Tuesday, July 11, 2017


I recently watched a couple of self portrait(ish) interviews with celebrities I admire or enjoy watching. Among the characteristics of each, I notice a theme that runs pretty consistently throughout. The personality or demeanor of these celebrities that catch my interest (or at least the way they appear to be while being interviewed), in no particular order, contain a mish-mosh of some degree of humility, self-deprecation, the ability to laugh at self, and most importantly, authenticity. Ok I guess there was some order after all.

Ricky Gervais, for example, did an interview recently during which he was asked what life event most dramatically made an impact on his career choices.  His first reaction was to giggle (I love his giggle. It's contagious, childlike, and insidious all at the same time....maddeningly delightful) before he ultimately replied "Who cares??" Then muttered something about not understanding why anyone would have any interest whatsoever in a fat bloke from Redding and his childhood experiences which motivated or informed his future endeavors in the entertainment field. Classic. Truthful. Or was it....never know with the unpredictable Mr. Gervais do we. At any rate, what followed was a very relatable, realistic story about a teacher he had in middle school who consistently gave Gervais bad grades on essays that Gervais thought were fantastically well done. Confounded that his wildly dramatic stories which were parallel (i.e. plagiarized) from shows he watched "on the telly" continued to receive failing grades, he finally took the advice his teacher had repeatedly given him all along, which was to write about what he knew, in all its normalcy and boring glory. Convinced that he would prove the teacher wrong by doing just that, he wrote the true story of his mother visiting an elderly neighbor each day and how that visit went. He purposefully wrote in every minor detail such as how his Mum would clean up around the lady's home just a bit, ask her if she'd eaten, document each word of the mundane conversation which ensued, and so on. Convinced he'd outdone himself and cooked the teacher in his own juices, he sat back and waited for his paper to be returned the next day in class so he could revel in his righteousness.
Teacher begins to give out papers, gets to Gervais' desk, grins, nods, slaps the graded essay on to Gervais' desk, and with a dramatic point to the A scrawled across the top of the paper, said "THAT is how it's done."  Or something to that effect.  It's been a little while since I've seen the interview.  And I always get so caught up in being enamoured with him in general that I guess I sometimes could get a few words wrong, so there's that. But you take the point..

Then there's the George Clooney interview on Actors Studio. He speaks in a manner that reveals he doesn't take acting stuff seriously, and is able to laugh at himself and his choices. I feel like it's part of what makes him so incredibly attractive. What's the other part you ask?  Surrsly?  LOOK at the man.

I miss Yoda. I'm not a dedicated or knowledgeable Star Wars fan but having seen (or subliminally soaked up) all of the movies in piece or part dozens of times owing to having three male humans living my home, a few more hanging out here often and consistently, and a multitude of other Star Wars Mega Fans in my life, I do feel as though I know a few of the critical characters fairly well. We're more than acquaintances, not quite friends. Although I do feel like I could be a great friend to Han Solo. But I digress.

Yoda is a short, odd looking green fella of unknown descent. We don't know where he came from, he's an unknown species, and initially he presents himself as a senile, funny old backwater being. He doesn't apologize for his looks or his speech patterns. Then as the story moves along we learn he has trained the most powerful and important Jedi for over 800 years. Thunk it, who woulda?

Yoda's the kinda guy I like being around. He's comfortable being himself, he's wiser than he lets on and most of all, he's authentic. What you see and hear from him are exactly what he is. He makes seemingly simple statements but it's only later, after it sinks in a bit, you recognize you could spend days unpacking the truth of them. Little old green Yoda. A sampling of his wisdom:

"Fear is the path to the dark side...fear leads to anger...anger leads to hate...hate leads to suffering."

"When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not."

"You'll know the good from the bad when you are at peace, calm, passive. A Jedi uses the force for knowledge and defense, never for attack."

In other words, use your powers for good. Strive for personal peace, don't let fear lead you down a bad path, and lastly, recognize that today's you isn't supposed to look like childhood or teenaged you.
Not bad life advice, on the whole.  Simple, but sometimes not so easy.

One more example of an authentic, humble presence, then I'll quit. I promise. There is a facebook page I stumbled upon because of a friend of mine (who's from Maine). The name of the facebook page is Bangor Maine Police Department. I'll add the link in a little bit. At any rate, this police department has gone out of its way to create a warm, humorous but helpful and cooperative relationship with its community by writing a post every couple of days. It has a very pleasing balance of humor, helpful information, responses to complaints, and several other subjects for content. The parting line for their posts is always, "Keep your hands to yourself, leave other people's things alone, and be kind to one another."

Simple, it is. Easy, sometimes it is not.

We recently returned from a trip to India. While India might not have been on my top five ok my top ten international locations to vacation, the opportunity presented itself and was a once in a lifetime chance, so to India we went. While there and on the way home, I did much contemplation about our (Americans in general, I guess) lifestyles, our ideals about what is normal and what we expect or explain that we "need" in the way of material possessions. I'm still forming my thoughts on the concept and I'll write a (probably way too long) blogpost on it when I wrangle it into some manner of articulable arrangement in my brain. It's all wrapped up in the same subject as today's post - humility and authenticity.  Coming soon.  Until then, may the force be with you. :-)


Thursday, October 08, 2015

ANOTHER ONE ALREADY???? But I just did one......

Whole 30 that is. More accurately I did a Whole 21, owing fully to the demonic tummy bug I acquired at day 20.  Spent overmuch time in the bathroom and that's all we'll say about that. Use your imagination.  By day 21 I was so hungry I could've eaten the ass-end out of a ragdoll with no salt. No Whole30 approved food was appetizing or gentle and bland enough, and I craved saltines and Gingerale.  Dreamed of them in my sick, fever induced sleep. So by day 21 I caved.  Over the course of Day 21 I nibbled an entire sleeve of saltines and sipped 24 ounces of Gingerale.  Which was unfortunate, because Whole30 is not forgiving. Once you've cheated, you've blown it. Back to square one.
Over the next few days as my queasy tummy and digestive system recovered from the flu that had torn them up like a Vitamix on high speed, I continued to imbibe with Whole30 forbidden foods like yogurt, pudding, pasta, and chicken and rice soup, babying my gut as it healed.  During that time I noticed that a few symptoms that had been steadily improving during the 21 days of my Whole30 took a turn and returned to the way they were prior to the start of the Whole30.  My biggest regret about quitting at day 21 (even though it couldn't have been helped) was not getting to follow through with the elimination process by adding foods back one at a time in order to pinpoint which ones were culprits.  I had even noticed, by day 20, that symptoms I didn't even realize I HAD were improving. For example I thought I just had peely skin between and just under my eyebrows because, well just because. It's always been that way.  I never gave a thought to the itchy-skin-after-I-showered syndrome and several other things that had just always been part of the me-ness of me.  It's like if you've never had air conditioning, you don't miss it, but once you get it you don't want to be without it.

So. I'll spend the next few days preparing my psyche, planning menus, and grocery shopping.  Then I'll pinpoint Day 1.  This time, since I've learned a few things from having wholly participated in 21 days of a Whole30, the going should be smoother and easier.  In addition, I have some ideas forming about how to take notes during the process this time that should aid in the conclusion making process once it's over and I begin adding food groups back in one by one.

And one more thing.

I DON'T WANT TO HAVE DAIRY SENSITIVITIEEEEEES!!!!  Uuuuuugchk gah.  I luzz my yogurt and my cheese.  I've a sneaky feeling things aren't going to go my way on that one though.  And if it means doing without dairy in order to achieve better health, I'm in.  I'm ALL in.  I know people who aren't right and they know they aren't right, and they make no effort whatever to do anything about it.  
Whether it's physiological problems, disease, ills, pain, or emotional/mental problems, disease, ills, and pain, my mantra is the same as it is about politics.  If you don't vote, you don't get to complain. And if you don't take care of your body and your mind and your heart by listening to it and making moves towards improvement or awareness, you don't get to whine about how bad you feel OR make snide remarks about others in order to make yourself feel better.  Then act all innocent and as if you "didn't mean anything by it" when you get busted.

I guess you can tell I've had a bad experience with someone lately huh.  Yep, I'm bitter. I'm bout ready to cut that particular cord because I'm tired of being bitter about it. That relationship might have to be one of the things I eliminate with the next Whole30.  That's gonna be tougher than giving up yogurt.  But sometimes you just have to get rid of the toxins.

