Wednesday, December 28, 2011

So why is it?

During Christmas vacation we spent two days at my Mama and Daddy's house. On the way home, I related to hunky hubby that I was worried about my Mom.

"What do you mean? She seemed fine to me other than working too hard for a 79 year old woman."

It's true. She is my Grandmother's (who is 104.5) caregiver, bill payer, chauffeur, property manager, secretary, battering ram - y'know. She's everything. My Grandmother (who is 104.5) does not think of her daughter as a 79 year old woman, or if she does, my guess is that from her perspective that's a spring chicken. She has that syndrome that our seniors get sometimes; the one that is seated firmly in entitlement due to age, wisdom, experience, and maybe most of all, weariness. It's someone else's turn to do for them. Know that one?

So my Mama, who really should be the recipient of some caregiving of her own, "works" full time. Now, Mary Ellen wouldn't have it any other way. She's doing what she feels she's supposed to be doing with her life and for her family. But it takes its toll.

During our visit, Mama pulled out sausage balls and announced that we should warm them and put them on the table to snack on. But. She pulled them out of the pantry. . . NOT the refrigerator.

"Mama," I said. "Do those have meat in them?"

"Yes baby. They're sausage balls."

"Mama," I said. "How long have they been in that pantry?"

"Since yesterday when I made them."

Still nothing. I needed a stronger prompt, I guessed. Or maybe just an all-out, blatant one.

"Mom. Shouldn't they have been stored in the fridge?"

"Oh. I guess. I didn't think about that. Here. Put them on the table."


I changed tactics. I simply whispered a warning to each of my other family members to stay away from the sausage balls.

After dinner: "Wellll, nobody ate the sausage balls! Weren't they good?"

Now you understand why I'm worried?

The next morning, my Mama called me from Grandmother's. (She rises at 5:00 every morning and goes next door to her Mom's house, feeds her breakfast, helps her get her bath, and then begins the general housekeeping and chores.) "Honey I got waffles for the kids for breakfast, and there's bacon ready to be panfried, too."

"Ok Mama, I'll take care of it."

The frozen waffles were nowhere to be found - that is, if you were looking in the freezer. Guess where they were. No really, guess.

Right. The pantry.

Guess what WAS in the freezer though?! The bacon. Ready to be cooked? Don't think so. Ready to be thawed maybe.

During our visit there were a few other similar incidents. None of them were dangerous - well, unless you consider eating day old meat that hasn't been refrigerated dangerous. But you know what I mean. She wasn't driving down the wrong side of the road or anything. Not that she hasn't before in her life, but that was thirty four years ago when she was just ditzy.

So, my hunky husband reminds me, she's always been ditzy. Why is it you're worried now?

I don't know, but I am. Her responses are different than the lifelong ditziness we're accustomed to - they have a different tenor, a different underlying ummm - I don't know what.

So, my hunky husband reminds me, she's almost 80. Peoples' 'tenor' change with age.

Mind you, he's not trying to minimize my worry. Well, he is, but for altruistic reasons, not dismissive ones. He's trying to rationalize, to make me feel better, to help me put into perspective something I can't get ok with yet.

Only now, two days later, in the middle of the night, have I recognized why I'm worried now. She's my Mama and she's 79. Yes, genetically she may very well have a good shot at living another twenty five years, but I guess I am facing the thought, the very real idea, that sometime in the future, the relationship my Mama and I have will change. For good.

There aren't many things I'm afraid of. Really there aren't. Losing my Mama however, is high up on that short list. It's a totally selfish fear, for she knows where she's passing to when she passes, and she isn't afraid. She has a deep faith and a strong and committed Christian heart.

So why is it I'm worried? She does ditzy things and I worry she's displaying signs of dementia instead of the regular ditziness that's been a part of her personality always. It weakens my argument that I can't describe why I'm worried or give objective examples or reasons why I think recent occurrences are more serious or forboding than the ones we've always laughed about, shaken our head and sucked our teeth and looked at each other with glances that say, "Ohhhhh, that's just Mama."

My greatest hope is that I'm wrong. I haven't given thought to what life will be like without my Mama, and I don't want to give thought to such a thing. Maybe I won't have to for a couple of decades.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I don't know where they are and neither does she...

A few weeks ago I talked about Sylvia and Marie's Grandfather passing away. As a result, Sylvia had to bring her Grandmother to live with her in Alabama. With her dementia progressing, she is not able to take care of herself. We know what an incredibly difficult transition and situation it is when you take on this responsibility - I commend her for feeling such strong accountability for her family. If you have been in this position however, or even if you know someone who has, you will understand there is a flip side to the seriousness and critical nature of the situation.

You just have to laugh.

Comic relief is a necessary thing, folks. So you'll understand I'm not speaking out of disrespect or making light of the situation when I relate these humerous bits.

From the time Sylvia was in Alaska (where Grandmother and Grandfather lived) preparing to bring Grandmother home, she began her campaign to get her Grandmother to quit smoking.

"Once we get to Alabama there's gonna be no smoking. Maybe she'll forget she smokes."

I laughed so hard I choked. Didn't expect that. Then, a few weeks later, this:

"I'm missing three pairs of shoes. Grandmother has a new hiding place and I don't know where it is and neither does she."

Again, laughed so hard I snorted. Seems like when a comic statement is a surprise, it makes it even funnier.

My own Grandmother, who is 104 years old, had a toothache a couple of years ago. At 102 the dentist was not inclined to do anything restorative; his suggestion was to pull the tooth and leave it at that. Over the holidays while we were there, my Mother, having just sat with Grandmother while she ate her lunch, said, "If we'd known Mother was going to live this much longer we might've had that tooth fixed instead of yanked."

Funny stuff. She didn't intend for it to come out funny. Just happened.

Similarly, each year when Grandmother's birthday comes around, my sister and my cousins and I all put our heads together to decide what and where to have the party. For the 104th party planning, I said, "Well lets make it a big one. Might be her last."

My cousin Sheri said, "Oh Caren. We've been saying that for ten years."

Hee hee heeeeeeeeeeeeee. It's not funny. But it IS. IT IS. Every time I visit my Grandmother, when I hug and kiss her goodbye and tell her I love her, I head out the door and get in the car to leave and spend the next few minutes wondering if that was the last time I would ever get to do that. It's so gut wrenching a thought that comic relief is a necessity. I tell myself every single day I get to spend with her is a gift. I'm sure Sylvia tells herself the same thing about her Grandmother.

Some gifts are more valuable and meaningful than others; some come with baggage, some come with strings. The gift of having our seniors comes with humor. Thankfully.

Monday, December 12, 2011


My hunky hubby has the George Bush Sr. Cost of Living Syndrome. That is to say, he's clueless about the current prices of groceries among other things, and accordingly, how much is generally and regularly spent for groceries for the average family of four. Uhh, family of four where 75% are male. I feel that statement is crucial because its insanely consequential to the bottom line.

