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?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I am cultivating a small herb garden in a little plot to the side of the house. Couple reasons for that. Besides just that I have the need to grow fresh herbs, directly in front of this little plot is the boys' basketball goal. Most afternoons and weekends there is a clutch of men-in-training stomping around mercilessly about the basketball goal, the entire passel oblivious to the concept of purposeful landscaping. The goal then, (ha, get it?) of my plant choices was to choose the toughest, most hardy plants available. Herbs. For the most part, bugs don't bother them, there are plenty of perennials to choose from, and they're useful to use and share. What I didn't realize was there would be yet another benefit. For me, that is. For the boys, not so much.

When they come in from shooting basketball, they smell like lemon balm - an intoxicatingly delightful scent, not to mention that it's an astonishing improvement for their shoes to smell like lemons instead of the way they usually smell. I can't even describe that smell, although the word wicked comes to mind.

Occasionally I look out the kitchen window and watch them play for a minute. The other day the agglomeration of boys ranged from seven years of age to fourteen. They were particularly aggressive on this day - they'd been to a neighbor's house and the poor, trusting Mom had allowed the kids full access to the refrigerator, in which the Dad's stash of Mountain Dew was kept. Nice and chilled. Full of mega-caffeine. "Here I am," it called to the bunch o boys. "D-r-i-n-k m-e-e-e-e."

So they did.

Alas, the barbaric basketball game. Holy cow, I thought. If I don't get some water in those kids to flush out that caffeine and sugar, they'll kill each other. Or gang up on some poor unsuspecting soul and mame him. Either way, it wasn't the way I envisioned the afternoon unfolding. I quickly fixed a gallon of cold, icy water, grabbed a stash of go-cups and headed outside.

"Boys, take a water break."

"Ok Mom, - QUIT it - just a sec - LET GO OF MY HAIR - and we'll be - I SAID QUIT IT! HAIR IS OFF LIMITS!" - right there."

Sheesh. Had someone not seen this gaggle of boys together before they would never believe they're a creative, polite, well-mannered group that gee-haws naturally.

Not this day. At times like this I find it unbelievably inconvenient that I don't have the ability to whistle. I do, however, possess lungs capable of hollering almost as loud as the storm siren. Or so I've been told.

"Scatter!" When you scream it while simultaneously cracking a six foot bull whip onto pavement, it is downright astounding how quickly a testosterone-caffeine-sugar filled group of boys come to attention. Bug eyes were just a bonus.

"Mizzez Ceeeeee!"

"Yes Samuel?"

"You. Are. Da. MAN!"

"Yes, Samuel, yes I am. Now then. Each of you men-in-training to your own corner. Find your own spot and/or your own toy or game. No team sports or group play for thirty minutes AND four glasses of water each. When you've met those two criteria, you may reconvene. Any questions I thought not."

"Mizzez C?"

"Yes, Samuel?"

"Y'know this minty like stuff we step on all the time while we're playing ball?"

"Yes, Samuel."

"Kin I pick a leaf er two and shove it down in my waw-tah?"

"Yes, Samuel."

"Um, wait. Mizzez C?"

"Yes Samuel?"

"Thur's this other stuff I step on sometimes - I mean I don't mean to step on it honest - but anyway it don't smell like lemons. It smells like my Gran's house at Thanksgiving. What's thet?"

"That's sage, Samuel. Would you like to take some home to your Mom?"

"No thanks. I hate the way my Gran's house smells at Thanksgiving."

I love boys. They're tough, sensitive, and oh so honest, all wrapped up in one big ball of - well, usually dirt.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

PEEP-TOE BOOTIES and other insane logic

We enjoy oxymorons - my friends and family bat them around, making jokes, poking fun. One of my friends' husband belongs to a group that does actual reenactments of Civil War battles. That one always gives us all a chuckle. My CPA friend murmurs about consistent discrepancies. Another friend's son just joined a co-ed fraternity. My friend the English teacher has a specific, accurate, narrow definition for oxymoron. She's a purist. But I like ones that even just nod to oxymoronism. Limited freedom. Political ethics. Fresh sour cream. Willful negligence? What about a stripper's dressing room?

These fit into the category nicely:

My brain just can't take this in. Are we trying to keep our ankles and heels warm and give our toes and arches air?

Are they boots or sandals?

<----This is like wearing evening shoes with daisy dukes and a wife beater.

My friend the professional singer thinks I'm a baboon when I get the giggles after she says live recording. OK the term comes up more than you'd think.