Tah y'all! Take care of yourselves.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015


Tomorrow is the KonMari Clothing Cleanout day. (Does that blow your alliterative skirt up?)  I have arranged to have the entire day so I can begin and finish the project in one go. I'm both excited and trepidatious. I have a box of Hefty yard bags, a stack of post-its, and a sharpie.  I have my favorite fall flavored coffee at the ready and my favorite mug washed and waiting. I have chosen an outfit that is both comfortable to work in but makes me feel powerful. And yes, those things are all important pieces to the process.

First let me say I adore Marie Kondo. Never met the woman, certain I never will.  Still though.  Her little sky blue and cream colored book with the bright red title represents for me what the security blanket represents to Linus van Pelt or the Cheeto to my Jared. (a sweet story for another post)  She is a woman after my own heart.  She articulates my own philosophy in a way that is forward thinking and yet gives proper respect to the past and the clutter it has collected. I don't agree with every single statement in the book but I don't have to. Beauty of a book. Pick the parts that fall in line with your own sensibilities and leave the rest in the book.

I don't, for example, talk or bow to my house. And I don't feel compelled to treat my socks and tights with respect so they can rest during their holiday time (when I'm not wearing them). That passage makes me think of silly things like a pair of socks in side by side first class pods on Delta, headed for Cancun, with little sombreros on.  I do however thoroughly believe and celebrate that it's only when you've put your house in order that your meaningful belongings come to life and become useful physically (by being visible and immediately available) as well as emotionally (by giving joy and having removed the stress and frustration that comes along with ancillary clutter).

Nowwwww, right here, let me admit this. I do have one or two categories that I am still working diligently on and that continue to want to become collections again and again, but it's all a work in progress. Books were a difficult category but when I finally bullied through and got rid of all but what I am currently reading and books I consistently refer to, it allowed me to more thoroughly and intensely enjoy the book I was reading in the moment. True story.  Who would've thunk it? And do I miss the books I got rid of? Not one little bit. Can't imagine now why I was holding to them so tightly.

Yep I said two categories. Shoes are the other. We're not going there today. Let us bow our heads for a moment to pray for my weakness and lack of motivation to improve in that area. In fact, I want desperately still to backslide in epic manners where footwear is concerned. The end.

 Have you ever seen the movie The Conspiracy Theory? Mel Gibson is a - well, a conspiracy theorist, duh, and everyone believes he's a tad touched. Moving on (because the connection people make between conspiracy theorists and the tetched sends me on a rant worthy of an entire post) throughout the movie, whenever his character feels insecure or paranoid or scared, he buys a copy of Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up is my Catcher in the Rye.  It's feng shui on steroids. Exponentially decluttering to the nth.

I've read it countless times. Frankly, it's a quick little read. But I go back and reread a section or a concept or even just the table of contents.  Frequently and as a source of meditation and reflection sometimes. It's reassuring and empowering to know there are others who share my outlook and have even felt confident enough about their philosophy on the subject to write a book and publish it and expect people will buy it and consider it and take action on the concepts. I mean just listen to these chapter titles:

Storage Experts are hoarders

Make tidying a special event, not a chore

An attachment to the past, or anxiety about the future?

Never pile things. Vertical storage is the key.

It's NOT JUST MEEEEEEE!  HOOrah. I am NOT. I repeat not.  An Anomaly.  That floats my boat, dear friends. This woman has earned an honorary membership to My Tribe. (Aren't we just so sure she's going to celebrate THAT.  Ha.)

Is it a coinkidink that the timing of my clothing decluttering project coincides with a horrific flooding tragedy in neighboring South Carolina? I reckon not. I choose to believe not. Perhaps the clothing and clothing related items that end up in my "don't spark joy" pile will be the very ones that DO spark joy for someone who has just lost their home and everything they own due to Hurricane Joaquin and the ensuing flooding.  I'll keep you posted on it.

Each step I take toward the DOC (decluttering of Caren) makes my future feel brighter. Why?  How does that work? Here's my hunch. I am hovering within four years of my youngest child finishing high school.

Let us pause for a moment of prayer.

Amen. While I enjoy every second of parenthood, and not just the good ones, and sometimes feel panicked that my baby kicking himself out of the nest is imminent, at the same time I look forward to what's to come. I'm the Proverbs 31:25 woman who can smile at times to come. It's my favorite bible verse of all. "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she can laugh at what's to come."  It's my mantra, my chant, my goal. A loved one who uhhh will remain unnamed but with whom I live and have for 35 years dreads the future and has anxiety surrounding it, doesn't even want to talk or think about it  - owing in my opinion to feelings of The Third Act being tantamount to The End or Being Old or Senior Living or some such. Not me baby. I'm gaining momentum as I head towards it.  Like a battering ram.  A BOSS battering ram.

I say bring it. I will bring to it only what sparks joy, not only as it pertains to worldly goods and relationships, but my faith and personal walk with my Savior. And since those are the star on the top of Joy Sparkers, it's gonna be a hell of a party.

With my well worn little hardback copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up still within reach, in my bag. Which I empty every day okayyyy every couple of days gahh.

Monday, May 18, 2015


Or, first world fashion problems.

Over The Soccer Marathon weekend we just rolled out of, I took advantage of our location and a little lag time between games to do some shopping.  More accurately, some looking. And much flaring of nostrils, upper lip curling, and big adolescent eyerolls.

I have a few observations and moreover some requests for feedback.  Wanna hear them?  Here we go.

Before I get on a roll though, I'll don my Captain Obvious hat for a sec just to make sure that in the event I go all over-opinionated (likethat's EVER happened), everyone's on the same page regarding my credentials on the subject.

I have none.

Alrightie, NOW here we go.  Ninety percent (90%) of what I saw in womens apparel was horizontal stripes. Across the board. Tops, pants, dresses, skirts, leggings, etceterahhh. Are we sailors? Are we desiring to look three times as wide as we are? #nohorizontalstripes

The remaining ten percent was a conglomeration of massive flower power: cabbage roses, big peonies in several shades of blue on a white/cream background. The former makes me feel I'm wearing Waverly upholstery fabric, the latter, a tablecloth or Blue Willow china. Listen.  For us giraffes, committing to a pattern that large and that bold means our clothes will enter the room before we do.  It's a lot. #wearingthebedspread

There was also a large representation of cotton eyelet. Do the fashion trendmakers think we still iron our clothes? Wear our summer shower curtains? "But this cotton eyelet top is SO cute I have to have it, so I'll iron it."  Said nobody ever. Y'know where that top's gonna go.  Back of the closet where the bad clothes are in a perpetual time-out but can't be given away because we feel too lamely responsible for having bought them and somehow we have to give them space in our closet until they've earned their keep or the memory of how much we spent isn't so fresh. After looking at it with shame for a few years it goes in the charity bag.  As if those who are in dire need of clothing should be gifted a clothing item that makes them look like they slept in it when they didn't even. But no matter. It makes us feel better about it. "At least it's going to someone who needs something.....anything....to wear.And look!  It still has the tags on it. I'm giving them new clothes." We're so generous! Not.

Dresses were either too short or too long, with nothing in between. The short ones look as though we're trying to relive our toddler years or dress like our teens.  Here's the thing. NOBODY is Stacy's Mom. Nobody's The Cool Mom either, but that's a subject all of its own for another day. The point is both titles are vapid, fairytale images and as badly as one might want the title, just think of them like you do unicorns, psychics, thigh gaps and other delusional flim-flam. Give it no truck.  Wave it away, let go, give it a solid sendoff then come back to earth where we're dealing with real topics like how long a garment has to be in order to earn the title of dress rather than tunic.  Which, by the way, implies it covers your butt.  Also a subject for an entire blog post.
The long dresses are SO long I was stepping on them. Is that a thing? Are we doing that? Hear me, Fashion Sisters. I'm here to report that when a dress is too long for ME, that is one..... more........ lonnnng...... .dress.  Not only am I on the giraffe side of the height scale, I wear big tall shoes, too. So for those of you in one or neither of those categories, do you drag the dress behind you like a train? Does it get caught up around your legs and in your feet? Does it hang out the car door while you're truckin' down the road oh my gosh I hate when that happens?   Do we have to hold it up with our delicate lil lady hands when we go upstairs? Cauz I got a news flash. I go up my stairs at my house an average of 14 times in a day.  A slow day. With armloads of stuff. I got no intentions whatsoever of having to hoist up my skirt to travel up some stairs.