Now then. I feel compelled to state for the record that Hunky Hubby can quote the exact and/or relational cost of an abundance of items, mostly related to commercial property and it's upkeep, maintenance and repair. Also he's acutely aware of the price of frozen pizza, Xochitl chips, salsa, guacamole, and hummus. And Diet Coke. Pretty much his repertoire as it relates to consumable grocery items. Now, if you're talking hunting gear that's a different saga. And a post for another day.

So when I got home from Costco yesterday and happened to mention that I'd spent $365, he. freaked. out. Lost his mind for a bit.

"You saw all the stuff we brought in baby," I say. "How much did you THINK it cost? You can't get this quantity of cases, multi-packs, and huge containers of consumables like this for peanuts y'know."
"Well . . . . well . . . . well, weeeeee're we're just spending a lot on extras right here at Christmas, that's all," he said with a frustrated hand raised to his forehead.

"Extras? Interesting viewpoint. I never looked at food for our family as extras, but if you insist."

"Are you kidding me?" He's hoarse by now. "Three HUNDRED and seventy DOLLARS worth? That's not EXTRAS?????

"Sad to say, but no my darling man. It's normal. And not only that, but I didn't get everything I needed either. I'll have to make a grocery store trip later in the week."

At this point I thought his eyeballs might just pop out of their sockets and the top of his head shoot off with projectile smoke billowing and a big ol' train horn sound for accompaniment. He looked at me like I had three heads.

"What? More? We still need MORE?"

*sigh* Bless his heart. Good thing I'm so in love with him.

Pregnant pause. Having known the man for somewhere over thirty years, I'm fully aware that now at this nano-second he's working that information in his brain to spin it so that somehow HIS reaction is MY fault.

"Well, you acted like $370 was a lot when you told me how much you spent."

"It is."

"It is what?"

"A lot."

Pregnant pause. Having known the man for somewhere over thirty years, I'm just now learning how to burst his blame bubble.

"Well then, see?"

"See what?"

"See? If you hadn't acted like it was a lot I wouldn't have - uh - said, yeah that's it, said what I did."

*sigh* Bless his heart.

"It is a lot, but it's not more than usual. See the difference there, Big Guy? And for the record, the term extras refers to something that can be done without. In excess. Ancillary. Extraneous. Last time I checked, it was not only illegal but unethical and abysmally negligent not to provide healthy and nutritional food for your children."

Okayyyyyy. So that parting shot may've been ever so slightly patronizing. But just WAIT until he asks me where the Diet Cokes are. Now THERE's an extra.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Christmas in Dixie

It's snowin' in the pines....

Not really. It is supposed to snow tomorrow, but I've had that song stuck in my head since last week. That one and Sweet Home Alabama and yes I know it wins the prize for the most redneck song ever written. But tell me this. Do you know anyone who, when the very first four or five guitar notes of Sweet Home Alabama come on, does NOT say "Turn it up" along with Ronnie Van Zant?

I don't.

Nor do I know anyone who doesn't know Christmas in
Dixie. What's it doing in Memphis? Maybe Graceland's all in lights.

What about New York City?
By now there's snow on the ground.

It's windy and the kids are out of school.

What's goin' on in Motown?

It's magic and the city's on the move.

It's a warm, inviting, cozy song. Just like when you hear the first four notes of Sweet Home Alabama, you know for the next three and a half minutes Lynyrd Skynyrd is going to be right there with you, dependably twanging out the lines and guitar licks you know by heart and have for years. Who plays the air guitar when it comes on?

Mee, mee, meeeee!

Unabashedly. No shame. Riiiiiight out in the open, baby. If my kids are around when it comes on they scatter. Fast. So Mom doesn't embarrass them by playing her air guitar. They know I carry it everywhere with me.

And when Randy and Jeff Owens come on singing to me about Christmas in Dixie, there's no one that sings that last, sweet line louder than me.

And in Atlanta, Georgia, there's peace on earth tonight. For that one, my kids don't scatter. They sing it with me. At the top of their lungs.

It's special being Southern, no doubt. You see the quote "I'm American by choice and Southern by the grace of God", and you might think it's just a cute lil' catch phrase to put on a button or a bumper sticker, but no. Nnnnnnnnewp. We Southerners really feel it. I know other folks are proud of where they live or where they're from, but I don't ever hear the pride, the love, and the thankfulness come through like I do when I hear a Southerner talk about life in the South, or explain how to fry (or eat) fried chicken, how to make buttermilk biscuits, how to sit on the porch with a tall glass of iced tea, how to entertain while making guests feel like family, how to interpret Southern speak, or most importantly, how to speak gracefully and tactfully with a lovely, gentle drawl while shooting daggers from your eyeballs into someone's soul. It's the Southern feminine version of The Hairy Eyeball. The Stinkeye. Only we do it with a wink, a smile and a tilt of the head. A Southern woman must know this, as well as the backwards sympathetic comment "Bless your heart."

"Oh, she's gained at least twenty pounds. Bless her heart."

Anyway. Here I sit rambling on about being Southern when I need to be cooking dinner and helping J-rod with his homework. He's got a ton, bless his heart.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my family lost two greats. My children lost one of their remaining three Great Grandparents. That my children have thus far had three Great Grandparents in their lives has been a rare blessing. The Great Grandfather they lost lived 4400 miles away and had only met my children once. Still, it was a sad and reverent occasion. This Great Grandfather was the grandfather of my oldest son's birthmother. Follow that? Cole's birthmother's grandaddy. Each of my children claim their brother's birth family as their own, and I claim them all. The more family you can claim the merrier, I say. Cole's birth aunt also belongs to Jared, Jared's birth grandmother belongs to Cole, and so on. It warms my heart when Jared calls Cole's birth aunt by "Aunt Sylvia". That Aunt Sylvia's children are cousins to both my children and not just one? It's something so staggeringly positive and poignant, and most families who are made by giving birth to their children unfortunately never even get to experience it. It's one of the many advantages of getting your children by adoption.

The Great Grandfather we lost was Korean. He lived in Alaska. He possessed such a wide, deep, vast expanse of wisdom and knowledge and I'd always hoped he could someday share it with my children. Alas, too much worked against us for it to happen. There was a language barrier, distance, and failing health and it wasn't to be. His wife, the boys' Great Grandmother, has dementia and anything she might have shared with the boys is gone, for the most part. When history and wisdom doesn't get passed down a connection is broken and I don't think it can be regained. I'm sad about that.

The one remaining Great Grandparent is my own Grandmother. She's nearly 105 yet most days she's sharper than me - not that that takes much. I'm so grateful my boys have lived their lives thus far with her in it, and I hope we have more time yet with her. Every visit with her is a memory we all take with us. Makes us richer. Makes us understand the value of experience and seniority, the delicacy of life and the importance of savoring every moment with someone as if it's your last.

I'm so thankful my children have birthmothers who love them so much; who made the ultimate and most incredibly difficult, selfless decision to give their child a shot in life. Never do my children have to wonder if they weren't wanted, if they were given away. Their birthmothers and their birthmothers' families make certain they know otherwise, by their actions and their words.

We will miss our Korean Great Grandfather even though we didn't know him well. He held a spot in our family tree. He was an important character in the story of our lives, maybe Cole's in particular.

