Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas' last stand


My newlywed daughter and her husband set up their tree this year. I asked her how it went, and she said, “We had a few tree stand issues. I almost had to pull a Ben Daddy.”

Tree stands were apparently sent by the Grinch to steal the spirit of Christmas. Just ask my daddy, aka, Ben Daddy.

Year after year, he struggled to get our freshly-cut tree to stand up straight in its stand with the help of three flimsy screws. Year after year, he failed, and we’d inevitably resort to other measures such as tying the top with string and running it across the room to help it stay in place. God only knows what Martha Stewart would have said.

One particular year – my most memorable Christmas – Dad met his match in a beautiful tree with a crooked trunk. I’m sure my sister and I insisted it was the one and that we had to have it. Perhaps the crooked trunk made it even more lovable in our eyes, but for Dad, tackling that trunk was like Ahab trying to catch Moby Dick. As my son is fond of saying, “This is not going to end well.”

Dad cussed and stomped around and made every attempt to force the tree into its stand, but the tree would have none of it.

Finally, Dad hit his boiling point. In a rage, he grabbed the tree and tossed it into the ditch in the front yard while my sister and I screamed, “Not the tree, Daddy! Are we still going to have Christmas?”

At which point, he answered us by flinging the tree stand like a frisbee over the roof of the house. I’m sure we women gave him the silent treatment, and, frankly, I don’t remember the rest of the story. I assume we got another tree, and I’m pretty sure Santa Claus came, but the memory of that event far overshadowed whatever we got in our stocking.

It’s been many years later, and we still laugh about that Christmas. I think Dad’s a little ashamed, but now that I have to deal with tree stands of my own, I can relate to his hatred of them.

This year, we searched high and low for a tree, which is ironic since my son is a Boy Scout and actually sells them. Sadly, we waited too late and missed our opportunity. After five or six empty lots, we drove our hungry children across town and bought a 6-footer for a whopping $70. Merry Christmas to us.

The only problem is, we couldn’t find our tree stand. We looked high and low through the many boxes of decorations. Still no stand.

Three days later, when the kids realized why we were tearing the house apart, they commented casually, “Oh, Daddy, you threw that stand out to the curb last year and said you never wanted to see it again.”

Mystery solved.

So, off we went in search a new and improved stand. We landed at a big box store where the last stand was on a tree out front.

Though the store was full of power tools, the clerk came out with a hand screwdriver, and after what seemed like an hour later, finally handed us our new stand. Problem is, it was just like our old one.

Too tired to shop elsewhere, we came home, and my husband wrestled our tree into the stand, wrenching his back in the process.

Someday, some smart guy will come along and invent a magical new method for keeping trees in place. Until then, we’ll go on making memories – with or without a Christmas tree.

Happy holidays from the Knight family.



Monday, December 3, 2012

Clean up - the maid is coming

I hired a maid.

I know I don’t have to justify this decision, but let me justify this decision.

I had surgery recently. A surgery which my son commented that I was making the most of. He even went as far as to say he wished he’d had surgery. I told him that could be arranged.

I work full-time now, and I’m really, really tired when I get home. Real tired. I know plenty of women work and keep their homes neat and their kids fed, but my energy level allowed me to choose one or the other, and the house doesn’t whine.

I can only say this because my grandmother has passed away, but I’m a lousy housekeeper. My grandmother’s house was so clean that my daughter wrote a report about it back in the third grade, stating she had the “cleanest basement in the whole world” and that was no exaggeration.

Today, my daughter has a house of her own, and she said she tries to think to herself, “Is this clean enough for G.G.?” If not, she cleans some more. It obviously skipped a generation or two.

Back to the maid. I hired her through word of mouth. I mentioned to my hairdresser that I was looking for one, and she in turn yelled “Hey, know anyone who cleans?” to her coworker across the room, who in turn gave me a number. That, my friends, is how news travels.

I called her, and we spoke. You’d think I’d be interviewing her, asking her questions about her qualifications, but instead, I spent most of the phone call ensuring her that we’d tidy up before she came and trying to convince her that we really weren’t that bad. I guess I sounded fairly convincing or either desperate enough that she felt sorry for me because she agreed to stop by and give me an estimate.

“Clean up!” I yelled when I got home from work that day. “I’ve hired a maid, and I don’t want her to know how filthy we are.”

“I don’t want anybody but my mama cleaning my room,” my son protested.

I guess I should have been flattered. Instead, I closed his door and told the maid she didn’t have to go in there.

“I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself,” I told her.

She gave her price, and we agreed for her to come the following day. Since I was at work, my husband texted me updates at my insistence. They went something like this.

“She’s here.” – 8:45 a.m.

“Had to unclog the vacuum, twice. There’s enough hair in it to make a wig.” – 9:30
“She’s still upstairs.” – 11 a.m.

“Started on our bathroom” – 12:30 p.m.

“Said she had to leave to get her son. Would finish next time, and, oh yeah, she’s raising her rates.” – 1:45 p.m.

At which point I called him.

“Catch her! Tell her to please come back, please. I’ll pay double!” I said, cursing myself for not telling him to offer her a sandwich and something cold to drink.

Fortunately, we’ve since worked it out. Her original rate was too low, and our house was bigger, and, yeah, messier than she thought. She’s worth every penny and then some. I can’t wait for her to arrive every other week. Even my teenage daughter enjoys it and happily picks up her room so it can be vacuumed. Having a maid has forced us to keep things tidier, which makes me happier and a better mom. I rank the decision to hire her right up there behind getting married and having kids. I just hope she keeps coming back.
As for my son, his room is still quarantined.



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

These boots are made for ... giving away?

Yes, it's true. It's my first giveaway since I started the blog, and it's a big one, thanks to Country Outfitters.

They have graciously agreed to allow me to review a pair of their boots - and give away a pair to you, my readers. I am very excited about the opportunity because I have been lusting after these boots both online and in person. They are nothing short of fabulous.

Since I'm such a good mom (and we wear the same shoe size), I've allowed my teenaged daughter to be my foot model. Needless to say, she was very surprised, especially since we've teased her about her long, skinny feet since before she was born. (You can read here about how my father-in-law convinced me that she would weigh 12 lbs. at birth based on the size of her protruding foot when she'd kick.)

