Monday, December 10, 2012


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

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

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

But they were giving Diane a hard time.  Yesterday.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your humble great niece in law,

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

Friday, December 07, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


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

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

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

True story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Monday, September 24, 2012


My Mother-in-Law's eightieth birthday was celebrated recently.  Eloise (the birthday lady)  has three children who each have two children.  One of those six grandchildren has a child of his own.  All children, grandchildren, and great grandchild were present and accounted for at the pahrtaaay.

Now back to Eloise.  Stay with me here.  She is the oldest of eight children.  One has passed away, and all six others were present yesterday at their big sister's birthday party.  And some of theirs.  And a few of of theirs. All in all, there were fifty or more folks celebrating together.  These folks are but the tip of the iceberg.  At Christmas, there are generally around a hundred.  But I digress.

My children, my husband and I have discovered that we each, in our hearts, are at our happiest, our calmest and most peaceful during these times.  When family gathers.  It does not get any better anywhere anytime but to be in the midst of the people who love you the most and have been with you the longest.  They get who you are, and they love you because of it and in spite of it. 

My oldest child craves these gatherings - and he knows it.  My youngest child adores them but hasn't found his craving for them yet.  I am blessed beyond knowing to have a child who is fifteen and knows already that he craves his family.  (Except, of course, for me.  Moms are idiots.  I'll be sure and let you know when this concept subsides.)  Youngest is still developing his conscious understanding of the importance of family and I am waiting until the light bulb goes on and he 'gets' how magical they are for the soul.

Now that the stage is set, I'll tell you the story.  (Are you still'with me?) Anyway. My Sister-in-Law and her husband went over (Mama lives in Alabama on the lake) on Friday and spent the weekend,  getting ready for the shindig on Sunday.  Sister-in-Law practices Reiki.  She took her table and set it up in one of the bedrooms.

In addition and to add to the activities, we (When you've been married into a fam for 32 years you have earned the right to drop the "in-law" status.  They're mine too.) have a cousin who is a Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine who also practices Reiki.  She was present as well.

So.  after we ate and sang Happy Birthday and so on, unbeknownst to me (I was washing dishes and such) my hunky hubby climbed onto the Reiki table at his sister's suggestion.  DC cousin brought her thumper thingie too.

From the kitchen I began to hear chortles, belly laughs, and finally uproarious group laughter.  I HAD to check it out.  In following the happy noises I was led to the bedroom where Reiki and Chiropractic was being practiced on a victim customer patient and watched by an audience.   Patient was face down.  Jokes and comments were flying about the room, laughter echoing like whirlpools in the air.  Shoulders were shaking and heads bobbing with laughter.

"I know that backside," I thought.  Know it well.  Hey that's my hubby!  Sister was at his head with her hands cupped at each side of hubby's head and cousin was at his feet measuring his leg length and using her thumper thingie.  All manner of cousins and Aunts and Uncles were in the audience;  some watching with amusement, some cracking jokes, and all having the time of their lives.

My hubby was in HOG HEAVEN.  How do things get any better than to be where he was?  He was the patient.  He had four loving, healing family hands on and over him and a dozen sets of eyes on the three of them like actors on a stage.  Familiarity, sense of history, connection, acceptance, and peace were almost visual in the room.  The room vibrated with love.  As my eyes slowly panned the scene I subconsciously thought, "I wonder if this is what Heaven feels like?"    Cousins and siblings and parents wandered in and out of the room, watching for a few minutes then heading off to join another cluster on the porch or the dock or the kitchen table.  Some were firmly planted on chairs, beds or stools, staying for the entire show.

My husband was almost a different person on the way home from this party.  He didn't recognize it consciously, but the experience had affected him deeply.  It lasted for days - things that normally produce stresses for my big guy and manifest themselves in many forms - headaches, neckaches, anxiety attacks, negative disposition, and more - he was able to handle with more ease and less lag.  Decisions were easier to make, priorities easier to discover.

My takeaway is that family is healing.  Yes, Reiki and Chiropractic are specific healers, means toward the goal, but the third practitioner in the room that day was family.  Clan.  Consanguinity. Kinship.  Brotherhood.  Connection.  Lineage.   It's like a shot in the arm.

When it wears off we need to go back for more.  It's addictive, in a good way.  May we all stay addicted and coming back for our regular fix.


Friday, June 29, 2012

People In Hell Want Iced Water, Too

This is what I grew up hearing from a neighbor's Dad.  He was a single Dad, which was an infrequent situation in the late 1960s.  He had one daughter my age.  After we each had finished our homework and whatever chores were on the docket for the day, we met outside and played until it got dusky.  That was our cue we had to go in - to our respective homes.  If we got thirsty, we drank from the garden hose.  Had to let it run awhile or the water was hot enough to make tea, but if you let it run a minute or two the water became cool enough to quench our thirst.  There were no Capri Suns then.  There weren't juice boxes or Powerades, bottled water or instant powder packets to flavor your bottle of water.  There was water.  Out the garden hose.