We also lost my Aunt Mary (that's pronounced Aint Mayree). To say that lost was profound is so incomplete as to nearly be offensive. She had an intense and far-reaching impact on the lives of her family. She was the sister of my Grandmother. The younger sister. Aunt Mary and Uncle Bob (the brother of my Grandfather - that's a story for a post all on its own) never had any children, so they made their nieces and nephews their children. We all spent childhood summers at Aunt Mary and Uncle Bob's. They lived on "the old home place", a sprawling, peaceful Georgia farm of hundreds of acres, mature forests, trails, blackberry bushes, lakes, ponds, garden plots, pastures, fruit trees and barns that they played in as children. They had built a home there but also preserved all the old buildings on the place. They had cows, horses, and occasionally pigs. They always had two border collies and one was always named Sam. As long as I remember going there, there was always a furry black, blonde and white border collie named Sam.

My cousin Jeff eulogized Aunt Mary. It was by far the best, most appropriate, most endearing tribute ever given at a funeral where I've been in attendance. I have a copy of it coming to me. I'll share parts of it with you when it arrives. Jeff reminisced about how Aunt Mary taught us all what clean really meant - as we all apparently had erroneous definitions prior to her lessons. He told of her kindness and how many other kindnesses she was responsible for that no one would ever know about. He talked about her spirit, her contagious laugh, her financial shrewdness as well as her financial generosity. He talked about how many things we all learned just by being there with them - how to tell when a horse was getting ready to roll, how to jump off a horse, and how, in so many more ways than one, to get right back on the horse. During the ten or fifteen minutes he spoke, he brought back such intense, accurate, and delicious memories of Aunt Mary, and as I looked around at all the people who loved Aunt Mary and were gathered around her coffin, it was obvious Jeff brought the essence of Aunt Mary back for them too.

I'm so thankful to have had her in my life. I'm thankful she played such a great role in my life and provided me with one of the many models I was fortunate enough to have of a fiercely strong, joyous woman.

We have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"We are

what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”
– Aristotle

Let that one sink in for a few minutes. The more times I read that the more I love it. The more I've decided I should live by it. The more I think it should be my mantra.

It's powerful. It's profound. It's simple. Excellence is a habit. Wow.

I believe that's a habit I'd like to have. It surely is easy to make something a habit. I know because Monday I started eating one funsize frozen Snickers when I got home and today, Thursday, a mere three days later, it's part of my daily ritual and I'm discombobulated if I don't get it. Yesterday I forgot and within five or ten minutes of walking into the house my mouth was watering and I was craving chocolate, caramel and peanuts. Exactly two frozen bites of it. What do you want to bet it takes me longer to break that habit than it did to establish it???? WHY is that? Grrrr. I digress. The point is, it drove home for me the fact that I can establish a habit within a short matter of days. Why shouldn't it be a fabulous habit? One I don't ever WANT to break???

Recently I started back to school. The group of 'kids' I attend with are late teens and early twenties, for the most part. They drag in at 9:00am, talk about how tired they are, how they couldn't get out of bed, their MOM had to call them SEVEN times before they got up.

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR. Their MOM???? SEVEN times???? Don't anyone tell my nine year old. He's gonna feel SO hornswoggled.

One of these girls, rubbing her eyes with one hand and propping her head up with the other, peeps through her half shut slits and says, in my general direction, "Miz Caren, how in the HELL do you have so much energy this early in the morning???"

Early? EARLY? Give me strength. Any Mom knows that 9:00am is about lunchtime. When your day begins at 5:45am with two loads of laundry, a shower, getting something into the crockpot for dinner, making three lunches, signing four papers your kids forgot last night, writing a check for the field trip (again, said child forgot last night), feeding two dogs, throwing two coats of mascara on inbetween all that, then getting the kids to school and getting myself to school, all by 8:15 -- and lovin' every second of it ----- 9:00am is NOT early.

So my reply? Well, what I WANT to say? "How in the heck are you so SLEEPY at 9:00am???" You are burnin' daylight, lil girl!!! Energy is a state of mind. You ain't gonna acquire it slopped over the table like that with your head in your hands."
What I say: "Energy is lots more fun. It's a decision."

That's when the student next to me said "Hey! Aristotle said that, right?"

"I don't know," I said. But he shoulda, if he didn't. So I looked it up when I got home. Here's what the gal next to me was thinking of:

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore, is not an act, it's a habit."

Wow. So, I think, is energy. So, I think, is a good attitude. So, I think, is a thoughtful and loving countenance.

I think I would've liked Aristotle.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


This year our Thanksgiving is taking a turn. I'm not getting out the china and silver and crystal. Not washing it all up so we can eat off of it for an hour or so and then wash it all up again. Not getting out the linen and washing it all up, setting the table with it and then pulling it all off the table and washing it all up again. Some years it seems like a good idea to wear myself out doing those traditional things. Some years I really enjoy it, even though I spend an inordinate amount of time on it and lose way too much rest and/or sleep for its importance. In any case, not happnin' this year.

This year I either have time to cook OR be with family. I choose family. Thankfully my sister-in-law came up with the idea to have the meal catered out. Her schedule is similar to mine for the next two to three weeks and I don't know about her, but I'm having trouble finding enough time to get the bare necessities done, much less the 'can-do-withouts'. I haven't taken my kids anywhere fun in weeks. I haven't spent an evening cuddled up with my husband reading or watching a movie together in much too long. I haven't been to see my Mama and Daddy in months. Haven't had a girls night in forever. At this point, it would be an insult to those I love and haven't spent enough time with to agree to spend hours and hours in the kitchen cooking for one meal.

And thankfully, split several ways, the cost of the meal catered is less than I would pay for groceries for the event, plus all the time I gain being somewhere other than the kitchen with my hand up a bird's bum. It's a win-win.

I never have quite understood the feeling that Thanksgiving is so so much about food. I'm not thankful for food. Well, that's not right. Of course I'm thankful for food. But it's not what I'm celebrating and being thankful for on the fourth Thursday in November. Nope. It's family. It's spending a day together with people I don't see enough, don't hug enough, don't get to visit with enough. It's fellowship, laughter, reminiscing, storytelling, and just breathing each others' air.

And I get to thoroughly enjoy it. I get to enjoy it because I don't have broilers and roasters and casserole dishes and cookie sheets and baking pans and bar pans and cake plates and mixing bowls to wash. I'm going to do what the men do after a meal - sit down in front of the TV or on the patio. And then, I get to enjoy it some more instead of washing dishes. Paper plates go straight into the garbage. Yay. And then I get to enjoy it some more even, because I don't have to wash and fold linens.

Then when that celebration is over, I can make a pot of coffee and go upstairs and pack my bags so the next morning we can travel to my Mama's house for another Thanksgiving celebration. Don't have to spend half the night cooking. I only have to take myself and my three guys. No food. She's been catering Thanksgiving out for years.

I am one lucky girl. I should be thankful! (wink wink)

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Last weekend I participated in the Susan G. Komen 3 Day 60 Mile Walk for breast cancer. My sister (that my hunky husband's brother gave me) and I had been planning this for months. We'd been training. We'd been plotting. We'd been fundraising. We'd been talkin' it up. We'd been thinking about it and smiling but largely ignoring it owing to the fact that we both have lives that are all-encompassing, comprehensively, extensively, uhh, full beyond measure.