Here she is today making her boot selection. Please check back for details on the chance to win a pair of your own - or to surprise your teenaged daughter (or son).

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Everything!

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and for weeks I’ve been called a Scrooge. Yes, a Scrooge as in “The Christmas Carol,” emphasis on Christmas.

Growing up, my dad was a firm believer in singing Christmas carols – on Christmas Day. I’m not quite as strict. My son’s been playing “Up on the Housetop” on his clarinet for a month now, and since it was my grandmother’s favorite carol, I’ve allowed it — plus it’s required for school.

See, I’m reasonable.

I bit my tongue when my husband accidentally called the house with a jazz version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” blaring on his truck radio. I wanted to ask if it were some kind of sick joke, but I didn’t. I’ve ignored his humming of holiday tunes around the house and didn’t accuse of him of doing it just to bug me.
See, I’m very reasonable — until one night when my family piled into the car to go somewhere.

“Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock …” sang the radio.

“Jingle around the clock!” my family chimed in at the top of their lungs.

I turned, glared at the kids and pushed the button hard for the next station.

“I’ll have a blue Christmas …” it played.

“Without you …” my family sang in exaggerated fashion. “You’ll be doin’ all right, with your Christmas so whi …”

At which point, I couldn’t stand it and turned the radio off all together.

“You’re a Scrooge,” my husband teased.

“A Scrooge?” I said, outraged. “It’s Veterans Day!”

And, it was. Downtown Newnan looked beautiful with its white lights, but what about flags? Shouldn’t we slow down and enjoy each holiday as it comes, instead of lumping them all together into a “holiday season” that starts the minute the last door is shut on a trick-or-treater? Or is it just me? Sometimes I feel as if it is.

I love Thanksgiving. I love everything it’s about – family, food and, most importantly, being thankful for both. There are no gifts, no pressure to buy, no pressure to decorate perfectly or even to be happy. On Thanksgiving, the biggest decision one has to make is whether to take a nap, go for a walk or have another piece of pie after lunch.

And best of all, there are no songs.

I know some people really love all the pomp and circumstance that come with Christmas, and there are people who have already decorated and been ready for the big event for weeks. Believe it or not, this year, I’m one of them. My children went to a pottery place and hand painted the perfect gift for me. It’s a plate that reads, “Happy Everything!”

I’ve decided to keep it on my mantel year-round. I figure that covers all the holidays, and, hopefully, it will remind me that listening to “The Little Drummer Boy” won’t kill me, no matter what time of year it is — especially when my precious children are singing along.



Friday, November 16, 2012

Guilt free recovery


I had to have a procedure recently.

Procedure is supposed to be a delicate word for surgery. Kind of like issues is currently the delicate word for problems. So, I either had an issue that required a procedure or a problem that required surgery. You pick. The end result is the same — a month of recovery, a delicate word for doing nothing.

At first, I was horrified at the thought of sitting around and allowing my family and friends to wait on me, but I found that I soon warmed to the concept. So much so that I began enjoying it more than I felt I should. I voiced this concern to a friend who reminded me: “You have every right to enjoy your recovery – guilt free.”

That was just the permission I needed. Since that moment, I’ve decided to embrace my down time, not fight it. Here’s what I’ve learned in the process:

The world will not end if I don’t leave the house. That’s a good thing because I rather like not leaving the house.

Showers feel really good after a few days.

My son secretly knows how to do laundry. I don’t know how or why.

It’s very easy to tweet the day away.

It’s humanly impossible not to eat fun-sized candy bars if they are in the house.

True friends pass along their trashy magazines. I have lots of true friends.

There’s very little a piece of homemade lemon meringue pie won’t cure.

The more commercials I watch, the more convinced I’ve become that I need those products. To that end, Forever Cozy seat cushion and NoNo laser hair remover are on their way.

There are a lot of Denzel Washington movies I haven’t seen.

I could probably live in my bedroom if I had to.

One card makes up for a mailbox full of bills.

I can’t remember any of my passwords or my cell number, and that has nothing to do with the leftover effects of the anesthesia.

My purse constituted heavy lifting and violated the doctor’s orders.

Couches with built-in recliners are worth their weight in gold.

I don’t miss running nearly as much as I thought I would. Nor working. Nor cooking. Nor cleaning.

In fact, I think recovery becomes me. As my friend said, “It’s amazing what we go through just to get a vacation.”

She’s right. It may not fit into our plans, but God knows what He’s doing and when we need to put our feet up.
So, for now, I’m going to put away my to-do list, unwrap a bite-sized 3 Musketeers, pull out my stack of Hollywood magazines and enjoy because, ready or not, I’ll be well before I know it. At least, my family hopes so!



Friday, November 9, 2012

Thank you for being a friend

I had surgery two weeks ago, and my family couldn’t be happier about it – or fatter.

“Why do people keep bringing food?” my son asked when I came home from my brief stay in the hospital.

“Because that’s just what they do in South,” I said.

And it is wonderful.

As a mother, I was a little afraid of being incapacitated for a few weeks. Don’t get me wrong, my husband is very hands on, but I’m the mother. Since my daughter was born 22 years ago, I’ve pretty much believed the world would end if I spent a day in bed. I really thought very little about the surgery (which went fine, by the way) beforehand. Instead, I thought of more important things like, “Who will separate the delicates from the towels? Who will fix the sweet tea? Who will RSVP to party invitations?”

As I said, very important things.

I also worried a little about food, specifically, what we were going to eat. My husband is an excellent chef and cooks plenty of meals, but for some reason, I had it in my head that I should buy a case or two of power bars to keep by my bed just in case. I should have known that no matter one’s situation, if you know a few Southern women, you have nothing to fear.

In addition to my husband’s homemade Brunswick stew, we’ve been blessed with food from some of the area's finest cooks. Night after night, these sweet friends of mine entered bearing casserole dishes — some fancy, some disposable — all equally delicious.


“I like home-cooked meals,” my daughter said enthusiastically, making me feel a twinge of guilt for not cooking enough the past year, or two, or three ...

The best part about Southern women is they think of everything. The food was gluten- and nut-free per our allergies. They brought jugs of Chick-fil-A tea, 12 packs of cranberry La Croix and sacks of People magazines for me to pass the time. They brought ice cream and cookies for dessert, gift cards for take-out later and cinnamon rolls for breakfast. I gotta tell you, recovering from surgery ain’t half bad.