My friend's Dad worked hard.  I don't remember what he did for a living (I was eight years old.  It wasn't what I paid attention to.) but it must've been some kind of mechanical work because his hands were always dirty, fingernails always greasy, and white t-shirt always sweat stained.  When he got home, he got a beer from the fridge and put it up to his cheek and said "Ohhhhhhh yeah".  Then of course he proceeded to drink it (and several more).  For this reason, I was never allowed to go IN my friend's house.  We were Play-Outside-Friends only.

At any rate, occasionally my friend's Dad would come outside where we were playing in the packed sand street of the cul de sac (although they weren't called that then.  They were dead end streets and our particular one dead ended into a sand dune.) and watch us play, and talk to us for a few minutes before stumbling back inside for another beverage.   Every now and then when that particular situation occurred, my friend and I would have been discussing a new toy we had seen on TV or heard of from another friend.  My friend would say, "Dad, I want a (fill in the blank).  It's a new toy."  It NEVER failed, my friend's Dad responded the same. way. every. time.

"People in Hell want iced water, too, Sookie Jane."

My friend already knew what that answer was going to be.  She would face me and mouth the words along with her Dad as he spoke them.  As I recall she added a massively dramatic eyeroll and a diva sigh for effect. I think when you are eight years old, you listen to these pat Parental Advise Comments but don't hear them.  Never in a million years would you spend time focusing on what it means and how it pertains to your predicament.  It was simply the response you knew you were going to get.  Here are some more I grew up with:

"He's drunk as Cooter Brown."  

"Do you kiss your Mama with that mouth?"

"You don't know your ear from a hole in the ground."

"You keep lookin' in that mirror you'll see the Devil."

"You are cruisin' for a bruisin'."

"If you don't like the road you're walking, start paving another one."

I was well into adulthood when at some point I would hear one of these quotes and a light bulb would come on. I'd recognize there was truly a legitimate, appropriate, and meaningful connection to a real life situation in the words of the quote, and I was to connect the dots and apply it.  DOH!!  

I still would like to meet Cooter Brown.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Memorial Day, from my Dad and me

I repost this every Memorial Day.   It's a letter from my Dad (pictured)  to his Uncles on a Memorial Day several years ago. Pretty self explanatory. He copied my siblings and myself. He sent it to me in a plain white #10 envelope with a little note attached in his (usual) henscratch that said something simple like he thought I might like a copy, that this was something he felt strongly about and had for years and finally was able to articulate it -something like that, I don't remember his exact words now. I have it in my "treasures" box.

My Dad has a unique way of writing that combines factual information with the emotions he feels in a straightforward manner that, while it isn't flowery or wordy, is perfectly descriptive and yet poignantly eloquent. He puts a fine point on the subject and then blurs it a little. This is one of his most powerful pieces and I only read it once a year, but on that one occasion I read it over and over and over. And over. With a wad of Kleenex in hand. Then I thank God for my Uncle Paul and Uncle Ralph, my Dad, and so many thousands of others who could have been the recipient of this very letter.


"Dear Paul and Ralph,

I guess I would not have started this letter had not some things come together. Mainly the publication of the book THE GREATEST GENERATION by Tom Brokaw, the observance of Memorial Day by the nation, and the need I have to tell you both that you have always been my heroes. I'm sure I could not say that face to face without making a fool of myself. My son and I have frequently talked of the selfless, noble self-sacrifice of your generation during World War II, and have lamented the passing of that great large-hearted outlook in defense of your country. It has probably not been said as it should be said yet, but Tom Brokaw does a credible job while we are waiting for perfection.

Both my son and I are in awe of your generation. That something horrible has happened to the American heart and spirit between then and now we both know, but we do not know how to say it. The wonder for both of us is that the people of your generation are not affected by the current one. There remains the same spirit of manners, helpful cooperation, humility and the total lack of pretension as were present when you served.

Among the several blessings I realize regarding my children is that they all three got somehow the gene for analysis and the ability to see, quickly, to the core of a matter, and as a result we talk of the two of you more than you realize. I know you have seen the "media" coverage of Memorial Day and all the hype attendant on such an occasion. I doubt that all that meant much to either of you. Well, this letter is a poor attempt at bringing the hyperbole right down to the most elementary level, in an effort to persuade you, fifty four years after the fact, that, if you both had not risked getting your ass shot off a hundred, a thousand times, we would all likely be speaking Japanese or German now.

So never doubt that, in the extended family, everyone in my age range and younger, whether they say it or not, realize that we all owe you, both of you, a debt that we can never pay by simple thank yous. And it is not strange that the attempt to express what we feel chokes us up so that we feel like fools trying to get out what we feel.

We all know that you are heroes, and you will always be."

I was fortunate enough to use this day as an opportunity to sun, swim, visit with family and eat David's ribs.  I'm so thankful for the experience.

