch line. Unlike conversation, I can read, re-read it, think on it, sleep on it, or say, “Oh, who cares?” and write it anyway.

Although it’s extremely satisfying if someone else reads my work, and, dare I hope, even likes it, and, perhaps, best of all, tells me he or she does, ultimately, it doesn’t matter if anyone reads it or not. It is written. It’s off my chest, out of my mind, and on “paper,” and that - even if it is later declared nothing but gibberish - makes it real. That’s why I love writing so.

Unfortunately, I seem to hate to find time to write for pleasure. Sadly, at home, my little budding novel comes last on my daily agenda, after the husband, the kids, the dogs, the writing I do to pay the bills, the shopping, the dishes, and, lately, even termites.

Yet, I keep it in the back of my mind and whenever I have the luxury of time such as the rare moment my house is clean or it’s raining at the beach, I pull it out and work it on it in bits and pieces, feeling grateful that I started it and hoping it will continue to nag me until it’s done.

And who knows? Perhaps one day my fiction will even pay for a beach house. If not, I can pull out my pen and paper and pretend.