And beyond the kitchen, I’ve gotten flowers, phone calls, visits, texts and prayers. Any ounce of apprehension vanished as soon as my friends sprang into action. Thank God, I let them, though being the true friends that they are, I had no choice.

Speaking of thanking, one of my dearest friends, whom I’ll call “Louise,” picked me up last week and drove me all over town to look for thank you notes.

We finally found them at a local pharmacy. According to the sales clerk, they don’t carry many because they don’t sell. Kind of sad sign on the state of manners. I still think real mail trumps emails, texts and even phone calls, but I’m hoping this column will trump all three.

Thank you, friends.



Saturday, October 27, 2012

All you need is ... sports

I never thought I’d be saying this, but I think the world would be a better place if women talked sports. Relax, men, I don’t mean talked sports with you. I mean with each other.

Just imagine ... there’d be no misinterpreting innocent comments, no later analysis of tone, no backhanded compliments to be offended, no subtle nuances -- just cut and dry stuff like “The Braves really sucked this year, didn’t they?”

Women wouldn’t have to worry about if they’ve forgotten their girlfriend’s daughter’s birthday or failed to notice right away that they got their late-in-life braces off. All they’d need to know is if the Bulldogs won and whether or not they need a new kicker.

It would really eliminate a lot of pressure.
Now, to be clear, I do not mean they should talk about their kids’ sports. While most women are supportive of one another kids, there’s still a gray area when it comes to who brought the best snacks and who has volunteered more often in the concession stand. Believe me, it exists.

Men do not have that. I can only guess it’s because they simply don’t care. I actually envy them. They don’t have to worry about staying in constant contact with their friends and knowing every aspect of their lives and wondering whether they are mad at them or not. They can go years without seeing each other and then pick right back up by asking, “Been playing much golf?”

In fact, I used to think sports were invented to give an outlet to the natural competitive spirit that we humans have, but now I think it’s so men can avoid these awkward issues. It’s no wonder they never complain of getting their feelings hurt after hanging with the guys. If a team is bad, they’re bad. Scores don’t lie.

As long as sports exist, men will always have something to talk about. I realize there are plenty of women who know sports and can discuss it without mixing up game, match, meet and umpires and referees. To me, that alone is impressive.

Though I have to admit, I have never seen two women discussing sports. Ever.

I have noticed, however, that every reporter on the field at football games is a woman. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be there, but I wonder if it’s now a requirement to get an interview.

Regardless, I do think women knowing about sports is the wave of the future. My daughter is an all-around athlete who can watch football, volleyball, tennis and basketball (among others) and discuss the plays intelligently —with her father. She doesn’t believe me, but I told her that would get her far in business and in life.

As for me, I like the status quo. Women chatting about sports with one another might bring about world peace, but I’d sure miss my friends.



Friday, October 19, 2012

Halloween horror tips


For a kid who has never seen an R-rated movie, my son knows a lot about them – particularly scary ones.

He can describe the plot of classics such as “Psycho,” “Amityville Horror,” “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th,” “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Jaws,” “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” “The Blob” and many, many, many more – a fact that is quite horrifying to his mother.

Apparently, one of the television channels is showing a scary movie a night. While I was out of town at a writers’ conference, he was home watching – not the movies – but the commercials.

“Who do you think is scarier, Jason or Chucky?” he asked.

After much debate, we decided that, while Chucky is certainly creepy and worth checking twice under our beds for, his small stature gave us the upper hand.

“Who do you think is the scariest out of all the horror movies,” he asked.

That was easy – Michael Myers.

And forget the movie, I remember borrowing the book, “Halloween,” from a friend and reading it on the bus.

“What’s ‘The Shining’ about?” he asked.

I could have regaled him with the details, but instead, being a mom and scared to death of that movie, I said, “Nothing you need to know about.”

To his credit, he didn’t press. Some stories are better left dead and buried.

With his help, I have compiled a list of do’s and don'ts if you happen to encounter Chucky, Jason or, gulp, Michael Myers this Halloween:

Don’t answer the door if you hear scary music. For example, the “chee, chee, chee” sound that Jason’s waiting outside with a knife.

Girls, don’t go parking with boys and vice versa.

Don’t pull the cover over your head when you hear footsteps.

Don’t watch scary movies alone.

Don’t move to a deserted hotel in the middle of winter. Just don’t.

Do lock the door when you shower. Yes, I do.

Do carry your cell phone. Home lines will always be cut.

Do get cable, so your child won’t sit in front of the television mesmerized by static.

Do not trust anyone who smiles like Jack Nicholson.

Do expect if you buy a scary mask for Halloween, your kid will sneak up on you while you are doing laundry and not say a word.

Do rent Monsters Inc. this Halloween -- or ET, and cuddle up with your kid.

That seems to be the best defense of all.



Friday, October 12, 2012

Wanna be a runner?

As part of my mass effort to improve myself, I decided to pick up my feet and start running.

I’ve described myself as a wanna-be-runner for years. In case you want to know what that is, it means as I’m driving downtown and I see people jogging, I think, “I wish I could do that,” and then turn up the AC. Over time, however, I’m chipping away at the wanna-be part.

My first 5K was two years ago. I was very proud of my time. An impossibly-thin friend I had not seen since high school saw me after the race and asked me what my time was. I proudly told her (note that I am not writing it here).

“That’s a great run for a 10K,” she said.

“Oh, that was for the 5K,” I said.

Her face said the rest.

Since that time, I’ve entered more races, and I’ve run better times. I set my PR when I was running with my best friend. She had done the couch to 5K training plan. I assumed her 5K time would be like my first 5K time. We stayed together the first two miles. By the third, she was still talking, and I knew I was in trouble.

“Are you OK?” she asked.

“Just. Can’t. Talk,” I managed to get out during breaths. “Go. Ahead. Save. Yourself.”

And off she went to the finish line. She later swears she wasn’t trying to beat me – just the guy who was speed walking ahead of us. It didn’t matter, my pride was too tired to care.
As time passed, I found some other running buddies to race with, including my teenage daughter. Now, if you’ve had a teenager, then you understand that if you find an activity that you can do together, you’d better latch onto it like a snapping turtle. And that’s just what I have done.