I had an advantage. My children both played soccer at a complex that was composed of five soccer fields and a 1/2 mile track which encircled three of the five.

Susan had an advantage. She did NOT have two children that played soccer or - well, she didn't have two children.

The two of us are of like minds in many respects. We understand if our nights aren't good our days aren't good, we understand our capabilities and our shortcomings, and as a result we elected to spend one of the three nights in Camp (for the experience. Y'know.) and the other two in hotel rooms where we could actually sleep well and arrive at the start line the next morning refreshed and ready. This decision actuated a chain of events that made us "exceptions". Well we knew we were exceptions already. We had to figure out how to get luggage to and from Camp, how to get from Closing Ceremonies back to our vehicle, and a few other such logistics. We managed.

Imminently important was how to get to the Medical Tent each morning in time to have our various hurty parts taped and then get in 'line' for the start so that we had the advantage of at least beginning the day's walk in the first third. We managed. Also important, how to arrive at Camp in the a.m. in time to throw in with the breakfast crew. Bacon, sausage, eggs, biscuits, jelly, butter, hash browns, cheese danish, fruit, juice, and coffee. Anyone with a brain understands the importance of making it in time to partake. We were, after all, walking 20 miles that day. We managed.

The upshot was that we DID it. We finished. We walked 60 miles for the cure. T-H-E. C-U-R-E. We had raised our money, trained, and we walked it. We started, we finished. It wasn't easy. At times it wasn't even fun. But. At other times it was. Fun. Fulfilling. Exhilarating. Emotional. Passionate. Climactic. Adrenaline charged. Emotion packed. Exhausting. Painful.

At the Opening Ceremonies we got to place a pink circle on the Memorial Wall. That one that says "For Diane" is mine.

And as much of a cliche as it is, here's what went through my peabrain. If Diane can receive the news that she has cancer, engage in the chemo/radiation fight and maintain a positive attitude, live (and I do really mean live) through years of remission, and then receive the bad news again and start all over with chemo/radiation, then guess what. I CAN walk 60 miles in three days. I can do that. No matter that my shins splinted and my I.T. band was pulled, no matter Susan had a hamstring pull and painful blisters. Somehow we understood that our issues were minor - even though they felt major. No. Not major. Epic. Deadly. Dramatic. B-I-G time.

Cauz know what? Diane managed. She managed. She managed with beautiful graciousness and gentility. She managed through her faith and her relationship with God.

Diane managed. She manages today. She has an invasive functioning illness/ailment and she could beat any of us out when it comes to attitude, cheerfulness, or faith. She has the best friend in the world. That would be my mother.

I'd walk another 60 mile walk for her. I wouldn't like it. But I'd do it. Throughout the 3 days, there was one thing Susan and I kept repeating to each other. "It's about the journey. It's about the journey. It's about the journey."

It meant so many things. When we wanted to pass everyone because they were pokey or annoying. When we wanted to sock someone in the face because they were selfish or thoughtless. When we wanted to hail the Sweep Van and just go back to camp and chill, have our muscles rubbed and wrapped. But the journey WAS what it was about. For every day I'm separated from the event for yet another day, I understand the journey a little better. I can pray that my shins will heal quicker. I can respond to questions with "Oh yes, I'd do it again." I can proudly announce, "We raised SIX AND A HALF MILLION DOLLARS." But in the end, even though I'm profoundly and permanently affected by the experience, I still don't have a clue. Not a clue what it's like to live with cancer. And I'm thankful, for that and for the conviction to do The Walk and to understand the blessings of my life and my family. For a sister to walk with. For a family to return to. For a Godly mother with a Godly best friend. And for a loving God that wraps me in His arms even when my biggest problem is my shins.

Monday, October 17, 2011


This past Saturday was my first full day in the salon. No classroom, no theory, no demos. In the hoose. all. day. Saturday. The busiest day in the industry.

Heaven. I'd forgotten how much I adore the salon environment. It smells nice. There are hundreds of products. Beauty products. Implements. Tools for making you priddy. Words like "up-do", "wavy curls" and "facial". Feel good words.

Oh, of COURSE there are less than perfect things about it too. It's not all mai tais and yahtzee. Nothing's perfect. I choose to ignore them and enjoy. I did have to listen to customers' medical problems, home problems, marriage problems, and so on. I guess having your hair worked on is relaxing and personal enough to make some folks lose their inhibitions regarding personal issues. Maybe it's not altogether unlike having a drink or two and unloading on the bartender. If you think, however, that listening to that kind of talk is a downer, you are oh so mistaken. I listened to a customer tell me about her digestive issues and I was able to say things like "Tsk, I'm so sorry you're having trouble." I listened to another one tell me about her teenagers' antics and I was able to say "I know" in a low, sympathetic tone. Over and o-v-e-r again. "I know." Listened to yet another one lament about family issues, spouse issues and in-laws and how helpless she was in her own home, and I was able to shake my head empathetically and say things like "ohh dear. Ohhhh, dear," and "I am just so SO sorry," and "That's TERRible!"

Think listening to that stuff is negative? Ohhhhh ho ho ho nnnnnew. Nnew nnnnnew nneww. I wasn't responsible for fixing ANY of those issues. In fact I'm not allowed to dispense advice or diagnose medical problems. I wasn't responsible for calling Tummy Problems' doctor and scheduling a doctor appointment and driving her to it and talking to the doctor and paying the bill, then getting her to agree to stop by the pharmacy on the way home to buy her prescription. Nnnnnewp.

I wasn't responsible for Mom of Teenagers kids - for coming up with a suitable discipline for their antics, worrying whether they have a conscience or will develop one or remain sociopathic teenagers. Nnnnnewp.

I wasn't responsible for Family Relationships Chick, for her husband who largely ignored and took advantage and took for granted, her in-laws where he obviously learned that behavior, her mother who, through judgmental comments and complaints or backhanded compliments gave her a huge inferiority complex even into her adulthood, or her whiny, powerless attitude which allowed her situation to continue.

I had an entirely different role. The sympathizer. Surprising how saying "I know" while patting someone on the shoulder endears you to them. Remarkable how sucking your teeth, shaking your head and muttering "Ohhhhh my." engages and pleases a person. It's hard for me to take on that role but I liked it. At home I want to fix things when they go wrong. I want to help with solutions. In this environment I am not allowed to do that. It's forcing my hand, making me become a sympathizer, and I LIKE it.

I shook my head with them and Mmmm'd and Ohhhh'd with them and agreed with them. Then at 4:37pm when I walked out that door I smiled and looked forward to heading home. To my children who are healthy. To a hunky husband who took care of his children in my absence and welcomed me home with big open arms and a smile. To a home where I give myself the power to be strong and in charge.

I enjoy my life - being in charge and responsible for a family. Fixing things. Swooping in and helping clean up messes, real or perceived. It's what I wanted, what I chose and I'm grateful and oh so blessed.