Here are some more favorites:

initial conclusion
authentic replica
extensive briefing
marijuana initiative
Windows XP
flexible ethics (I don't even want to know)

And my personal favorite: enough time

Oxymorons are sort of accidental hyperboles. I like literary accidents. We'll examine puns next. We have competitions with those.

Saturday, August 06, 2011


It's curious what your brain decides is important enough to file away. Based somehow on what an impact an event, story, a fact has upon you when you learn it, your brain either files it in memory or pitches it into File 13. We're to believe that our brain is employed by us, functions on our behalf, uses our own personal character, abilities, needs, and interests to help distinguish what to file and what to pitch. I beg to differ.

I can, for some screwball reason, recall some of the goofiest details of the waygone past, but can't remember what time I'm supposed to pick up my eldest from FCA. Oh relax. I always remember to pick him up. I just have to scramble to figure out whether it's over at 5:00 or 5:30.

For example, every time I see the word "cutout", I'm reminded of the time my sister-in-law was bra shopping at a great sale at Macy's. All the sale bras were in a big bin - the kind that looks like a messy underwear drawer where you have to rifle through it all to find what you're looking for. Well, sister got tired of looking and grabbed a bra that suited her. She exclaimed, "Oh look! This one has sweet little triangle shaped cutouts at the top of the cup. Yep. I'll take this one." She got home and tried it on quickly to realize the cutouts were not at the TOP of the cup. They were in, errr, in a much more revealing spot. Sorta slap dab in the middle.

Q: When is a sale not a sale?
A: When the sale bra you bought makes you look like you're not wearing a bra.

What's the point of that anyway? (Yes, yes, yes. I get the pun.)

So why in heaven's name would my brain perceive that is critical enough to remember while tossing aside the time I'm supposed to pick up my child?

Here's a good one. A friend of mine who had a quite precocious child recounted an incident to me while we were sitting around the country club pool once. Oh relax. We lived in a rural Georgia town where the country club cost about as much as a suburban Atlanta YMCA.

"I guess we forgot to lock the bedroom door." Stories that start with that sentence never end well. She leaned forward and spoke in an embarrassed whisper. "Glenn and I were engaged in passionate, all-consuming - uhhh - intimacy. 'K? Suddenly," she says with much redness about the face, neck, and ear tips, "I feel something tickling my feet."

Uh oh. Do you know anyone whose chest begins to get very red and blotchy when they're upset? Then from the chest, the red blotchiness spreads to their neck, betraying their feigned attempt at confidence, composure, aplomb?

She screamed. Glenn took it as a compliment. Tamara jerked and craned her neck over Glenn's shoulder to see their son, all of aged 7, standing at the bottom of the bed.


I remember the story almost word for word. I remember the swimsuit she was wearing and the color of her eyeliner. I remember the time of day and the color beach towel I had flung on the pool chaise. I even remember the book I was reading at the time. I recall the comment my mother-in-law had when I told her that story. "That child oughta be glad his parents love each other."

That family moved away shortly after and sadly we did not keep in touch. Yet, even though my brain can retrieve that story in its entirety with details intact, I can't remember which one of my friends loves avacados and which one had a doctor appointment I need to ask after.

I only hope that when I tell them the story about Tamara and Glenn, they'll laugh so hard and love me so much for my funny stories they'll forgive me for not remembering that I should be asking about their doctor's report.

No, I don't think I'm in charge of what gets saved to the grey matter and what goes to the recycle bin. Is it a cop-out? Maybe. Do I get points for wanting to remember the important stuff? Maybe. Regardless, it is what it is. I adore my friends, my family, and I'm thinking, I'm fairly certain, confident even, that they know it. What I don't have in memory I hope I'm making up for in attention, empathy, and time spent.

Friday, August 05, 2011

READING and other luxuries

A few months ago I came into the 21st century with regard to reading. Begrudgingly and with a tearful wave to the tactile wonderfulness of a book spine in my hand, the musty smell of a book and its pages, and the beauty of a sweet little bookmark poking out of the top of a book, I got a Nook.

Little did I realize.

This gadget holds thousands of books. The world is my book!

Partially ok mostly because my kids were young, also because I had kids in my arms and no room to tote books, up until a few years ago I had all but stopped reading. Almost sheepishly I admit that with the exception of vacations or hospital sitting I didn't crack a book. Well, I didn't crack a book for pleasure. Cookbooks I cracked plenty. How to raise strong-willed boys cracked a bunch of those too. Anywayzeez not until I began reading again for pleasure, now that my kids are reaching varying stages of independence, did I recognize how very much I was missing.