Next thing I knew, we were slipping out early Saturday mornings to race against our peers – and ourselves. Though the truth is there’s more cheering for one another than racing.

Runners are kind people, I’ve found. They don’t care how old you are or if you have to stop to walk or if your 5K time is mistaken for a 10K time. They know if you are out there participating, then you get it.

You get that there’s nothing to make you feel more alive than almost dying en route.

If you are a runner, then you know how nice it is to see the sun come up while you feel the crisp air fill your lungs. You know what a thrill it is to hear your quiet daughter give a war whoop as she passes you. You know how cool it is to get a new T-shirt and to have a great playlist and to feel grateful to be alive. You know what it’s like to chip away at your time, sometimes second by second. You know what it’s like to do something you’d never thought you’d be doing. It is running, and it is incredible.

It’s a sport that grows on you, and it has worked its way into me. I no longer loathe it. I look forward to it. I no longer dread the minutes on the treadmill. Instead I push myself to go faster. Somehow, step by step, I have become a runner. There, I finally said it. Doesn’t mean I’ll ever have a great time or even a good time, but I’m out there. I’m doing it. I am running, and this wanna-be finally belongs.



Friday, October 5, 2012

Good enough luck

My sister and I are Greens. And though we changed our maiden names over a decade ago, we kept one thing – Green luck.

I can remember being a kid and really identifying with the words to the song “Gloom, despair and agony on me,” sung by Buck Owens and Roy Clark on the TV show Hee-Haw. I’m not sure how many times my daddy said, “If it weren’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all,” but I believed it.

My sister Christie was rather charmed in her youth. She’d win cake walk after cake walk, door prize after door prize. And me? Well, I was like my daddy – snake bit - his term for unlucky. Today, my sister swears her luck has reversed, which is funny, because I feel the same about mine.

This summer, we took advantage of some frequent flyer miles to visit her and her family in Alaska. They picked us and our gear up at the airport in two cars, and we drove straight to the best pizza parlor in town. Excited about reuniting, we pulled into the parking lot and began chattering away like we haven’t seen each other in, well, years.
After a leisurely meal, I decided to forego a visit to the powder room because I didn’t want to make the men wait. And thank heavens I was so considerate, because as soon as we went outside, we heard the beep, beep, beep of a wrecker. My brother-in-law bolted across the parking lot just in time to see one of his two cars hitched to the back. If you have not guessed by now, we had inadvertently parked in a no-parking zone. Had I powdered my nose, we’d been minus a car and our gear.

“I sat there and watched you get out and go in the restaurant. I was going to tow you then, but I had another call. After I towed this one, I was going to come back and tow the other,” the man with the wrecker said.

My sister paid a fee that was far less than it would have been two minutes later.

“Still have Green luck,” my husband observed. “We’re in trouble with you two together.”

“I say we have ‘could-have-been-worse luck,’” I said.
That luck followed us throughout the trip. For example, we went hiking (more like mountain climbing) the next day up a mountain that overlooks my sister’s neighborhood and Anchorage. In fact, from the top of that mountain, one can even see Mount McKinley. As we breathed the fresh air into our lungs and marveled at how high we were, a fellow hiker appeared and shouted, “You’re going to be mad when you go back down.”

“Excuse me?” we said.

“There are parking tickets on both your cars.”

“Did he climb up here just to tell us that?” I asked, as the man cheerfully continued his ascent.

(My sister’s response has been censored.)

Needless to say, the hike down wasn’t nearly as pleasant. We again inadvertently parked just beyond the “No parking” signs, signs that had only recently been placed.

My sister and I agreed that it was another case of “it-could-have-been-worse luck.” At least they didn’t tow it, we said.

For the rest of our visit, we took the Alaskan road signs very seriously. On our final night, we dined on delicious Alaskan fare and then went for a stroll around Anchorage. Having eaten all the chocolate I intended to bring back as souvenirs, I insisted on restocking at a local store. That chocolate ended up costing us $60. Yes, we were five minutes late to our two-hour parking, and we paid for.

“I’m tired of could-have-been-worse-luck,” my sister said, a bit discouraged and sad that we were leaving.

“Do you know what I think?” I said. “If you are lucky enough to spend the week with your sister and her family, then you’re lucky enough. And, if you’re lucky enough to spend a week with them in Alaska, well, then you’re aren’t lucky at all; you’re blessed.”



Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fake it until you make it

Although my husband finds this inconceivable, the summer before I entered the eighth grade I decided that I would no longer be shy.

All through elementary school, I had been a quiet girl who hid behind a book, but for the eighth grade, I was going to enter a new school, one where no one knew me or my personality.

It occurred to me at the age of 13 that I could reinvent myself. I didn’t have to be a bookworm with thick glasses. I could be outgoing, friendly, and, dare I say it, popular. I could fake it until I made it.

So, I took off my glasses and went to school. Since I was, in effect, blind without them and unable to distinguish the faces I passed in the hall, I cheerfully greeted everyone. I was no longer a shy girl. Instead, I was a girl who didn’t know a stranger -- literally.

That shy girl still lives inside of me, however. My natural inclination is to avoid things that make me fearful, and people are high on that list. I still have the same fear of rejection or sounding stupid. I fear it right now as I write this column, but I’ve done it anyway.

I read a quote recently by a hero of mine and most girls from the 1980s, Michael J. Fox. He said, “What other people think of me is not my business.”

When I’m expressing my opinion or, sometimes, even dressing for the day, I repeat this. And it helps.

As the years went on, I’ve continued to “fake it until I made it.” My first writing job is a good case in point. I went to the local business expo to allow the kids to sample some candy and pick up a few freebies.

“Why don’t you get a job while you’re there?” my husband teased.

“I believe I will,” I retorted, not amused.

As fate would have it, an editor for a regional magazine was there. My son, who is not shy, began chatting with her, and I suppressed my shy inner self and asked, “Do you need any local writers? I have an English degree.”

“Sure!” she said, and pressed her card into my hand. Days later she called and arranged to meet me.

“Oh, and bring your clips,” she said.