There is, however, an undeniable lift to the spirit when you spend the day in a spa atmosphere. Regardless of whether you are the receiver or the giver of the service you're surrounded by good smells, lightweight tenuous issues such as whether to polish with orange-red or pinky-red or whether to do highlights just around the face or all over. Straight or curly, up-do or down.

Yes it's a fanciful, frivolous environment. To my mind it's the perfect balance to real life.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Well the windshield wipers, slappin' out a tempo,

keeping perfect rhythm to the song on the radio-o-woh. Gotta keep rohhhhhhhhh-lin'.

Yep. Driving my life away. Not that it isn't the mantra of every parent in the world, but you tuned in to my blog, not theirs.

And to make the theme song of the day even more appropriate, it is raining. It's supposed to rain all week. About midway through the soccer season I pray for weather news like this. The prayer goes something like, "Father it's me Caren. I could ask for rain because we need it but You already know my heart so I may'z well come clean with You. I just don't want to spend every single evening and all weekend at the soccer field this week. There it is. Amen"

I don't think of it as a complaint or a whine, more like a request for a short soccer sabbatical. And to strengthen my argument, the trips to soccer will be replaced by trips to the mall for new jeans for my kids who each grew a foot and a half just last week, trips to get haircuts for my kids whose hair grew two inches just last week, and trips to the library to let my kids return the books they've had checked out for two months but didn't read. It's sounding less like a sabbatical, right?

It takes both of us - hunky hubby and myself - to keep it between the ditches. I say on at least a weekly basis I don't understand how single parents do it. I do think it's most helpful when you have grandparents and other family close-by that graciously offer to take your kids for you every once and awhile so you can, oh I don't know, have a few minutes to breathe. Go to the doctor maybe. Work. Have a no-kids evening. We did that all the time before we had kids. Seemed like there wasn't a weekend we didn't have nieces and nephews for at least one of the weekend days and usually overnight. We're not so lucky though to have the same advantage. I guess it's what we get for waiting so long to have kids. Hopefully we'll have plenty of time to spend with each other when the kids are gone, but I surely do miss it now.

At any rate, I applaud single parents. They make me feel guilty and lame for wanting it to rain all week just so I can skip soccer. You understand it doesn't make me stop wishing it. I just feel guilty and lame. But I'm ok with that.

Friday, October 07, 2011

"WHAT??? Mommy has a life too? I gotta call Dad and find out if this is true!"

Know what ASP stands for? Depends who you ask. Cobb County School System uses it to stand for the "After School Program". The kids in it call it "After School Prison". More on that later.

I have my first full week of school behind me. I am more convinced than ever I'm in the right place. There are just too many signs to ignore. I've heard, "You only go through once, so do what you love and love what you do." Heard it all my life, well except for when I was trying to decide on a major in college, which ironically is when you really should have that counsel, isn't it.

Attempting to let go of lifelong perceptions, or reform them - now there's a task. One particular person in my household who shall remain anonymous but his initials are hunky hubby can not understand why in heaven's good name I would choose the cosmetology field when I have a bachelor's degree, post graduate classes and 20 years of business experience under my belt. "But it's like you're starting OVER and WHY would you want to DOOOOO that when you could have something so much more gratifying if you updated your resume and went back into your field? Used your degree? Leaned on all your experience?" This accompanied by much head scratching.

Well here's the thing. Gratifying to WHOM??? My sweet hubby is such a man. I have to declare to you that I'm extremely pleased about this particular detail. It works out well for our relationship. As men go however, it seems they're convinced that their job, their career, their earning potential defines them, plays a large if not primary role in determining their value - their worth - their import - their place - to others as well as to themselves.

Why yes. It IS a rank generalization, thank you for noticing. In my frame of reference however, it is a true one. Of the men I know, I can say with no misgivings they embrace the concept. Own it.

My hunky hubby for example, didn't attempt to hide his confusion. There was no judgment attached, just sheer stupefaction. He was bewildered. Befuddled. Asking for explanation. But (and listen closely my peeps, cauz this is why I adore this man so ding dang much) as he rubbed his head in confusion and before I ever began to attempt to try to get ready to undertake to endeavor to answer his inquiry, he announced "Well I support it. I support you. I don't claim to fully understand it yet. But it doesn't matter. I'm on board."


What, I ask you, could a husband ever do that's more right than that?

Well I'll tell you what. In order to ensure my 9 year old 4th grader isn't a latchkey kid on occasion, I did the paperwork this morning for ASP. Completed the forms, paid the registration fee, and plunked a chunk of $$ in a top-up prepaid account. That way on early release days, inclement weather days and the like when I have school but Jared does not, we will have a plan. An easy arrangement giving him a place to be that is supervised, structured, and promises to strike a good balance between work and play. There are college students to help them with their homework and play games with them. There are teachers and school staff administering and managing the program. The truth is we might possibly take advantage of this option ten to twenty hours the entire schoolyear, but no matter. It's there. It's a net.

Jared has a much different perspective. Jared, since the second we met, has been attached to my hip. I said "Hello baby, guess what. You belong to me," and he responded by clamping himself onto my body and not letting go. Yet. Since. Ever. For the first five weeks I went everywhere with the little dark chubby cherub clamped onto me, full frontal. I learned how to go to the restroom, sleep, grocery shop, and cook with him locked on. At the present time he has evolved to the nine year old version of that. Socially adept, academically first-rate, emotionally on target, but attached to Mom nonetheless. I can come home from a 45 minute trip to Publix and he greets me at the door. "MOMMMMM, I missed you SO MUCH!!!" Again. Full frontal contact, and not just for a few comfortable seconds. Latched on. My hunky hubby, that angel's Daddy, is rolling his eyes and smacking his forehead.

So in Jared's eyes it was clearly, neatly an act of treason when I enrolled him in ASP. A betrayal. He appeared jilted. Forsaken. I was the double-crosser; Judas. "Whyyyyy, Mom, why can't you let me stay by myself??? And speaking of whyyy, why do you have to do this school thing???"

I explained it using the summarily self-involved version that goes like this: "Because I want to."

Jared looked confused. "Wull, why would you wanna do THET???"

Again, the short answer. "I just do." Then, for some obscure, unintelligible reason, I went on. "Jared you are growing up so fast. You are such a fabulous kid, and you'll be an even more fabulous man. When you are a man, you and I won't live together anymore. You will be on your own and you'll fall in love with someone and create a life of your own. You know what? That happened to me. The guy I fell in love with? That's your Dad. And he and I will still be together when you're off building your own life.

"But you don't want to be my Mom NOW?"

OH. Oh you're good, Mr. Jared. But no, nooo, no no no NO. You're not THAT good. Not gonna work.

So we had a little discussion about what it means, and doesn't mean, to be a Mom.

Now Ronny comes home from work. I relate the story to him, woebegone and dejected, for although I held my own with my boy, I melted into a puddle of guilt and uncertainty with him. So here's where he bested himself. "Aww honey. This was OUR decision. Not your decision. You may've carried out the duty but we decided on it together. I'm on it. Where is he?"