Why WHy WHY does the fashion pendulum sway so far each year? Besides planned obsolescence I mean. And where are the adult's clothes? Not junior clothes.  Not senior clothes. Clothes for the decades I say decades between a junior mentality or lifestyle (when it's appropriate do stuff like wear short skirts with cowboy boots and post aaaaaaall the selfies)  and a senior one (where we'll do stuff like wear mumus and jewelry so big you could use it for weaponry, and go to dinner at 4:00 in the afternoon). Where? Where are the clothes for those of us who have passed junior status and not yet entered senior status?  Clothing that is appealing and appropriate for that group, the middle group, should be the most plentiful because, Sweet Sassy Fashionwise Sisters, we spend a LOT of time in that middle category.

I'm all in with the "you're as young as you feel" philosophy.  I get it. I fly that flag myself, Baby. But what we need here is solidarity, Sisters.  Because what we're NOT is "as young as you dress". #dressyourage #dressyourbodytype


Monday, January 19, 2015

The McDonalds Burger Won't Mold (Thank you Captain Obvious)

With all my heart and not exaggerating one teensy, tinesy twig, I will share with you that if I see the reference to the urban legend/myth about the McDonalds Burger After A Year or Two or Twelve one more time I think the top of my head may pop off and hot lava spew out.  Or maybe McDonalds burgers I ate as a child will fly out, still looking just like they did when they were served to me in the 1960s.   

Listen.  Everyone knows fast food isn't a healthy choice.  But whatever happened to the scientific method?  Postulate, hypothesis, theorum, empirical testing for validity, proof?  

Like this: http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/11/the-burger-lab-revisiting-the-myth-of-the-12-year-old-burger-testing-results.html?ref=search

In the interest of full transparancy and disclosure and given what I'm about to say in the next couple of paragraphs, let me admit I know nothing about J. Kenji Lopez.  I don't even pretend to know whether he's a real person or not. No clue if the testing that's recorded on this page of Serious Eats was really even done or not, or if Serious Eats is even a real thing.   The point is, the curiousity and then the quest to get the facts in the manner outlined on this web page is what ought to go through any rational, reasonable, intelligent person's brain when presented with vapid quackery like The McDonalds Burger Myth.  Science rules, y'all.
The irony of me questioning a statement that asserts the unhealthiness of any McDonalds' food offering is so over the top I can't even begin to articulate it.   Nevertheless, this:
HERE'S THE DEAL:  When you use random fake factoids and myths to prove your point, you become LESS believable.  You have entered the realm of defeating your own purpose. You don't want to defeat your own point, do you?  Well do you?  Why work so hard to make a point only to erase it with erroneous information?  Whyyyyy?????  It's like (no one I know has ever done this ehhhhver) doing your homework and not turning it in.   Also, it's much like taking an English class from someone who has bad grammar.  Are they credible?  Tenable? I think not.
For your enjoyment, here are a few equally quack-worthy urban legends routinely brought back to life (which is now called going viral.  I so savor the profound irony of the term viral there.) 

  • Rod Stewart became so ill after spending - umm - a lot of time one evening with many Navy seamen *winky winky* - that he had to be rushed to the ER to have his stomach pumped.  (I think this was my very first urban legend.  That means, then, that up until then I was an urban legend virgin.  Baahahaha!!)
  • Vaccinating your children will make them have autism.    (Thanks, Andrew Wakefield.  He's now prostituting himself using a different John from the law firm that was his original John back in 1998.)  A bunch of people wanted to believe what this dude was selling anyway, and considering he's still writing books, speaking and stuff, still do. He moved from Britain to the U.S. though, where us gullible folk are looking so hard for Truth that we'll buy anything.  Literally.  I look for him to be selling his crap on those home shopping stations next.
  • Blair Witch was real. (Congrats, Marketing Geniuses)
  • Lemons are 10,000 times stronger than chemotherapy.  (Seriously????  I've seen both.  I tell you what.  I'll put a lemon wedge in my iced tea and you put a syringe of chemo in yours.)
  • Mr. Rogers was a Navy Seal and Steve from Blues Clues was a porn star.  And a vampire.  (Never understood the point of either of those, frankly.  Because really, did it make any difference?)
  • Coconut oil will cure ehhhhhhhhverything.  (Enjoy this one now, because it's on its way out, only to be replaced by the next cure-all.  There always is one.  Remember pomegranate juice?  The high carb diet?  Yeah.)  Congrats again, Marketing Geniuses.
  • If you turn out the lights, look in the mirror and say "Bloody Mary" three times a super scary ghostie appears.   (Hey.  Question.  If you're in a dark bar and there's a mirror in front of you and you order three Bloody Marys, do you conjure some kind of vengeful spirit or something?  Yes.  It's called a hangover.) I crack myself up.
Recently I was reading a blog authored by a Mom whose intention it is to improve the quality of food she feeds her family - most notably her children.  In addition, she wishes to make her children more aware of ingredients in the food they eat.  Lastly, her desire is to accomplish these goals without having to take out a loan in order to pay the grocery bill.  Indeed.

Sometimes I start out reading an article, post, or book because the initial philosophy or concept intrigues me and I feel there's merit to it.  Things cook along fine and with every paragraph I'm gaining trust and confidence and faith in the writer.  He/she seems to reason well, make good points, write intelligently.  Then out of clear blue air the writer feels the need to reference a theory and call it a fact.  Reference an urban myth and build their case from it.  Boom, I'm done. You lost me.  And worse, you lost your own credibility.  You are dead to me.  (Not really.  But the point you were trying to make?  Not just dead.  Doornail dead.)

When did we start believing that once we postulated, the next step was just to accept any and all information we were fed that helped prove that particular opinion, without any sourcing, testing, referencing, credit, or proof?  And thennnn, not just accept it as truth, but pass it on in order to enhance, validate, or further our own position???  Oh wait.  I know.  It was when Al Gore invented The World Wide Web.  Bless him.   Later nicknamed The Web and now affectionately referred to as The Internet, Online, or The Net, anything that's on it is fact.  Absolute, undeniable truth.  Nah, that can't be it.  We were believing quacks way before Mr. Gore invented the www but whatever.  

Ok back to the Mom blog. I was interested.  The woman seemed to have a fairly firm grasp on the reality of life with kids, the amount of time available to Moms in general, and the gritty reality that just because she wants to be uber responsible for what she feeds her family doesn't mean she can rationalize spending unrealistic amounts of money on trendy specialty foods with lofty or impressive claims.

I read several posts she had made to her blog;  took note of a couple points I thought were valid.  The woman has a far stricter view than I in terms of what she thinks is harmful for her kids to ingest, and as a result her family's menus and approved foods are very limited, but I have the ability to glean what I want from material and leave the rest on the page as it were, so that was ok.  Then.  Thennnnn, in a dissertation style post about toxic additives, she claimed that annatto was an ARTIFICIAL additive and not only was it not okay to ingest, but it had horribly harmful side effects.  WHAT?  She had anecdotal evidence yet!  Wanna hear it?  A couple of Moms who had 'noticed' that after eating something with annatto in it, their child banged his/her head repeatedly on the wall.


In the next paragraph, she mentioned three or four additives that were 'from natural sources so were ok to eat'.  One was beta-carotene, one was lactic acid, etc.  But annatto was synthetic.  Artificial.  And evil.  And made kids bang their heads.  Bless her.  Bless them.  Just bless.

Come on.  Source your information, do your research, your due diligence.  Please don't just spew stuff that you think is right or want to be right, or because you read it somewhere,  because it was on the internet so it must be true, or because your friend believes it and your friend is so cool, or because you think it enhances or strengthens your position, or because you feel it makes you appear as though you have a cause or you're taking a stand. 


Listen.  I've fallen victim to repeating information that turned out not to be factual.  Only recently in fact, I reposted a tweet about a (semi)celebrity's death along with a sentiment about how sad this made me and how I'd be praying for his family.  Guess what!?! Semi-celebrity did not die.  Was way alive.  Not only that, but that turned out to be about the fifth time that exact myth had circulated.  This made me smack my own head.  Why do people start such stories?  Give me one legitimate reason anyone would ever start such a story.  Anyone?  Anyone?  I'm thinking it's the same person who creates computer viruses. Re-circulates anonymous stories that are years old as if they happened yesterday and to them personally.  Hacks accounts.  Steals identities.  I'd better stop now.  This is heading down a criminal path.  (I guess if the shoe fits......)
The point is it happens to everyone occasionally.  You believe something you hear, read, are told. You're too trusting.  Maybe you even repeat it.  But you learn a lesson.  Totally different bird from the FFUF (the Fake Factoid User Freak).