I assured her I would, hung up the phone and immediately googled clips. In case you are wondering, they are writing samples, and I didn’t have any. So, determined to be able to tell my husband that I had, indeed, gotten a job, I searched through our hot attic until I found my old college term papers.

The following Monday, the editor pulled up in her little red sports car looking like she’d just breezed in from New York. I, on the other hand, was on break from my day care job -- and looked it. Yet, I smiled, told her my background and shared the yellow faded papers placed inside a new shiny binder.

She opened it, flipped through the pages and frowned. I prayed she wouldn’t notice that the date was 10 years earlier or the fact that they hadn’t been published. After all, she never said published clips. I also prayed she wouldn’t notice the red ink marks from my professors.

She snapped the binder shut decisively and said, “You got it,” and passed along my first assignment. And, just like that, I was doing something I never thought I would be able to do.

I’ve heard some people say that “faking” has a bad connotation, that it sounds like a negative, and maybe they are right. Maybe there’s another word for doing things that scares one half to death. Oh, yes, there is. It’s called courage, and it resides in all of us. Don’t believe me? Try faking it and see what happens.



Sunday, September 23, 2012

Doctors know best

A friend of mine said she took her young daughter to the doctor because she was concerned about her cough. Turns out it was just a cold. She was relieved, of course, but there was a hint of frustration in her voice.

“It’s so hard to know when to bring them in,” she said.

“Don’t worry,” I said, ever the helpful friend. “After spending three hours in the doctor’s office, she’s sure to have caught something more serious.”

(Just teasing – sort of.)

I understood where she was coming from. It’s a fine line between being an overprotective, hypochondriac mom who rushes one’s child to the doctor for a nosebleed or a handful of splinters to the mom who brings her kid in for his well visit only to discover that he has dual ear infections and a bad case of bronchitis.
I have been (and done) both.

When my first child was born, pre-Internet, I used my well-worn copy of “Your Child’s Health” to attempt to diagnose what was going on with her. The online photos may gross me out now, but I can tell you rashes were particularly difficult to interpret based on descriptions alone back then.

My older daughter was somewhere between the age of 4 and 6 when I took her to see a local longtime pediatrician.

“I keep calling her name and telling her to do things, but she doesn’t acknowledge me,” I said. “I think there is something wrong with her ears!”

A sly grin crossed the doctor's face, but he went ahead and performed a hearing test. To my surprise, it was perfectly normal.

That’s when it dawned on me -- something the doctor had already determined but was respectful enough not to dismiss. She wasn’t hard of hearing. She was just ignoring me.

That same doctor had been there earlier when I brought my daughter in for the first time at the age of 15 months. She had what I thought was a tear duct infection since she was 3 months old. I went to various doctors and tried all types of prescription drops and answered endless questions from strangers such as “Why are her eyes watering? Has she been crying?”

It turns out her tear ducts were clogged, and she, my baby, my first baby, needed surgery. Who knew? Thankfully, the doctor did.

I’d like to think now that I’m on my third child, I have a better idea of what requires a doctor’s visit, and maybe I do.

I once brought my son in and told the nurse, “He doesn’t have a fever. He’s not complaining, but every once in a while, he coughs.”

And sure enough, sinus infection.

Of course, I also remember asking the doctor when my son was just 3 months old, “What are those white things on his gums? I’m concerned about those.”

His reply?

“Those are his teeth.”
Who knew?

(Wishing you and your family the best of health during this upcoming flu season and beyond.)



Sunday, September 16, 2012

Carpooling to Cotillion

The best conversations happen in the backseat of carpool, especially carpool to Cotillion. I was never in Cotillion, but heaven knows I could have used it, then and now. My husband outweighs me by 100 and some odd pounds, and I still lead on the dance floor, when I’m not stepping on his feet, that is.

Therefore, I decided to do the right thing and enroll my daughter in it so she can learn all the manners that she doesn’t get taught at home, including proper rising. There is a correct way for a lady to get out of a chair, you know.

As homework, each Cotillion participant must get so many signatures saying they’ve practiced different elements of etiquette. One of them was paying compliments. I waited all day for mine. Would she say I was pretty? Sweet? Smart? Finally, it came.

“Mom, did I tell you that the tea you made is very good?”

That was better than expected. In the South, praising one’s sweet tea is the ultimate compliment.

“Now can you sign my book,” she said.

Giveth and taketh away, I thought, as I signed my name in the “Paying compliments” column.

She was still gathering signatures as I drove her and her friends to Cotillion.

“Be sure to watch me proper rise when I get out the car,” she said, “so you can sign off on it.”

I smiled to myself. We drive an Expedition. I couldn’t wait to see her proper rise out of that.

“I forgot my gloves,” said one of the girls hurrying back into the house to get them.

“Good thing you found them,” my daughter said. “I took mine off last time because they were bothering me, and I had to hold a boy’s hand, and it was sweaty.”

“You mean you touched a boy’s hand without a glove?!” asked her friend.

“Yes, ewww, it was gross,” she said.

At this point, I broke the chauffeur’s code and acknowledged I was listening to their conversation.

“Well, I hope you didn’t say anything,” I said, feeling sorry for the poor nervous fellow.

“No, but I made a facial expression to let him know!”

“I hope we don’t have to close dance,” said another friend.

Again, I, being a mom, could not resist.

“Why, because of the sweat?”

“Mom, you know why - Awkward!”

After a few giggles, the girls debated what kind of punch is served and whether or not they would try any tonight. Soon, we reached our destination.

“Have fun, wear your gloves, and don’t forget to proper rise on the way out,” I said, amidst their laughter.

I drove home in silence, regretting that the drive there had been such a short one. I’m so glad that, despite my busy schedule, I had volunteered to drive carpool that night. Having an opportunity to have a candid talk about boys is very rare. And I must admit that the thought of my little girl growing up made my owns palms a bit sweaty.

(Author’s note: I wrote this column several years ago and held off on publishing for fear of embarrassing my daughter. To be fair – and to instill some good manners – I have since enrolled my son, as he says, “against his will.” This time I’m getting to experience Cotillion from the boy’s point of view. To be fair, I’ll withhold my comments for a few years.)



Thursday, September 13, 2012

And the winner is ...