Thank you Jesus, for a husband who owns his job, understands his responsibilities. Who owns his opinions and his confusion and the ideals he carries with his Man Card.

And now, thank you for a husband who is amenable to being guinea pig for a facial and facial massage. Mama has to practice.

Who says men don't know where their bread's buttered?

Thursday, September 29, 2011


the butterfly calls the beginning. Martin Luther King said to take a first step even if you couldn't see the whole staircase. Somebody said you don't have to be great to start but you have to start to be great. I don't know who said it first but I've heard it all my life. "Don't wait until conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes conditions perfect." Same with that one - no clue who said it first but I know who said it to me every day for a year. Good thing too - it led to becoming parents. "You can't make a new start but you have the power to make a different ending." I thought I knew who said that one but no. It was some Roman warrior I think. Here's my favorite quote on the subject:

"The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it. "

I confess I have no big fat clue who Thucydides is but I saw that quote a long time ago at a bungee jumping place and started thinking about the things in my life most worthwhile and most extraordinary and recognized they had come about in that fashion. They didn't fall into my lap or happen to me randomly, but steps were taken towards accomplishing a goal regardless of the peril possible in the undertaking. I think that's a lot of words for what amounts to "faith". In my case certainly it isn't clear vision or bravery; maybe instead blind faith and a bad case of the Birdbrained Dopeys about the possibility of monumental failure. At any rate, the upshot is that at the age of 51, I'm going back to school.

YAY!! (Yikes)

Not only am I going back to school but going back and grabbing hold of a long lost high school dream. I lost it while I was in college, forgot about it as I pursued my degree and then career, pushed it aside and gave up on it as I made a home and a family. It began to resurface in my peabrain as I was raising my babies. When you stay at home to raise your own children you dream of working and when you work you dream of staying home with your babies I guess. I was right where I wanted to be, staying at home with my boys, but still daydreaming all the while. Daydreaming is a good thing.

Now that my little men-in-training are older and pulling away from the dependence of young childhood, my life is once again becoming more and more my own. It happens in such small increments you don't really notice it until one day a light bulb comes on and it occurs that you aren't any longer in demand every moment of every day. For some it's a sad moment, a poignant realization. Not me baby. Ready for the next phase. Bring it on.

I have enjoyed every phase of my kids' lives (some more than others) and continuing in that respect I am currently enjoying how our relationships are changing, how the dynamic is so fluid. I'm enjoying having thoughtful discussions with my fourteen year old that are not dissimilar to conversations with adults, and as he speaks, recalling how our conversations went and what he looked like when he was four. I'm enjoying listening to my nine year old explain the concise details and engineering concepts of his latest Lego build, and as he speaks, remembering when I found out he was appropriating Lego men from his preschool classroom and telling me he found them on the playground. Great story for another post.

Even more, I am enjoying that when they are hungry they're able to fix themselves something. I'm enjoying that they can do their own homework, get themselves up in the mornings, bring their laundry down when the hamper's full and take it all back upstairs again and put it up when it's clean; wash it themselves if they're in a bind. I'm enjoying that I can send my fourteen year old in to the store to quickly return a video or buy a bunch of bananas while I sit in the car outside waiting for him. I am not thrilled about not having anyone to read to at bedtime, but my hunky hubby has graciously volunteered to be the victim I mean recipient of my attentions in that area. I can't wait to see what he chooses for me to read to him. I'm kinda skeert.

So all in all, going back to school seems like a natural progression. I want to do something new. Something lighthearted. Something fun. Something I can walk away from at the end of a work day and not consider again until I walk in to begin another one. Something I look forward to each morning. I don't want another bachelors' degree and I don't want a post-grad degree in my B.S. major. Now is not the time for me to again delve into criminal justice, to rejoin the corporate world or the education field. I. want. uncomplicated. undemanding. uninvolved. I want to be able to express creativity and cleverness, design and individuality.

Caren's goin' to beauty school. If all goes according to planned, this time next year I'll be finished with school and on the way to doing what I wanted to do when I was in high school. Hair.

So here's the thing. Goals can be lofty, or they can be sweet. They can be complicated or they can be simple. They can accomplish many purposes or one big one. In my case, I'm following my heart. That makes it sweet and simple. Uncomplicated and unpretentious. What will be accomplished is yet to be seen but I'm looking forward to the ride.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, September 09, 2011


The sweet little guys sitting on top of these pencils represent exactly why I should NOT be working at my kids' school stores. I'm DRAWN to office supplies like a beetle to a bug zapper, and thus I'm always the first to volunteer to work (wink wink - using the word work loosely) at the elementary and middle school stores. As supplies go these adorable little pals are close to the top of the list. They sit on top of your pencil and shake their legs as you write. It's like they're swinging their legs shouting, "Yeah! Yeah! Write some morrrrre, I LOVE to read it!"

This is an addiction I've managed to foist off onto my kids. We are the total nerd package when we shop for school supplies at the beginning of the school year. One year a few weeks before school started I received an email from an industrious, overachieving Room Rep Liaison who said that this particular year they were offering a new service. They were group buying supplies by grade and thus lowering the cost. Should we elect to participate, we could pay $14.00 and on the first day of school we would receive our bag of supplies which would've otherwise cost us $35.00 or more. Eldest and I panicked. What kind of decision was THIS we were forced to make now? Save $21 and not get to shop for and buy OUR OWN SUPPLIES??? Impossible to make a right decision. There wasn't one. It was so wrong; so wrong. Eldest and I paced. Got jittery. Fussed. And in the end, we made the only decision that two humans who so dearly adore to shop for office and school supplies could possibly make. We turned down the offer to save $21.

Hi. I'm Caren and I'm an office supply addict.

My oldest child and I have been known to stop in at Staples for just nothing other than to look at pens - see what the latest, newest, coolest thing is. My youngest and I once drove all the way across town to get to an Office Max so we could use the "20% Off Everything That Will Fit In This Bag" promotion. On the way there we passed a Staples and an Office Depot.

I won't eeeven tell you about my enchantment with planners.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


I was doing some closet tweaking the other day, removing items I no longer wear or no longer should wear - shopworn, torn, or otherwise unwearable and unfixable. My youngest was sitting on the makeup stool outside my closet spinning to infinity (antique piano stool) as I held up a particular top to assess.

Youngest: So are you gonna put that one in the charity pile?

Me: No WAY. This top is my most valuable top.

Youngest: Mom. It's a plain ol' tee shirt for girls. It's not SPECIAL or anything.

Me: Well, it's not valuable from a money perspective, and it's not special from a design perspective - it doesn't have embroidery or ruffles or an impressive brand name. That's for sure.

Youngest: See? Why don't you put it in the charity stack?

Me: Because I can wear this top with 3/4 of my wardrobe. It's the perfect top. I can wear it plain with shorts, with pants, or with a skirt. I can wear it under a cardigan, blazer, or poncho. I can belt it or not. I can put dressy jewelry or casual jewelry with it. The color is perfect. The style is perfect.

Youngest: You do wear it a lot.

Now, you might think from this description this should be some fabulous top, eh? Are you telling yourself you really need to see this top if it's all that?