Don't be a FFUFer.  

Saturday, March 08, 2014


I bet you thought I was going to drone on about my boys.  Not today.  Well, maybe later this afternoon but not right this minute.  Nope. Today I am sharing a thought that has been rolling around in my brain, sort of quietly and in the background, but still there, just hanging out waiting for its turn. 

It started out years ago when words like natural and organic became trendy.  I sort of rolled my eyes and gave the retail food marketing industry a nod for playing into the hands of its demographic so beautifully.  Gullible Moms responsible for feeding their families felt they weren't doing a good job unless they bought natural and organic groceries.  Urban professionals felt uncool and unhealthy if their lattes weren't soy, if their yogurt wasn't Greek.   A string of vague and meaningless terms trickled along, coming in and out of vogue.  Each was under fire one minute and the ultimate law amen the next:  cage free, gluten free, sugar free, fat free, dairy free, free roaming, hormone free, pesticide free, pastured, grass fed, grain fed, hand fed, bottle fed, locally grown, locally raised and on and on ad nauseum.   Navigating the grocery store, the natural food market or the "nutrition" section at the bookstore became an activity requiring Superhero bullshit detection skills.   In case you didn't know, conspiracy theory is real, people.  We should be ashamed we even dubbed it a theory.  It should be called conspiracy law.  Word. But you didn't hear it from me.  I'd hate to think I had to live the rest of my life like the crazy character Mel Gibson played in the movie The Conspiracy Theory.   

Anyway.  During this time, a string of - oh, I don't know - seventy eleven or so sweeteners were introduced one by one as the newest, bestest sweetener since sliced sprouted grain bread.    One by one the current sweetheart sweetener was knocked off its number one high horse spot for one reason or six.  The term glycemic index became the king of everything.  Aaaaall the things.   Once again, kudos to the ad agencies. 

Did you see the movie The Devil Wears Prada? Meryl Streep gave Anne Hathaway this fabulous lesson, in which you could substitute food for fashion and still keep the point of this beautifully succinct informational tongue lashing perfectly accurate and intact:

[To Andrea] This... stuff? Oh... ok. I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don't know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise, it's not lapis, it's actually cerulean. You're also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St. Laurent, wasn't it, who showed cerulean military jackets? And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it's sort of comical to me how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of stuff.

We think we're making choices to feed our families (insert newest most healthy sounding, trendy term here)  but really, in fact, we're feeding our families food that was selected for us by the people in some office.  Once again, kudos to the ad agencies, the salespeople, the authors of "nutriton" books, the people and practices and offices and corporations with something to SELL.  

This concludes the conspiracy theory law portion of my post.  Amen.

Cuz nowwww, this is just becoming humorous.  For the past few years I've been patiently listening and reading about the "new" trend of (whatever.  see above diatribe.)  homesteading, eating fresh and organic, buying local, blah blah blaaaaaaaachkphthhh.    Listen up,  young bucks and does.  This is the way my Grandparents lived.  It's the way they taught my parents to live, and the way they taught me to live.  They didn't call it homesteading.  They didn't call it buying local or growing food not a yard or living green. They didn't call it a nutrition plan.  They called it living.  Life. Being. Providing.  Using their resources and working hard. They taught my parents,  my parents taught me.  We've had gardens and preserved fresh foods since before this new generation (who apparently invented it aaaallll) was born.  My husband's Grandaddy hauled truckloads of whatever crops were ripe - corn, watermelon, squash - down the mountain to the Piggly Wiggly and sold it to them.  My husband remembers loading watermelons by the hundreds.  On to the truck.  Off of the truck.  
I remember vividly helping my Mama and my Grandmother can tomatoes and green beans,  make pickles and chow chow, and Heaven knows I had a stiff, purple thumb from hulling peas more times than I can remember.  
I remember watching my Grandaddy work in his garden in the middle of August wearing work pants, a long sleeved shirt and a straw hat (yet another thing they knew decades ago - sunburn = bad, sun protection = good. And yet we're still reading articles about it as if it were brand new news.)  Sweat was dripping off his nose and he drank water from a quart Mason jar.  Funny what you remember.  Anyway this was a man who had begun his professional career as a teacher, then became a Principal, then a Superintendant, then when he retired from education he ran for a seat in the Georgia State Senate.  And won it.  Several times.  Still, every Spring when the threat of frost was behind us, he was in the garden.  It was so ingrained in him to have his feet in the tilled dirt and plant and tend his garden that he did it every year up til the year he died.  It was thusly instilled in my Grandmother that she was to use e-v-e-r-y  s-i-n-g-l-e  luscious vegetable that came out of that garden in some way.  If the bounty was too much to eat, she preserved it.  She shared it with friends.  They instilled this in my parents, and to this day, I feel the urge to till dirt and plant seeds and seedlings in the Spring and rotate crops in and out of the dirt until winter comes. 

It makes me chuckle at the perceived reality of current holistic and nutritional self proclaimed experts and health fanatics.  You know the kind.  The drink the Kool-aid kind. The kind who believe theirs is the only right. The ones who pay someone to come and plow their ground for them,  buy their compost and hire someone to spread it,  buy expensive organic products to use in the garden- no wait for the person they hire to use in the garden, buy beautiful woven baskets in which to gather their bounty.  Then when the veggies are ready, they proclaim, "Look at what I grew!!"  Reminds me of the story of The Little Red Hen.  That's an oldie too.

So the moral of the story is, don't drink somebody else's Kool-aid.  Make your own.  Live your own belief and let others live theirs, live next door to them, appreciate their world but make your own.  Recognize anything on this planet as redesigned, rebranded, retouched or recycled.  Hopefully future generations will do the same for us.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


You didn't know eagles enjoyed 'em some tater salad, didja.

Tonight there is an Eagle Court of Honor for Scouts who have attained certain accomplishments or reached specific goals.  It's always a pot luck family affair.  The troop leader's wife knocks herself OUT getting it together, bringing the necessary paper and plastic goods, drink coolers, tablecloths, centerpieces, and other basics.  Leaders arrive early to set up tables and chairs and others decorate them.

Tonight I won't be going.  Have to work until too late to get there on time.  I did, however, make potato salad for the masses.  I washed, cut up and boiled a sinkful of potatoes, diced pickles and onions, boiled, peeled and chopped eggs,  and made dressing.  There were so many potatoes I had to lay them out on an enormous tray to cool and sit them under a fan.  While they were cooling I contemplated how to add all the other ingredients (four cups worth) and the dressing (three cups) and get it all mixed together well without tearing the potatoes up.  I hate when that happens.  That's potato salad soup.  Eww.

It was during this time of contemplation that a brilliantly clever idea began to form in my lil pea brain.  So here's my advice for next time you have to make a boatload of tater salad.  Leave the potatoes on the tray and sprinkle the diced ingredients on top, then pour the dressing over in a zig zag fashion.  Then use a spatula to turn it over juuuuuuuust enough times to get it mixed.  Worked like a CHARM. Then I used the spatula to transfer it to a deep (disposable) pan.  Done!  Taters in tact.

Now I only hope my hubby will remember to fix me a plate!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Blog-blogger; Journal-journalist, Memoir-memoirist

I had no idea that was a word, did you?  Memoirist.

Over the weekend I've become enamored with a TV show called "Who Do You Think You Are?" on The Learning Channel.  In case you haven't seen it, the show features a celebrity who is curious about his/her historical background, parents or grandparents or even further back.  Some have heard stories -negative or positive - about their family's history, allegiances, actions, and so on.  Some seem to need to hear stories due to a lack of historical information within their family.  Either way, usually the celebrity seems to find some peace, substance, answers, or closure from the information they glean.

At the beginning of the show the celebrity is introduced to some type of historical expert who has found the initial piece of information regarding the celebrity's questions.  Then, through a series of referrals to other experts/locations/historical document storage facilities and curators eventually the celeb is able, (usually with the help of ancestry.com which seems to be a heavy duty sponsor of the show - surprise!) to piece together the story of his/her family's past.

One of the common threads in the show regardless of the information being sought is that someone in the family somewhere usually has kept a journal or memoir.  They are in different forms, formats, some chronicle years of family life/history on a daily basis and some contain only basic, pertinent information and entries are infrequent, but in almost every case it has been this journal that has ultimately led the celebrity to find what he/she was looking for.  Even if the journal does not turn out to have pertinent information, it still allows the celeb to know more about that member of their family who came decades or sometimes centuries before.