BC (before children) I think, if memory serves, I probably read minimally a book a week. I forgot how my vocabulary increases exponentially and without me recognizing it. I forgot how my head and my heart become more open, more flexible, more understanding of the world and people around me. I forgot how my brain works at a quickened pace, processes at an accelerated speed (not breakneck ok, I mean this is me we're talking about, not Einstein). I forgot how the more I read the more I crave to read.

I always envied my sweet sissy, who, even when her children were young, could sit on the sofa, totally engulfed by a book. Of course, it's important to know she has girls. They read with her. Sat quietly, looked pretty. All you could hear in the room was pages turning, classical music in the background. All you smelled was perfume. *sigh*

I have boys. Enough said? I can't even describe what our house smells like. (Thank goodness for candles.) I never mastered the art of reading a book while keeping one kid from jumping out of the top branch of a tree while the other one was stealthily placing a springboard on the landing bullseye. And yes, I did have an hour here and there while they were practicing soccer. I discussed snack schedules. Made menus, grocery lists. Clipped coupons. It was either then or during church.

Right now I'm reading four books at once. One fiction, one auto-biography, one memoir, and one cookbook/storybook. My eldest reads two fiction books at once but I don't have the brain power to keep characters and storylines straight. Maybe as I read more.

Each of the four books serves a different purpose and depending on whether I have ten minutes and need to jump into and out of a book quickly, have thirty minutes to read before I go to sleep, or an hour at the pool while the kids play, I have something appropriate to read without having to haul a stack of heavy books around in my arms and in the car. I recommend it.

Ironic what happens when you hesitate to jump out of your comfort zone and embrace new concepts. When the ereaders came out I winced and shook my head, poo-pooing electronic reading in favor of the feeeeeeel of a book, the smell, the experience, of reading a book. Great in romantic theory. Practically, not so much. That poo-poo kept me from reading voraciously which, as it turns out, is way higher on the scale than smelling the mold from an old book and using cute bookmarks.

Just sayin'.

Thursday, August 04, 2011


A friend's husband passed away yesterday. The two of them were so close, devoted to each other and family. Having raised their children, retired from jobs, they were in the era of their lives where they had the time to notice the beauty in things, not from the interstate at 65 mph careening toward work, but slowly, easily, where they could stop, sit, reflect and enjoy the simple loveliness of a tree. A grandchild. A spouse's smile. And most especially, the true beauty of time itself. It was to be the time in their lives where they got to lie down in the grass or sit in their recliner or on their porch swing and recognize, fully, that they were not wasting time, but enjoying and appreciating time.

My first thought was "there's always a reason things happen". A paraphrase of a popular scripture in Romans, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

It's a comforting concept to fall back on, an answer when there is no answer. For those of us who study God's word there are a googlezillion other scriptures that convey that message. We believe it, have faith in it, recite it while shaking our heads at some misfortune or sad event.

In the face of this kind of loss however, my human need for understanding, for putting things in their proper perspective rears its head. I know what the Word says, but what could the reason possibly be? A woman loses the love of her life just when the sweetness of life was emerging? A woman who says things like "Love is like a violin. The music may stop now and then, but the strings remain forever... '"

I don't get it but I don't have to. The word "but" is what gets me in trouble. I know what the Word says BUT. But I have to understand. The truth is I don't. I, me, myself, this isn't about me. (Got that revelation on the treadmill this morning.) Again, He pointed out that I'm but a speck. Important to Him but in perspective, a speck. Unless I'm omnipotent I don't have enough information to understand what the reason could be. Same as any other situation - fact gathering is a necessity before understanding and an informed decision can be made.

And so it is that it occurs to me it's my own ego that engages me and says "Oh girl you have to figure this out. Get it to work. Make sense. Put it in a cubbyhole."

Nooooo, I don't.

There's nothin' worse than an egotistical 51 year old white blonde woman. I don't want to be her. Nope. So my role is to support and sympathize, pray for the one who passed and his family.

And what a relief that turns out to be. Big ol' burden off my shoulders, trying to figure God's stuff out. I'm leaving it to Him. I have a hunch He's capable. There are lots of things that He asks me to help Him with even though He's capable of doing it Himself. This isn't one of them.