Youngest is right. It's plain. Nondescript even. And I have one in every single color made.

THE most Valuable shirt in my closet
Doesn't look like much, right? Plain old sweetheart tee, right? Well. Everything about it is perfect. It has a v neck with a narrow satin trim. It's pinched at the bust and fitted at the waist. The sleeves are 3/4. It's soft knit. It's just the right length. It's washable. It goes in the dryer like a champ and comes out looking just like it did in the store the day I bought it. If I could only have two articles of clothing to my name, this would be one of them (in the pepper red).

I asked Youngest if he had any belongings like that- some material thing that didn't look like much by itself but really was a wonderful thing to have for many reasons.

"Well," he said, "I guess Legos don't look like anything but a plastic block, but I wouldn't much want to be without them."

Then he went on. "Plus. One of them by itself is kind of useless, but if you put it with a bunch of other ones it's very valuable. In fact, you could have a whole bunch of Legos and not be able to make anything out of them unLESS you had this one particular one. THAT happens sometimes."

So I started thinking about the things in my life that fit that description, and how you truly couldn't judge the worth of something just by glancing at it; just by making judgments from your first glance. It's really those things that are my most prize possessions. A garlic press doesn't look like much but I wouldn't want to be in a position to have to prepare a meal without one. Compression garments don't look like much but I wouldn't want to wear a sheath dress without one. My minivan looks like forty seven others just like it in the school parking lot, a hundred others just like it on any highway, and not at all the vehicle that would be my individual pick, but it is the PERFECT vehicle for the job at this point in my life.

The list goes on and on. This ink pen is fabulous. (But it's just a pen, y'moron. Yeah, I know you're thinkin' it.) But it is. Fabulous, not just a pen. Well it's that too but the point is this is four pens. In one. Fabulous. I tell you, the very folks that roll their eyes at my relationship with this pen are the SAME ones that ask to borrow it in meetings. "I need a red pen - anybody got - OOH. Caren has one."
My Dad has been using this pen ever since I can remember - and that's a lonnnng time ago. Decades. He understands the fabulousness of a nonfabulous looking item too.

So I'm easy to pleasy. Cheap date. Youngest is the same way. On any given Sursey Day I have many choices that will make Youngest happy for $4.00. Eldest and Hunky Hubby however, different story. For another post. "Hard to buy for" doesn't even begin to tell the story.

So I'm off to JoAnn. There's a $1.00 fabric bin to scavenge through.

Thursday, September 01, 2011


Earlier this week we received word that a family member of an in-law had died as the result of injuries sustained while serving as a volunteer EMT during Irene rescue efforts. We didn't know the victim himself but quickly heard of his fine character and his dedication to his family and community. Countless memorials have already been written and shared via internet and social media. It seems obvious that this man was adored by family and friends, that he was a hero, "not for how he lost his life but how he lived it" as one write-up described.

He and his EMT partner were called to rescue people who were thought to be trapped in a vehicle in the water on a flooded roadway. He was trained in swift water rescue, had followed safety procedures such as tethering to his partner and wearing a helmet and a flotation vest. And yet he lost his life.

My thoughts this week have been about Mike's wife and small daughter. I have grieved over his death, a 39 year old man I never met, but also and especially for the ones who adored him, for whom the puzzle of their life has lost a critical piece, who are now faced with conducting their lives absent of their husband, their dad, their sibling, cousin, nephew, friend, or co-worker. They're tasked with recognizing the gaping hole that is now where he once was and then learning how to cope with that. How to cope without Mike. How to eventually once again be a joyful, blessed person and lead an delightful life not by ignoring that hole but by learning how to live with it.

I'm fairly sure (not to mention extremely embarrassed) that I would have a hard time being mature in this position. Were I the wife of a man who lost his life while rescuing someone, I'm afraid I would be resentful that he was no longer here to take care of his children. Of me. That I could no longer take care of him. That the hole in our lives would be so great, so deep, such an enormous cavern, that I never could surmount the sadness of living a life without him, this man who risked and ultimately gave his life to rescue someone else. I fear I would be resentful - feel that my boys and I needed rescuing and now he wasn't there to do it.

In several of the internet memorials and newspaper articles I read the statement that "Michael died doing what he loved." While I understand statements like that are helpful coping mechanisms, I'm not inclined to believe that would give me any peace.

That there was ultimately no one even in the car to rescue? Don't even want to think where I'd go with that. It's the final affront. Overload.

I pray God gives Michael's wife more tenacity and resolve. I'm praying hard she has peace and tranquility over a tragedy that seems senseless. Hoping she won't see senselessness in it but feel God's good grace instead.

Friday, August 26, 2011

YEE HA! Git along, lil' dogies

Tonight's entertainment for the fam. Every year we go to the rodeo, and every year I have to work hard and talk to myself to resist the temptation to wear all my western garb. Ohhhh, I have it all; western boots, hat, vest, denim, and a bandana. First of all, it's just too ding dang hot to wear that many articles of clothing. More importantly, if I wear all that stuff at one time I look like a wannabe or like I'm wearing a costume. I can get away with the boots and a bandana maybe - y'know. Sort of a nod to where I am instead of all full on, all out "HEY! LOOK AT ME I HAVE WESTERN STUFF TO WEAR!!!"

I love the horses. The horses are da bomb.

We started going to the rodeo back when my now 21 year old nephew was 3. HE donned the whole costume, but at 4 he looked cute. Owned it too, man. My Daddy showed him how to tie a bandana around his neck like a cowboy and as soon as that knot tightened, his accent turned to a country drawl. He played the part. Tipped his hat when my Mom walked by and said "Howdy, ma'am."

When my boys came along they weren't so gung ho with the wardrobe concept. They liked the rodeo and went along willingly, enjoyed it while they were there, but have never been bowled over by the whole idea. Too bad, I said. I adore it and you just have to go with me, I said. It'll give you experience that will help round you out, I said. No, you may not take your Game Boy, I said.

So fast forward to this year, and low and behold, they're looking forward to it! Yippie. Of course they're taking friends so they don't have to sit there by themselves with their gooberly embarrassing parents. But still looking forward to it.

Whaddya bet I'm not so lucky in February when the Atlanta Ballet's production of Snow White comes along.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Yesterday's post was about my number one son. Today represents equal time to my Jr. Mint, my son who disallows the description "number two son". His reasoning? "I'm NOT poop."
This picture is my favorite and most accurate visual description of my second born. Not to put too fine a point on it, he's a hoot. And a half.

This child's essence, his aura, is just - I dunno, magnetic. He's full of piss and vinegar, is certainly at least half monkey, he's a prankster, a practical joker, a hugger, a passionate lil fella with huge highs and lows and he never. Ever. E-V-E-R. Is silent. Ever. ever

If he is not speaking, he's singing. If he's not singing, he's whistling. If he's not whistling, he's humming. If he's not humming, he's clicking, clapping, clopping, banging, boinging, chattering, prattling, rattling, clucking, cackling, growling, howling, screeching, *sigh* or gibbering.
....and ALWAYS moving.