I guess the current form of that is blogging.  So to my children or nieces or nephews or their children if you read this when I'm gone, let me just start by saying I adored you before I even laid eyes on you and do still.  I plan to be watching you from Heaven. At the moment it doesn't seem so critical to keep up with chronicling the events of our family life but there may come a day when your children or theirs are curious about their great great grandparents, their affiliations, talents, relationships, and hobbies.  Maybe you'll be standing on property that at one time belonged to our family or maybe you'll be sitting at a table that belonged to your 4x great grandparents and has been passed down to each generation and now resides in your kitchen.  Or maybe you'll be neither of those things but randomly feel a stirring one day that leads you to learn more about your family tree.  Any way it happens, family is always with you and behind you - sometimes when you want them to be and even when you don't.

There are so many reasons to have a blog.  When I started this one at the urging of a friend, it was only to jot down thoughts.  If you know me, you know I can't possibly SAY all the things I want to else your ears would bleed.   Sort of still is, but since I'll never pen a memoir, we'll call this blog the closest thing to that.

More later.  Mwwwahhh!!


When life gives

Just when it gives.  You thought I was gonna say lemons and making lemonade right?  Aww naww.

You know how sometimes you begin to recognize a pattern in your life?  The books you're reading, the conversations you're engaged in, the events you attend, or the topic that keeps popping up at parties?  At some point you cock your head, put your index finger to your chin and make a big ol' deep V in that little space between your eyebrows oh wait that was me looking in my 10x makeup mirror this morning.  Anyway you've been there.  To the recurring-thing-in-your-life place, not the vertical furrow lines in your brow place. I'm sure you don't have those.

Sometimes I believe it's self preservation.  Our own psyche has taken stock, determined we need to head in a direction, and without telling our conscious self, our insular cortex launches a sneak attack and initiates implementation.   No mystery there.  For example after the holidays I miraculously gravitate to diet books, exercise philosophies and light, heart healthy recipes. Awesome.   After my child has a melt-down (and) or I handle a parenting incident with the finesse and maturity of an eleven year old tantrum-throwing diva, I head to Barnes and Noble and scour the parenting section for help.  Solace. Vindication that I'm not the only one.  On a lighter note, after hunky hubby attends a bluegrass festival he trolls ebay for banjo instruction books and practices more.  Waaaaaaay more.  I bought him a mute.  Did you know they made such things?  Mutes?  For banjos? Please trust me they do hallelujah and amen.  And one day when it reaches the top of my to-do list, I'm going to look up the person who invented it and write a thank you note.  Until then at banjo practicing time I'll just close my eyes, lean my head back and stretch my arms toward the heavens and say "thank you, thank you, you inventor of banjo mutes, you seer into the future of banjo players' wives lives.  You ROCK."

How-ehvahhh.  Sometimes when said pattern recognition phenomenon occurs, it's apparent to me right away (right away being when I notice it.  And sometimes, my darlings, I'm notoriously slow.  Dense even.) that God has placed it there.  It's too completely random to be of my own doing.   My psyche doesn't have mental acumen any larger than my conscious brain,  so simple logic dictates that I don't have the schmarts or preservation tactics to orchestrate such complicated campaigns.

So here it is.  A friend gave me Jen Hatmaker's book called "7, an Experimental Mutiny against Excess".  It resonated.  Jen and her family did a seven step reduction of the 'stuff' in their lives that would make even the new pauperish Pope's head swim.  Seven is a small number and I don't feel the need to go that deep or that narrow at one fell swoop, but the point was a good, honest, real one and it hit me.  Hard.

Then.  Then I came back to the hotel room the other day to find hubby watching the movie Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.  Not a great movie as movies go but I'd watch Steve Carell in anything. I watched enough of it to feel convicted that most of the things I worry about and even spend time and money and energy on are things that, given 16 hours until the end, wouldn't make the cut.  Then.  THEN,  at a particularly poignant spot in the movie, they play that song with these lyrics:

"Sommmmmetimes all I need is the air that I breathe, and to love you."

.....aaaaand I'm done. *sob, snort, dab at eyes*  Okay Jesus, I'm starting to get a hint of a thought of an idea that maybe you're nudging me on something here.......

See?  Do not act like you weren't warned.  Dense.  Reaaaally slow on the uptake here. (Please refer to paragraph four.)  You woulda caught the hints waaaaay before The Hollies started singing right?  Yeah, not me.  I'm usually so convinced I'm on the right path that I don't even give a glance at the stuff I have to knock out of the way to stay on it.  It's a well known fact, and my hunky hubby and kids LOVE that about me and are not annoyed by it in the least.  Ever.

In the days and weeks following, clue after clue after hint after hint popped up that God was nudging me to think about excess in my life.  It became time for the regular seasonal cleaning-out-of-kids'-closets for example.  After going through each article of clothing in my sons' closets to get rid of the things they'd outgrown, the stacks of outgrown clothing were enough to fill two garbage bags.  I shook my head in wonder.  After counting pairs of outdoor boots while trying to clean the shelves they occupy, I counted twenty four pair.  There are four of us. I clucked my teeth in shame.  When emptying the coat closet for the plumber (to reach a leak) I looked at the stack of coats and realized shamefully that that huge stack of coats all belonged to two people.  After getting home from the grocery store I had to rearrange food items in the fridge and pantry just to accommodate my purchases.
I started giving thought to why I keep buying things when I already have a houseful of things.  Stuff.  Clothes. Food. Neat stuff.  Shoes.  Pretties.  Accumulation of goods.  Shiny things. I have so many shoes I've had to encroach on other areas of the house to store them all.  Sunday when I grabbed my Bible before church I even noticed I have six Bibles!  Different versions, newer versions, large print versions, translated to modern speech versions, workbooks for the Bibles, 365 days of scripture and meditation, Bible Study books.  The list of stuff just goes on and on.

What am I teaching my children?  To store up stuff?  That material things, new shiny purchases make you happy?  Fill a hole or sad place in your life or your heart?  Fix problems?  That more is better?  That if there's a newer, better version of what you already have, well you certainly have to upgrade.  And in the end, when we're playing Steve Carell or Keira Knightly's parts and we have 16 hours left 'til the end, who of us will give thought to any of those material things?

I'm starting this reduction of excess by making each purchase deliberate.  No spontaneous purchases, no purchases just because something is on sale, no stocking up on stuff.  I have enough clothing for six people, enough shoes to don the feet of 246 women with size 8.5 feet all at one time, enough food to fill a refrigerator, two freezers, two pantries, and several tubs of stashed foods for when the zombie apocalypse comes,  enough books to start a library of my own, and the list goes on and on.
I am tasking myself with recognizing in each moment how much I already have and making each of my moments about my people and my relationships, not my stuff.

My family does not think of ourselves - independently or as a collective unit - as excessive. (In fact if you ask my kids I'm alllllways saying no when they want something.) There's always someone who has more.  On the other hand, there's also always someone who has less.  I'm curious to see how this concept will affect my family dynamic as I pare down the material things in my life.  I'll keep you posted.


Sunday, June 09, 2013

Hey, You're One of Us!

Are there any warmer words than those?  I think not.

This afternoon I had the privilege of attending a funeral service for my Aunt Glenda.  In truth she's my hunky husband's aunt, not mine. When you've been married as long as we have though, the term (and the concept of) "in-law" is blurred to say the least, and actually mostly absent.  Glenda was my aunt for thirty four years.  When we were a newly married couple, Glenda and Gleason (Gleeshun, as pronounced by family) were younger than I am now. They were handsome people. They had two gorgeous girls around the same age as hunky hubby and before long we discovered, as we have all our married life, a connection between his family and mine.  Glenda and Gleason's girls were school friends of my own first cousins.  Glenda would say, "Oh Low-urd,  those boys were at my house all'a time.  I doan even know how minny times I fed those young-uns."  

Today when I walked into the funeral home parlor an uncle pointed and exclaimed, "Hey. You're a Culpepper!"  It made me smile and it quickened my step and my heart until I was under Uncle James' arm wing, my head resting on his chest. Uncle James is Gleason's brother.  He is also my late father-in-law's brother. When I'm near James I feel like my father-in-law is close-by. They are so very similar in word and appearance, and at times like these I could just kick myself for not making visiting him a regular part of my life.   I tell myself I'll do better.

Throughout the decades of family gatherings I always loved talking with Glenda because she was, like myself, an outsider - an in-law.  She looked at me with understanding eyes and a knowing glance. She asked me questions and talked to me about things that made me comfortable.  Looking back, I'm not quite sure how she knew to do that.