They like me, they really, really like. Well, my fellow blogger at Mommy Unmuted does, anyway. So much, in fact, she nominated me for the Versatile Blogger award. Thank you so much. I am very honored.

If you get a chance, check out her blog. So often it's hard for me to know when to keep quiet and when to speak up. Tune in to Mommy  Unmuted to find out the things that no universal remote can stop her from saying.

Per the award's instructions, I'm including seven random facts about me.

The idea for Popeye the Sailorman comic strip was created on my grandfather's steamboat on the Coosa River in Rome, Ga.

I'm so frugal that I once cashed in a casino ticket in Vegas for .35.

Spiders do not scare me.

I was gluten-free before gluten-free was cool. (Thank God for Elisabeth Hasselbeck.)

Seeing a zombie is on my bucket list.

My sister was featured twice in Sports Illustrated for weightlifting. I earned a mention - "Their other daughter, Leigh, showed no enthusiam for the sport."

I am a Southern girl, but I've never tried chicken and dumplings.

How the award works:

•If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger award.

•Thank the blogger who nominated you and include a link to their site.

•Copy and paste the award to your blog.

•Share seven random facts about yourself.

•Nominate 15 bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly and include a link to their site.

•Let the other bloggers know that you have nominated them.

So, without further ado, I give you my nominations. Each of them brings something unique and refreshing to the blogosphere. All of them have written at least one thing that has made me laugh, cry and/or think. Some I have just discovered, and others I’ve been following for years. I apologize for those I've inadvertantly left off. Hope you enjoy.

Mamas Against Drama
http://www.mamasagainstdrama.com/

Writing as Jo(e)
http://writingasjoe.blogspot.com/

Gillyweed
http://gillyweedbliss.blogspot.com/

Swimming in the Trees
http://www.jessicahandler.com/

Momalog - Good enough parenting, one day at a time
http://themomalog.com/

I miss you when I blink
http://imissyouwheniblink.com/

Sisterhood of the sensible moms
http://www.sisterhoodofthesensiblemoms.com/

Life your way!
http://www.pixiecd.com/

Tea with friends
http://teawithfriends.blogspot.com/

Oh boy mom
http://www.ohboymom.com/

Kid-free living
http://www.kidfreeliving.com/

The good foot
http://thegoodfootblog.com/

Momaical
http://www.momaical.com/

Happy little feet
http://happy-little-feet.blogspot.com/2012/08/home-made-nut-butter.html

The Martha Project
http://www.themarthaproject.com/





Sunday, September 9, 2012

Of a certain age

My dad once said he always felt young until he looked in the mirror.

“It’s weird,” he said, describing how the inside didn’t match the outside.

Now that I’m of a certain age, I agree. It is weird. But, unlike my dad, I’ve noticed a few telltale signs that have given me just a hint that I might be older than I feel. Below is a compilation of a few I’ve noticed and/or observed:

You covet your neighbors’ refrigerator, specifically the stainless steel with the freezer on bottom.

You get excited because you got a text, and you see that it’s from your pharmacy telling you that your prescription is ready. And then you get even more excited.

You’re still waiting on leg warmers to come back in style. Please come back in style.

You have to explain what your slang expressions mean to your kids.

You look forward to your doctor’s appointment.

You begin sentences with “back in 1983 ...”

You occasionally say “car phone” instead of “cell phone.”

You’ve been known to listen for a dial tone on said cell phone.

The interns at work are younger than your daughter.

You stop asking if your outfit makes your butt look big because (a) you know it does, and (b) you don’t care.

When you wake up in the morning, you are truly glad to be alive.

You forget and refer to your deceased loved ones in the present tense.

When you tell people at your high school reunion that you are glad to see them, you mean it.

Your hair dresser is your best friend.

You have socks older than your children.

You pray the kids don’t put you on “What not to wear” because you don’t want to give up your favorite gray sweatshirt with paint on it.

You know how many calories and grams of fat are in 12 almonds.

You have learned to forgive people, including yourself.

You know your limitations, yet it doesn’t stop you.

You value good toilet paper.

You start caring about the weather.

You write thank you notes -- and mail them.

You miss your grandmother’s cooking.

You’ll pay an ungodly amount of money for two ounces of wrinkle cream.

You won’t pay more than $2.50 for a head of lettuce.

You would seriously consider killing for good homemade fudge.

You are genuinely perplexed that your peers look old.

Sports, such as playing tennis or running, become less about winning and more about surviving.

You’ve admitted that your parents were right, but you still would have done it your way.
You realize chewing gum in church won’t damn you to hell. Neither will wearing shorts. Neither will daydreaming during the sermon. God’s OK with all of that. In fact, you realize, he’s pretty cool.

Your purse is a portable medicine cabinet.

Your kids are taller than you, which they think makes them smarter.

You know they never will be because you are older, and if you’re living right, wiser.



Friday, August 31, 2012

My first 'Duh!'

My kids are in high school and middle school, which means — despite my college degree, work and life experience — I am officially the dumbest person in the house.

I spent the first half of their lives answering profound questions such as why is the sky blue and which is tougher a rhino or a crocodile, and suddenly, I’m relinquished to giving advice that I know is unnecessary.

My son went on a white water rafting trip with Boy Scouts, for example. Knowing he’s getting older and will be fine doesn’t stop me from giving him advice. Not knowing much about rafting, however, presented a problem. I found myself saying things like, “Do what they tell you to do.”

Real profound, Mom, real profound, his look and my inner voice said.

Then I added a few more the next day: Bring your bathing suit, wear your sunscreen, oh, and bug spray. Wear your bug spray. Bugs are bad this year. Sometimes I wonder if it weren’t for sunburn and mosquitoes if moms would be of much use to boys his age.

As they got ready to leave, my husband held up a handful of things. I couldn’t tell what they were, just saw that they were all shapes and sizes.

“Look what we’re bringing,” he said.

“What are they?” I asked, thinking perhaps they were flashlights.

“Knives,” he answered.

To which my son, my favorite son, added: “Duh!”

I looked in amazement. Less than a month into middle school, and I had gotten my very first “Duh.”

“I can’t believe you just did that to me,” I said.

Misunderstanding what I meant, he said, “I’m sorry, Mom. I forgot to hug you,” and came over and gave me such a happy squeeze that I forgave him instantly.