Hands are always busy. Picks up everything he sees. We've tried to soften the negative implications of that issue using fidget toys. His observation on that subject? "Mom. I have TWO hands. You gave me ONE fiddle toy. I still have another hand to pick stuff up with." Accompanying that statement, an exaggerated eyeroll for dramatic effect.

Hate it when they're right.

The sweet creature does not have one single private thought. If he's thinkin' it, you know it. If it comes up, it comes out. Absurdly, as peevishly abrading as one would theorize that to be, it has a strangely charismatic effect. My Jr. Mint is very knowable. He has many interests and hobbies and as social and verbal as he is, if you know him - even if you've just met him- you know what they all are. Right away. It imparts a sense of intimacy, a warm fuzzy feeling like you get when you've known someone all your life.

A rare shot with his mouth closed.

I have the same parental feelings of insecurity about this one as Eldest. They're not quite as far along though, given he's four years younger. In the spot in my heart where I have sad feelings of Eldest leaving in five years at which time I still won't be finished talking with him, won't have soaked up enough of him, won't have heard his voice enough, felt his presence enough, I have feelings with Jr. Mint that we won't have spent enough time together in silence. That we won't have experienced enough together - enough of the things that go without saying. With both of us being jabbermouths, consummate gasbags, I worry not that anything will go unsaid, but something will go undone. Some experience he needs.

Again, hopefully he'll grow up successfully to be a good man despite me instead of because of me. However it happens I'm ok with it, as long as it happens.

My Mom has always said she didn't love any one of her three children more or less, but she does love them the same but differently. I only had an understanding of that complicated concept when I became a parent myself. I love my children with the same breadth, the same girth, the same largess, each impossibly miraculous boy the same. But different. They are "fearfully and wonderfully made," "the apple of His eye", and "His treasured possessions." He gave them to me to train up and enjoy so they could be the apple of my eyes too. My treasured possessions.

For a little while.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Yesterday my eldest son had a school assignment to fill a box with things that represented him. Once in class, the students were to present the box to the class and give explanations for the items they chose.

Eldest's "Box of Me"

The items he chose:

A glove he found while on a meaningful trip
A rusty piece of metal he found at his Grandparents' farm
A beautiful purple rock given to him by his Aunt
A wooden ink pen he made himself at a Scout woodworking workshop
The hand exerciser he uses to strengthen his grip for rappelling/climbing
A piece of duct tape
Skateboard trucks
His Nixon watch

I can look at the contents of the box he assembled and agree that it contains the essence of what makes up my incredible Number One Son. Not many of the items would be of monetary value to anyone else, and of the ones that would, I can report that he bought them himself or made them himself.

I started thinking about how many times the content of this box of his would change over his lifetime. If he'd done the same exercise three years ago he would've had totally different items in the box. Legos maybe, candy, a book, a rock and an arrowhead. Two years from now my bet is the contents will again change altogether. Kind of a wonderful mystery-to-come of who he will be then.

Those thoughts are the same ones that, a few months ago, led to the feeling I have that my childrens' youth is slipping through my fingers, tiptoeing away quickly and quietly so that I don't notice until a large chunk is already gone. I have four more years with my oldest before he's old enough to decide to live somewhere else, do something else. Two years before he's old enough to drive himself somewhere. Time is already up on some precious things, like me being his favorite girl. Sadly that boat sailed when he was 10. I repeat mantras like "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it," I pray for my children every day, every time I pray, and yet I panic that there's something, something important, I'm forgetting to teach them. That I'm spending too much time and effort on things that may turn out to be less important than things I'm not devoting enough time to. That I put too much emphasis on those lesser important things and not enough on the crucial things that will give him the scaffolding to be a man.

Then he puts together a box like this one above, and I listen to comments my friends make about the choices he made of items to illustrate who he is, and relax just a little and recognize that he has the elements of a good man in his heart already. That maybe he'll grow up and be fine in spite of me instead of because of me. That fortunately, he has a Heavenly Father that loves him eeeeeven more than his Dad and I do - and how that is possible is so far beyond the scope of my understanding that I have to stand on faith that it's true, because I can't love anyone any more than I love that child.

I'm holding on to the few things that he hasn't yet stopped doing. He still hugs me and says I love you when he leaves to go somewhere, (provided of course no one is around). He still asks my advice when he's faced with a tough situation he can't work out on his own. He still texts me and sends me pictures when he's off with someone else. I'm told those things will go away too, at some point. I'm just enjoying them for now and trusting that even if he stops for awhile, that at some point he'll come back to it.

As I was looking at the box he put together for his assignment, I speculated about what I would put in a box to represent who I am.

I don't think my eldest would fit in the box.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Every Christmas my mother-in-law makes a dish with black eyed peas, chopped bell pepper, onions, tomatoes, and Italian dressing. She gooshes it all up together and puts it in a bowl next to the Scoops or Monster Fritos and announces that the LA Caviar is served. That's for Lower Alabama.

I had that on my mind this morning. Yesterday a friend was relating a story to me about a recent experience where someone in her conversation group had used the term "cracker" to describe an extremely Southern person with an extremely Southern accent and an extremely Southern persona and just all around extremely Southern emanations. My friend was hot. Annoyed at the use of the term.

Now, it's my personal opinion that you will only be offended by something if that something is a sore spot for you. Or if you care. Make sense? Clearly there are exceptions; grievously offensive or hurtful words, for example, but we're not talking about that depth of offense anyway.

So back to Crackers. Here's the thing. has five definitions for the word. Numbers one through three being what you would expect and referring to crisp flatbreads (which you could eat LA caviar off of. Let us take a moment to revel in the irony.) and stuff you light and explode on July 4th, here are numbers four and five:

4. Sometimes Disparaging and Offensive. a native or inhabitant of Georgia (used as a nickname).

5. Disparaging and Offensive . a poor white person living in some rural parts of the southeastern U.S.

SOMEtimes disparaging and offensive, a native or inhabitant of Georgia. What times? The times that you choose to interpret it that way, that's what times. I am most definitely, gratefully, and proudly an inhabitant and native of Georgia. I fudge on the native part a little. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll add that I was born in Alabama (middle, not lower) but my family was from Georgia and returned to Georgia when I was very young. Regardless. The point is that by definition I am a Cracker. And I am profoundly, entirely in love with and dedicated to that definition, being an inhabitant and native of Georgia, so I take on the term Cracker with gusto. Bring it on.

I could pick the number five definition instead and be hacked off, but why would I do that? AND. On some days I feel like I belong in that category too. Precisely what is offensive about being poor and white?

I love the name of my dear friend's blog: "Georgia Black Crackers". Mavis is an African American woman in hot pursuit of the genealogy of her family. Think the word Cracker bothers her? Here's a link. See for yourself:

How I interpret (anything) is my decision. How I react is my decision. How I feel is my decision. The minute my friend went to the dark side upon hearing that term, she gave away her power. She alone defines herself, not the doofus who referred to that delightful Southern character as a Cracker. The A number 1 irony is that doofus thought he was being offensive, meant to be offensive, derisive, by using the term. So he misused the term Cracker. My question is, does that make him one?