We saw them infrequently, and as the years passed the family get togethers became less and less frequent.  Even so when we did gather I could always count on looking around and finding her there with a wide smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye that said "Come over here, baby. Come talk to me."

I hope, as I recognize the relationship between our ages, Glenda and me, and the current perspective of individuals in our family as it appears when we gather, that I can can take her sweet thoughts and words and use them to make our young generation more comfortable. . . . just like she did for me.

In the end, it is a privilege to attend a funeral service. To be one of the chosen ones to send someone off to Heaven with shared prayers?   It's a gift.  I'm thankful for that gift today.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013


this ain't a dress rehearsal, Sookie.

I've been giving some thought to how much time I spend giving thought to things.  A couple of things led me to this think.  For one thing, I had the honor of being my eleven year old's academic assistant as he muddled his way through four yes I said four projects during this last month of school.  I felt totally at rights with helping him, as it was a position of service to him and he was doing the planning and thinking and decision-making.  I did the grunt work.  The child has pulled out four maaaaajor projects in a short period of time, and between you me and the chickens, they were assigned because the teachers want to let the kids prepare for their projects during class.  THAT way, they don't have to TEACH them.  Alternately, the positive spin on the story is that they're preparing them for the volume and depth of work they will be expected to churn out in middle school.  Either way, I digress.  Secondly,  I watched (re-watched I guess would be more accurate) Mamma Mia the other day.  The song Meryl Streep's character sings about her daughter has always brought me to tears, but increasingly it brings me to bigger tears and for longer duration and most recently (when I watched it the other day) it made me do The Ugly Cry - sobbing, gasping, blowing my nose and unwittingly wrenching my face into all manner of contortions.  My face, neck and ears turn red and blotchy, mascara runs down my face and I'm not able to speak.  There's a reason it's called The Ugly Cry.  The song is called Slipping through My Fingers.  In it, she relates how she and her child sit at the breakfast table barely awake and instead of talking and laughing they let precious time go by.  Then she says when her child has left for school, there's "that odd melancholy feeling and a sense of guilt I can't deny."  She goes on to wonder why they didn't go on all the wonderful adventures she had planned for them to go on and says, "well some of that we did but most we didn't, and why I just don't know."

Know the feeling.  My hand is planted firmly on the panic button.  I realize, waaaaay deep down, I mean really  r-e-a-l-i-z-e  I only have a very few years left with my children.  What museum have we left unseen, what culturally important event have we forgotten to attend, what have I neglected to teach or model that will leave them unprepared for their independence?  What have I overdone that will leave them - again - unprepared for their independence, or maybe even scarred for life?  We kid about that last part a lot, us parents.  But in all actuality, even though 'scarred for life' does sound fairly ok reeeeally serious, I'm thinking there are most likely things I do on a regular basis that will negatively alter my children's future in some way.

My prayer is that for each one of those things I mess up, there are three good ones.  Three good things they will remember from growing up in our home and being our child, belonging to us.  Me.  Belonging to me.  I feel like God doesn't give you children, but instead He sends you His children to raise for Him.  So you only get them for a little while.  Then they slip through your fingers.

Gosh.  I miss 'em already.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


My last post was entitled "Halfway There".  The journey is now complete, as I sat for and passed both State Board tests, applied and paid for my license, and am now in a Georgia State worker (an oxymoron if ever there was one)  induced floating period.  I lie in wait for my real live paper license to arrive, for I can not legally work or charge for services until such is completed.  Apparently there are a bazingazillion RN licenses that have won first place in the triage the State of Georgia assigns to the importance of licenses to "get to" first.  Boo hiss.  I do not agree with this in the moment and from where I am now; however, I will tell you with all hypocrisy that should any member of my family be injured or intensely ill, I will revoke this statement all the way to the ER and will swear I never said it.  Remember this.  We go to the ER quite often.  They know us by name.

So next along this beautiful journey is pulling together resume, portfolio, and mindset of a person looking for work.  I've done none of these for two decades, and the last time I did it was in a completely different (corporate) setting.  I've no clue about this one, but I'm fixin' ta find out.    Unlike most people I know however, I enjoy interviews.  Always have.  I like the process, I like meeting someone and assessing who they are and how best to relate to them, whether to lean in or back off during conversations, how much to share or not to share, and how to let them know I'm listening and I feel their value and power but at the same time am vitally aware of my own value and power.  Weird, right?

So here we go in a new direction.  I feel like I'm at the top of the ten story waterslide getting ready to push off.   There is an actual story there.  Once when my family and my sister's family took our kids to Lake Winnepasaukah, there was a 'new' waterslide at the back of the park.  I swear it was ten stories high, and you had to walk up that many open-air scaffolded flights of stairs to get to the top.  By the time we all got there, we were huffing and sweating so much we didn't even take a moment to look how high we were and what we were getting ready to do.  The 'slide' was actually a tube, and the teenager working at the top handed you a traylike-inflated-ish boat like thingie to sit on.  You plopped down in it and before you could turn around and say "see you at the bottom", he placed his Converse-clad foot on the back of your boat  and with lightening speed, hulk force, and absolutely no warning or expression on his face,  pushed you off into watertube never ever land.  

I screamed all the way down.  I don't remember it, but my sister and the rest of those who came after me swear it.  The sheer force of the push-off and the water gushing down the slide gave enough momentum that I automatically went from a sitting position to lying flat on my back.  Flat is a relative term.  While I was flat for the entire ride, much of the time I was flat on the side of the tube while going around corners or on the top of the tube while in the loop-di-loop.  But I was always safe inside the tube, even though it went by so fast I don't remember it.  I've always wanted to go back and do that sucker again.  Maybe soon.

Meanwhile back at the ranch subdivision,  I am poised to embark on just such a trip in my own life.  Wish me luck, and if I fly by you, on my back, screaming, wave to me.  Ok?


Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I am halfway there.  Which would indicate, naturally, that I have half behind me and half yet to complete. The truth is, in terms of State Board Exams, I am halfway there.  There are two; a written and a practical.  I took the written yesterday (and passed it!  Yippie!) and I have the practical next week.

However in terms of the entire journey, I feel as though I'm 95% there.  I enrolled in school in October 2011, finished in November 2012, and ten pounds down and many thousands of dollars later, finally received confirmation from the State and dates for my tests earlier this very month (February 2013).   This has also been quite a journey of some proportion for all whom I call my own. My hunky husband and my baby boys were thrown into the deep end of the new pool with little transition time and reacted well for the most part.  No one sunk.  There was some fierce paddling to stay afloat, but all looked calm on the surface.  My hunky husband dove right in and took charge of laundry, weekend chauffeuring and soccer mom duties, my independent teen pretended, acted as if, was absolutely unfazed.
My baby however, was heart-broken.  He was heart-broken in the kind of raw, real, honest way that makes a Mom cry all the way to school sometimes.  All of my (5th grade 10 year old) baby's life, I have been home for him and with him and he was not ready to dive in to these vicissitudes.  Our new dynamic.  Our shifted paradigm.  I did my best to explain our family scaffolding was still there, our priorities had not changed, and he was still safe, sound, and loved to pieces - that I was still and would ever be entirely smitten with him, his brother, and his Dad and ruined for anyone else.

What he heard was - just the way it probably sounded as you read it - a bunch of psychobabble.  All he knew was that his Mom was not going to be where she was supposed to be.  That ten years of having that ground to stand on was being pulled right out from under his feet.

I switched to waterproof make-up.  It was a necessity if I was to arrive at school without having cried all my makeup right off my face.

It got better.  Slowly.  There were bumps along the way.  We became very thankful for our crockpot and for Publix sandwiches, for example.  And did you know that my way of folding and stacking towels is not the only right way to fold and stack towels?  Unbelievable.  Inconceivable. It bothered me for a little while.  Then it bothered me less.  Then I was thankful there were clean towels.

Baby boy adjusted.  By my last week of school however, he was rejoicing that Mom would once again be in the place he wanted her.  At home.  He started singing these lines of a song to me:  "I belong to you, you belong to me, in our sweet home".  He has the tender, sweet voice of a ten year old boy and each time he sang it my heart melted a little more. I wasn't familiar with the lyrics but it didn't matter.  I loved hearing him sing them to me.  Then a day or two later, listening to the radio in the car I heard those words in a song they were playing!  I looked it up when I got home, watched the video, and read the lyrics.   I haven't yet mentioned to him the lyrics aren't exactly as he sings them, and I think I might just not. I like his version better anyway.