I know if I really want to impress him, I could take the time to learn about guns, knives and sports. I’m aware that I have a lot of room to grow in that area. I once called a touchdown a home run, which is apparently a sin, especially in the South, where you’re supposed to be born knowing better.

But I have been a mom long enough to know that a milkshake after the game will cause him to soon forget, and forgive, my ignorance. And what impresses him more is not my knowledge, but the fact that I’m willing to take him to Wal-mart at 8:30 p.m. after a long day of work to let him buy a tank that shoots airsoft pellets, an item he knows I care nothing about.

I may not know the difference between a Tommy (airsoft) gun or a semi-automatic, but I’ve allowed him to try to teach me to shoot one, and I’ve made him laugh when the one time I hit the target was when I looked away. I may not be able to recognize a knife when I see one, but I hope he’ll remember the time I insisted we find a knife store so he could stop and buy a souvenir before we left Alaska.

My husband always talks about how his mother would take him to the Army/Navy store and let him spend hours looking. She could not have cared less about anything camouflage, but she loved her son, and he knew it. I hope my son will feel the same way, too.

And, someday, when he’s an adult, and I tell him I love him, I hope he’ll look at me and say, “Duh!”



Friday, August 24, 2012

Christina the great


It was 4:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and I could hear my friend, Christina, stirring in the kitchen.

I rolled over in my warm bed and thought how relieved I was to have showed her where the key to the deadbolt was the night before. I started to close my eyes and drift back to sleep when my inner voice shouted at me – You ought to be ashamed. Get your lazy self out of bed!

My inner voice is a real you-know-what sometimes. And it’s often quite right.

“If Christina can get up to do a triathlon, then there’s no earthly reason I cannot get out of bed, wish her luck and tell her good-bye,” I thought.

She was packed and ready to go when I walked in the kitchen.

“Good morning!” she said enthusiastically, and I marveled at how two people can go to bed at the same time yet wake up in totally different moods. “How are you?”

At this, I went into my list of daily complaints. I’m not sure how I have so many when I’ve done nothing but sleep the night before, yet they rolled off my tongue.

“Awww, poor baby, do you need me to drop you off at the ER on the way to my triathlon?” said Christina playfully in her wonderful German accent that allows her to say anything and get away with it.

“No, look at what you are doing. My problems are minor,” I said, sucking in my self-pity and focusing on preparing her for the race.

We loaded up her bike, and she headed south for the 2012 Tri PTC Sprint Triathlon. In case you are wondering, a sprint for a triathlon usually means a 750- meter swim, followed by a 12-mile bike ride and topped off with a 5K. This is half the distance of an Olympic triathlon and less than a quarter of the distance of the Ironman, which my friend aspires to do.

If it makes you tired just reading it, then you should really go watch like I did. I was unable to see Christina – and the approximately 750 other participates - swim across the beautiful, but shallow and mucky, Lake Peachtree. I did, however, get to see her as she came out the water and entered what is called the transition area.

The transition area is row after row of bikes and gear where the athletes change (and eat). I can’t even remember where I parked my car after shopping at Publix, so I can’t imagine finding my bike in that sea of equipment.

Yet, they do, and once they have it, they push past cheering spectators and family members. I spoke to the lady next to me and learned she was there to support her husband. He was 60 years old and started doing triathlons at 50. Ironically, he came out of the water just behind my friend.

I saw another older man taking his time drying off while his college-age kids yelled, “We love you, Daddy!”

I saw a girl with one arm run past with her bike, her hair still damp from her swim. I saw a man with a prosthetic leg. I saw young juniors whom we may one day see in the Olympics zip past, I saw middle aged people, I saw older people, I saw kids as young as 9 (Participates write their ages on the back of their calves.)

The one thing I did not see – save for the juniors and a couple of 28 year olds – was any perfect bodies. I expected everyone to look like they stepped out of a fitness magazine. They did not .They were all shapes and sizes, and they were spectacular.

I moved from event to event to cheer them on, wishing I had gotten my children out of bed to join me.

As someone who takes to water like a cat and dislikes the discomfort of being on a bike seat, I had no grand illusions of participating, though it did occur to me that if, like my friend had done, I set it as my goal and trained – day by day, bit by bit – it was humanly possible.

And that is very inspiring. Thank you, Christina.



Sunday, August 19, 2012

Seven things I love about me


When I was a child, I couldn’t wait to grow up so I could eat and drink anything I wanted, stay up all night and drive a convertible, preferably all at the same time. As an adult, I often wish I were still a child, so I could eat and drink anything I wanted, go to bed early, and, well, I still want the convertible.

Alas, there’s a pesky thing called reality, which means I’m gluten intolerant and have to follow a strict diet, both margaritas and Coca-Cola give me an instant headache, I forget what time I go to bed, I just daydream of a restful night’s sleep, and I do not [yet] drive a convertible.

To sum it up, reality bites. However, I have lived long enough to realize that, as a wise person once said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored,” which brings me to my present state — focusing on the things that I can change.

First, I made a list of those things. I pulled out a big notebook and sharpened my pencil and got ready to right all the wrongs of the world. Number one, I wrote, myself. Number two, hmmm ... to my surprise, there was no number two.

As part of the exercise, I also wrote a list of things I can’t change. I continued that list until I got a hand cramp. Turns out I do not control the universe, thank God. I mean that literally, thank you, God.

So, reflecting on my most recent birthday milestone, I decided that I would work on changing myself for the better. And I’m making some headway. I have gotten up bright and early (well, the past two days anyway). I’m eating healthy, and I have an exercise plan in place just waiting to be implemented. I also started reading more, and I don’t mean books like “50 Shades of Gray.” I mean, motivational books, though from what I’ve heard, “50 Shades” might qualify.

The first book I read suggested that one write seven things he or she loves about him or herself.

That will be easy. I thought, and pulled out my pencil and notebook, and there this writer sat, with nothing much to say.

Hmm ... perhaps I could put modesty as one, I thought, but that in and of itself defeats the principle of modesty.

So, I contemplated a little harder, and I came up with the following:

I do not give up easily. When I was a child, I believe this was referred to as “stubborn.” As an adult, I’m going to call it “determined” or “tenacious.”