I love the video, by the way.  It reminds me of an Irish band - sort of a stomp-and-clap, acoustic,  front porch vibe.

Hunky husband was happy for me to be home and whether he could admit it or not, so was Mr. TeenMan.  I don't think any of the three of them have yet looked ahead far enough to recognize that when I put this education to use I'll potentially be away from home even more than before.  It will occur to each of them.  I think I'll see it when it does.  I imagine it will be a deer-in-the-headlights sort of expression that'll be the tell.  I'll keep you apprised.

So in the whole of it, whether I'm halfway done, 95% done, or just beginning, it feels good. It feels bright and new and shiny - a road untravelled, a story untold, and a journey yet to unfold.

I owe a big thank you to my family members and friends who've supported me along the way.  Being in class alongside eighteen to twenty six year olds is daunting to say the least, as is accepting the difference in learning new material at the age of 54 instead of 14 or 18 or 20.  So I was and continue to be thankful for the group of people who surround me.  Sometimes that surround acts as padding - like a circle of wagons or like bubble wrap, sometimes it feels like a warm, soft crocheted shawl made of prayer and love and light, and sometimes it feels like the walls of one of those rubber rooms that keeps crazy folks from hurting themselves or anything else.   But it's always there in some form.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


Had an appointment with the orthopaedic doctor yesterday.  He's so good.  In fact, he's so good I drive 30 miles one way just to continue seeing him.  There are probably dozens if not hundreds of bone docs closer to me than he is, but believe it or not a thirty mile drive on my own with a trenta double nonfat soy latte and my iPod tunes blaring through the car speakers is occasionally a nice way to spend half an hour.  I sing along.  LOUDLY.  I nod my head toward my shoulder with the beat.  I thump on the steering wheel. I don't do it in the shower because there's always someone home when I take a shower. But.  In my Mommy Van headed toward the doctors appointment thirty miles away whilst everyone is either in school or at work, I am blissfully on my own.   I talk to myself,  work through problems.  Mondays, the one day I'm off, I'm joyously alone from 8:45am until 2:45pm.  I listen to the music I want,  I do the chores, errands, jobs I want in the order I want and the way I want to do them, telling myself that I'm an insanely intelligent person (maybe insanely is a lil stretch) and I have the ability to make fabulously educated and reasonable decisions.  A-L-O-N-E.

Then my pre pre-teen gets home. . . . and I am painfully aware I am not only not fabulously educated and reasonable, but neither am I intelligent - insanely or otherwise.  In fact, it's a wonder I can function whilst without him by my side to give me instruction (and grief) on how to make decisions.  Decisions like the quality with which is homework should be completed.  Like how much time he needs to spend outside getting exercise and fresh air in his lungs before he can even think about touching anything that has a plug, a screen, a joystick, a controller, or a keyboard.  Like how his bed should be made eeeeeeeeven though he's going to get back in it at bedtime which is hours and hours and hours too early for a human of his age.

I begin to pray for patience and wisdom.  I pray for only the right words to come out of my mouth, to be given the strength to ration my words and speak them using the cadence, the timbre, and the reverence of a righteous and tender Mother.  (I pray for control over my stink-eye too.  I swear sometimes it acts before I can stop it.)  As I'm praying I begin to think back to when I was a pre pre-teen and eventually I recall what a rebel I was for rules.  So I look over at him and smile and remind myself how much and how deeply I love this human man-child and how he is 89 pounds of wonderfulness all wrapped up into an individual that is going to light up the world and everyone he touches.  How he's going to set the world on fire.  Turn it on it's end.  Flip it upside down. Keep it impulsive.  Keep it peculiar.    Be the one we want to attach ourselves to because he's our whimsy.  I hope the world is ready.  It needs him so much.

Then I go pick up my teenager. .  .  and I am painfully aware I am not only not fabulously educated and reasonable, but neither am I intelligent - insanely or otherwise.  In fact, it's a wonder I can function whilst without him by my side to give me instruction (and grief) on   e-v-e-r-y   l-i-t-t-l-e   t-h-i-n-g.  For example.  Regardless of the fact that he has yet to even apply for his learners permit to drive, he can tell me exactly how to do it aaaaaand every little thing I do wrong while I'm driving him to wrestling practice.  Picking him up from wrestling practice.  Taking him to school.  Taking him to - you get the idea.

I begin to pray for patience and wisdom.  I pray for only the right words to come out of my mouth, to be given the strength to ration my words and speak them using the cadence, the timbre, and the reverence of a righteous and tender Mother.  I do the stink-eye prayer again too.  As I'm praying, I begin to think back to when I was a teen and eventually I remember what a rude know-it-all I was, so I look over at him and smile and remind myself how much and how deeply I love this human man-child and how he is 125 pounds of wonderfulness all wrapped up into an individual who is going to keep the world sane.  Keep it slow.  Patient.  Remind it of its reasonableness and simple, quiet happiness.  Be the one we want to attach ourselves to because he is our touchstone.  I hope the world is ready.  It needs him so much.

The last thing I do before I go upstairs to bed is soak the kitchen sink.  I stood at the sink looking out the window and what came to my mind next was without a doubt the best words my powerful, loving God has ever given me -  "I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.  Star light, star bright, I have two stars of yours tonight."

Thank you God for giving me these two stars to raise.  Help me do it in your light, your shadow, and with your guidance.
Your big dummy Mom ;-)

Monday, December 10, 2012


Yesterday was the Jackson family Christmas party.  For those who aren't aware, my husband has an enormous gigantuan family.  His mother is one of nine children.  The ages of those nine now vary from approximately 55 to 80.  Their families therefore, have had families, and theirs have had families, and so on.  It's overwhelmingly indescribable how many humans have come from those nine.

A good majority of them attended Eloise's Christmas party yesterday.  I may've written about it before.  At any rate, the reason for mentioning it now is that one of the many MANY cousins, in particular the one named Diane, was running late.  She called to report the reason for her tardiness.  "Edie and Ethel are not cooperating with me."

Edie and Ethel are Ronny's Grandfather's sisters.  So they are his* great aunts. Ethel is Diane's mother. They have both passed on and gone from this earth and have been dead for years.  A decade maybe.

But they were giving Diane a hard time.  Yesterday.

I didn't bat an eye. I believed it.  Didn't even need to hear the story to believe it, but here's the story anyway.

Edie and Ethel made a peanut butter cake that was legendary.   I recall people lovingly, laughingly fighting over the last slice, the last bite. I remember having a slice of it at every family gathering for years and years.  Decades maybe. I recall that when I had a slice of that cake in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, life was good and nothing else mattered. There were generally dozens of people sitting or standing about, but when I sat down with that cake and coffee, all I heard was crowd buzz. My thoughts were focused on absolutely nothing other than the gloriously resplendent piece of cake before me. Bite of cake - sip of coffee.  Bite of cake - sip of coffee.  


It was a totally homemade cake.  We call that a scratch cake - so that being the case, rarely does anyone make it anymore.  After Edie and Ethel passed on, it became a sweet memory.  Several have the recipe but rarely does that cake appear at a gathering.  .

So Diane decided to make it for the Jackson family Christmas gathering yesterday.  (As a sidenote, she became everyone's new favorite cousin yesterday.)  I heard comments like "I haven't had this cake since Grandmama was alive!"  (That's been 35 years.)  And "Oh wow, I had forgotten about this cake.  It reminds me of when I was ten and spending the summers in the country with my cousins."  That comment came from a cousin older than me - not sure how much, but I'm 53 - wait - 54.

So back to Diane being late to arrive to the party.  When she called to report that Edie and Ethel were not cooperating, what she meant was that she couldn't get the cake to come together.   Couldn't get it finished.  Couldn't get it done.  It cracked, it wouldn't go together to be iced correctly, whatever.  Anyone who has made a homemade cake knows how many things can go wrong in the process.   I don't know whether she was joking when she said Edie and Ethel weren't cooperating with her, or whether she really felt their presence and that they were giggling and getting in her way.  I didn't ask her.  But when Aunt Andrea announced that was why Diane was late, not a soul at the party blinked an eye. Everyone within hearing distance either laughed, grinned, or nodded.  There were a few comments like, "I bleeve it!" or, "Oh, they were up to their tricks, huh."

Personally I can hear them giggling over the ruination of a cake - their signature cake.  They were both a hoot and a half.  I can still hear each one of their laughs, I can still see their hands as they grasped mine, and I still use one of their homemade salve recipes.  I hear them laugh sometimes when I make it.

But back to the cake.  Yesterday, the sight of it, the scent of it, the texture of it, and ultimately the taste of it evoked memories of not just Edie and Ethel but the gatherings to which they brought that cake and the years I've been blessed to be a part of this family.

Diane just recently lost her sister.  Other than telling her I was sorry for her loss, we didn't speak of it or anything related, but as Ronny and the kids and I drove home through the countryside late yesterday afternoon, I wondered if making that cake for the party might have been the same kind of memory for Diane.  A healing gesture, a coping mechanism, an offering.   I don't know her that well, but I would be willing to bet her mother and aunt, Ethel the former and Edie the latter, were with her for a reason while she made that cake.

Thanks Aunt Edie and Aunt Ethel.  You two are tooooooo much. I love you.

Your humble great niece in law,

* I said 'his' for purposes of ease of understanding the family relationship.  They are however in truth "our" Great Aunts.  They became mine in 1981 when I married my sweetheart and were mine until they passed - by marriage - but still mine.

Friday, December 07, 2012


The traditional Christmas scripture is found in Luke.  The second chapter is the one most folks recognize, recite, put on plaques, Christmas cards, and so on.

You know how when you were a kid and you sang America the Beautiful every morning in school, standing facing the flag with your right hand over your heart and you thought "of the I sing" was "of the icing"?  Ok so here's Luke, chapter two verse nine:

"And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid."

Throughout my childhood I wondered why the angel of the Lord was sore.  What made him sore?  Can angels be sore?  How could that even be?  And do they have first aid kits or aspirin*, Ben Gay* or physical therapy in Heaven to help an angel get over soreness?  Masseurs?  Chiropractors?   Is there an angel infirmary?

These were the thoughts bouncing around in my noggin' every Christmas throughout my childhood.  Funny what a child's takeaway can be.  My Mom or my Sunday School teacher or the Preacher would be reading me this scripture from their King James Version Bible, and they felt the point they were making was that our Savior had been born and was lying, swaddled, in a manger.  The Host of heaven was busy praising God (verse 13), so who was handling infirmary or PT appointments for sore angels?

It wasn't until I was older and no I am not going to reveal just how much older because I would be sorely embarrassed that I realized the true meaning of the scripture, and thennnn, in the aha moment, I realized it wasn't the angel that was sore at all!!!  It was the shepherds in the fields.  Now I knew those guys had to be in trouble if they were sore, because we all know there's no physical therapy or aspirin in the sheep fields.  Duh.

It wasn't until I was older and no I am not going to reveal just how much older because I would be sorely embarrassed that I realized the true meaning of the scripture, that it really didn't matter at all who was sore, that the point was the Savior had been born that day.  Duh.

It wasn't until I was older and no I am not going to reveal just how much older because I would be sorely embarrassed - that - tah dah, nobody was sore during the entire event.  Well thank goodness.   Cauz if you were so lucky as to have angels appear to you in a beautiful field in the evening with green grass and trees all around you and beautiful dark blue sky and brilliant stars above you, and talk to you personally about good tidings, great joy, and our Savior being born, it'd be a real bummer if you weren't feeling your best.

*I attended elementary school from 1963 through 1968.  Aspirin was it for OTC pain relief, and Ben Gay was it for  the topical muscle rub stinky stuff.  No Motrin, no Aleve.  No Bio-Freeze or Icy Hot.  We used hot water bottles and heating blankets.  The times they were so simple then....... *sigh*

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


School.  It seems like a few days ago I was wringing my hands about whether or not to commit to a one year licensure program in cosmetology.  I remember talking to my friends and my sister about it, lunching with my husband and discussing it (I distinctly remember the genuine look of disbelief and shock on his face when I brought it up) and even thinking to myself as I shook my head, "WHAT are you even THINKING, going to school, and for a profession where you'll be standing all day, working weird hours, and receiving tips, of all common things.  My Daddy will flip."  And as my husband said, "You could actually make some money if you went back into your field......how much can you possibly make cutting hair, anyway?"  It was a few weeks, maybe months, before it sunk in for him that it wasn't about the money or the position.  It is for men.  Almost always.  They are what they do, and women are who they are.

For the record, I'm 53 years old.  Wait.  54.   Born in '59, never can do that math.  I must have a mental block.  At any rate, yes I do still think about what my parents will think.  It doesn't keep me from anything, but I think about it.  There I said it.  I think about what my family will think too- my husband and my children.  Other than that, generally I don't give a big fat flip what anyone else thinks, but always value input should they care to share it.

The reason I knew my Dad would disapprove is that when I was a senior in high school, I had no ambition whatsoever.  No direction, no motivation, nuthin.  All I knew was I wanted out of the house.  I worked after school and on weekends for a family friend who was a beautician (yes, that's what they were called.  Frankly, I wish the term would return to vogue or trendy status.  It's too hard to say  c-o-s-m-e-t-o-l-o-g-i-s-t.)  At any rate, I announced one day that I wanted to enroll in beauty school when I finished college.  My Daddy looked beyond incensed (about like my husband first did in aforementioned lunch date) and when he regained his ability to speak he said to me, "You must have lost your mind.  You are GOING to college.   Pick one.  I'll drive you there."

True story.

Of course it was the right decision.  The degrees served me well over the years and besides that, I lived by myself or with a roommate for four years.  In doing so I learned several valuable life lesson, including but not limited to how to take care of myself without my parents being in the same home, how to live alone, and how to live with a roommate.  Priceless stuff.  Every kid should have the experience.  I might've, sorta, kinda, (shhhh don't tell) also learned how to party.  Might've engaged in that activity a little too much.  Lesson learned there as well.  Now I have a teenager, and remembering the party days evokes feelings from quite a different perspective.  Interesting.

So back to the finishing school thing.  Incredible that it has been a year and a month since I enrolled, and it will be a month or so until I am a licensed master cosmetologist, which is way too much of a mouthful for what amounts to a beautician.  Hairdresser.  Stylist.  Haircutter.  Tonsorial artist.  Actually that one is a whole different licensure, but I digress. The point is, I don't feel the need for any politically correct posturing regarding the job name, and any of those terms suits me fine.

Now then.  Here's my plan.  Since it is so close to Christmas and my kids are off for a couple of weeks for the holiday (Remember.  It's a "holiday break".  NOT a Christmas break.  Insert huuuuge eyeroll and teeth sucking here.) I am waiting until the first of the year to begin my assertive blitzkrieg on West Cobb County and surrounding areas.  My freshman foray into this area is an exciting thought.  I am such a weirdo like that.  I always enjoyed employment interviews and approached them as though we were interviewing each other, with obvious deferment on my part to the interviewer leading the meeting. Besides interviewing for traditional beautician positions I also have a few novel ideas to flesh out.  A couple of out-of-the-box approaches are floating around in the grey matter just waiting to be developed.

So.  Home with the kiddos for vacation.  First time in a year.  Ohhhhhh the plans.  Museums, plays, movies,  bike rides, hikes, day trips. My kids roll their eyes when I excitedly discuss the possibilities, but they're gonna LOVE it.  They are. Even if I have to persuade them they are.  The truth is they will most likely talk me into ditching a couple of those plans in favor of staying at home and hanging out, eating cereal for brunch and making popcorn while watching movies, listening to music or playing video games, but so be it.  Time together is time together.  My favorite quote regarding this concept is from Mamma Mia - so I guess actually it's from an Abba song called Slipping Through My Fingers- where Meryl Streep laments:

Sleep in our eyes, her and me at the breakfast table
barely awake I let precious time go by
then when she's gone, there's that odd melancholy feeling
and a sense of guilt I can't deny
what happened to the wonderful adventures
the places I had planned for us to go
well, some of that we did, but most we didn't
and why, I just don't know

I cry every single time I hear that song.  I can already feel that my incredible firstborn gift, my fifteen year old, has one foot out the door, and my delicious ten year old - my baby - is following in his brother's footsteps, pulling further and further away from Mom.  Yes.  I know it's a developmental thing for boys.  The knowing of it does not help.

So, it is finished.  Now on to the next phase - the next phase of my newest and hopefully last, professional incarnation.  On to the next phase of my childrens' development.  On to the two and a half weeks I am blessed to be able to spend with said children, and on to whatever the future holds.  I'm smiling at it all.

"Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she rejoices at the time to come."
Proverbs 31:25