I have a good sense of humor. When I was a child, this was sometimes called being a “smart mouth,” and it wasn’t always funny to adults. Now that I’m adult, I prefer to call it, “witty,” and it still isn’t always funny to adults.

I’m friendly. This is great for my job because people tend to open up and tell me things but not as much fun when it’s the grocery store clerk, and I just want to buy my bread and go home.

I am not materialistic. Above reference to convertible notwithstanding.

I am a good mom. Aren’t I, kids? Tell them. Tell them now or go to your room. (Just kidding. See number two)

I can write, though I think everyone holds this gift. If you had a wonderful encouraging teacher like I did, you may discover it one day. Thanks, Mrs. Faires.

I’m a prolific list maker. Books I want to read, songs I want to download, words I want to know the meaning of, quotes I like, things I need to do, things I’ve done ... the very act of creating a list makes me happy, especially the one that said I only control one thing in this world. Now, that’s something to love.

Try your list and let me know what’s on it.



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Taking time to wrap my knees

Most of the time, I’d like to think I’m a proper Southern lady. I write thank-you notes. I say please and bless her heart, but there are times when people make me so angry that I can’t even employ the Southern lady way of killing them with kindness.

Take this past spring at one of my son’s baseball game, for example. I paced behind home plate as my son squatted in his catcher’s gear, sweat running down his face and red clay in his eyes.

He had caught every game without relief with the exception of one inning, when a boy filling in was promptly carried off the field after being clocked in the head by a wayward ball.

I paced not because I was nervous that my son would suffer the same fate. I’ve been a boy’s mama long enough to know that he probably would get hurt -- and he’d probably get over it pretty fast.

No, I paced because there was a rabid fan in the stands. I’m sure you know the type. They holler, yell and berate the players. That’s fine for major or even minor league baseball, but these were 10- and 11-year-old kids. And I don’t even think he was related to any of them.

I listened, fumed, paced and shot him dirty looks, trying to politely let him know that he was distracting the kids and ruining an otherwise peaceful evening at the ball park, to which he was oblivious.

Frustrated, I did the next thing I knew to do – tell my husband.

“Can’t you just ignore him?” he said.

I tried for about 30 seconds until the next hoot, holler and obnoxious rant started and decided that was impossible. So, I stood up and sized up the situation and concluded it was a good thing God made me a 5 foot, 2 inch woman and not a man, because I’d be wrapping my knees right now.

Wrapping one’s knees is a technique my daddy always employed when we were growing up. He’d get so angry – usually because someone did or said something out of line to one of his girls – my mom, my sister and me – that he’d be ready to fight. But before he could fight, he had to wrap his knees. Years of weightlifting had taken its toll, and they had to be wrapped and wrapped tightly before any physical activity, especially putting a whooping on someone.

Fortunately, Dad carried knee wraps in his back pocket for just this sort of situation. And, even more fortunate for the other guy, my mom, my sister and I were always on hand to talk Dad out of killing someone.

I can remember it clearly. He’d stomp in, red faced, telling us just what he was going to do to that “you-know-what.”

We’d say “No, Daddy, don’t fight him!” all the while Dad would wound the wrap around his knees tighter and tighter. By the time he got them wrapped, the redness had left his face; he’d calmed down enough to realize that perhaps pulverizing the guy wasn’t the best method.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I understood why Daddy had to wrap his knees. Sure, he had bad joints, but it also gave him time to calm down and put things in perspective.

I may not be an Olympic weightlifter, and I may not be a man, but I certainly get angry enough – on and off the ball field – that I, too, have had to go “wrap my knees.”

Whether that be taking a walk or writing a column or going to get a Coke at the concession stand for 20 minutes, it works, fortunately -- for the other guy, that is.



Friday, August 10, 2012

I'm tired

I watched the classic movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” for the first time recently. While the film is brimming with memorable characters and quotes, the one I can relate to the most is the old man who keeps repeating, “I’m tired!”
It’s back-to-school week, and I have uttered the same phrase a dozen times – each day. I can’t imagine what the teachers and kids must feel like.

I can honestly say we spent the past few weeks getting adjusted to a normal bedtime and an early wakeup – the only problem is it wasn’t in our time zone.

You see, we visited my sister in Alaska and readily adjusted to her family’s schedule, albeit four hours behind us. Turns out, it’s much harder to revert back to one’s own time zone. On our return trip, we traveled all night – the sun never seeming to go down – and finally landed in Atlanta at 1:30 in the afternoon.

Once home, my son fell asleep and woke up six hours later.

“What time is it?” he asked.

“It’s 8:30,” I said.

“A.M. or P.M.?” he said.

It was then that I knew we were in trouble.

Fortunately, we recovered from our jet lag. Unfortunately, it was just in time to spend the weekend school shopping.

In case you have not had to do this in a while, it’s bad enough to make one want to endure a seven-hour flight next to Beetlejuice back to Alaska. No, I didn’t just watch that movie, too. My son and I actually sat next to him on the way home. At least he looked, sounded, and, I’m certain, smelled like him.

As he slipped his shoes off and starting snoring, I even tried saying “Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!” to see if it would make him disappear. Alas, no such luck.

As unpleasant as it was, it still beat shopping amongst anxious kids and even more anxious moms, especially since we had to go to a certain big box store in town. Sure, their prices are low, and they have everything, but does anyone, anyone, really enjoy going there? Anyone?

Certainly not my son.

“Mom, just get me a couple of church and picture day shirts,” he said. “I don’t really care about matching. Now, can we go look at the air soft guns?”

I grabbed the last two golf shirts off the rack and followed him to his favorite section, watching his eyes light up at the sight of a remote-controlled tank.

“Look, Mom, we can put you in the bunker with the remote!” he said.

Seeing the advantages to that, we took it up front and stood in line for a price check. It cost three times the amount of his two shirts. It took all of my strength not to buy it. He was my baby, and he was starting middle school, and he doesn’t know it yet, but soon he’ll discover girls and care about having more than two shirts.

Soon, he won’t care if I’m in the bunker with him. In a blink of an eye, he’ll be flying on his own, and his mom will be waving behind at the airport.

I wanted to give in, but, instead, I told him he could do some chores around the house to earn money. It will help him learn to appreciate things, and, as for me? Well, I’m tired