And so,

 I would like to thank and celebrate the people who have made independence, (and me eating ribs under a banner yet waiving) possible through the generations and today.  I can never repay the debt, but will ever be grateful.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

BEHIND THE EAR, and other scary things

I love my job.  I will be so sad when I finish school and have to leave the safety and security of the school's salon floor.  I should divulge that when I say "job" I do not mean the paying kind.  Not the paying money kind.  I work in the school salon on customers in order to get hours and credits in order to graduate.  It's still a job, I say.  If I could get paid for it, I swear I'd just stay there after I graduate and pass my state boards.  Sadly, that ain'ta gunna happn.

So anyhow.  I love my job.  I meet dozens of people every week, learn about their lives, their families, their history, their problems, and their plans for the future.  And then in a few weeks, those new friends come back for another appointment and so I get to know them better and better, while all along still meeting new people every day.

Sometimes, like today, I leave a little sad.  My last customer today was a very kind, wise gentleman named Ralph.  Ralph had a patch over one eye.  Generally men don't want their hair shampooed first like ladies do.  Men want to go straight to the chair, have a neck strip and a cape slung on them, a blended clipper cut, a square clean neck, straight sideburns, and cleaned up ear and eyebrow hair.  Then they want you to take that cape OFF of them, take them to the front desk so they can pay, slide you a good hefty tip, and GET THE HECK OUT OF DODGE.   Regardless of how comfortable you make them, how much you draw them out and get them to talk while they're in your chair, how much they like you, they STILL itch to get OUT of a salon.  It's a SALON.  

Ralph wanted a shampoo first.  To be accurate, Ralph asked me if I could shampoo his hair first.  "Of course!,"  I responded.  Got him to the shampoo bowl and draped.  He removed his eye patch.  Helped him lean back and get his head in the bowl and his neck situated.  Turned on the water and while I waited for it to warm up, started with my usual questions.  "Mr. Ralph are you tender headed?"  Most people say no.  In fact they say no, heck no, oh no, hell no, God no, or some version thereof which means 'put some muscle in it, girl, and scrub it good'.  Occasionally someone says 'sorta'.  Never, until today, has anyone ehhhhhhver answered yes to that question.  But Ralph did.  "Yes, verrrrrry."


"Very, Mr. Ralph?"

Yep.  'Specially this ear, right there (as he points to his crown), and right here (at his hairline at the temple).   Sumpn tells me I'm in trouble as I look down at this sweet man.  He looked back at me with his one good eye.  The spot on his temple is about a half dollar size, scarred and slick, a slight different color and 'finish' than the rest of the skin on his face.  The ear he pointed to (which was in the neck rest hole of the shampoo sink so I could only see it from the front) looked smaller and flatter than the other one.  As I placed my hand behind his head (like a cradle) to lift it up gently so I could look at his scalp, he winced.



"Sit up.  We need to talk, don't we."

"Oh damn, I reckon."



"What's going on with your scalp?  Why are you so tender, and what are the scars from?"

His eyes dropped, he clasped his hands, blew all his air out and sucked in a fresh batch.  "Skin cancer. Over 200 of 'em.  This ear?  The doctor had to take it off to get all the cancer out and then sew it back on.  This scar" (the one at his temple) "was the first one.  Since then there have been 199 others.  I actually don't even have a nose anymore.  This was all built for me" (as he circles the air around his perfectly normal sized nose with his index finger) "after they had to take my nose because of cancer.  The skin cancer, y'know."

"Is it going to hurt you when I shampoo your hair?"

"Not if you do it right" (great).  "Just go ahead.  It's dirty.  I just got out of the hospital.  Just whatever you do, don't TOUCH this ear. It hurts all the time.  Hurts if you look at it wrong."

My heart started beating fast and I could feel tears coming.  Ralph looked like someone's wonderful uncle, and he had come straight to the salon from a lengthy hospital stay to get a shampoo and a haircut.   WHERE was his family?

I shampooed his hair as if his head were a bird's or a butterfly's.  I got him back to my chair and without touching his scalp, combed his hair.  He looked tired.

"Use the scissors, would you please?  The clippers - well, we can't use clippers."  He sounded tired.

On a customer with no scalp issues, a haircut using shears takes three times as long as a clipper cut.  On Mr. Ralph, double THAT - so I had plenty of time to learn about Mr. Ralph.  He was from Nebraska, where he had been raised on a farm.  Moved to New York as an adult and began working construction.  Worked on the World Congress Center and ate lunch on top of it when the construction was complete.  Headed South, working construction all along the way, ended up here.  Mr. Ralph was a delightful man.  We talked about farm things - churning butter, head cheese (which he was thrilled I even knew about), using every part of a butchered animal, walking to school, and so on. We talked (or rather I listened) about his views on Obama, Social Security, and health care. We talked about "kids today", barbeque, and fresh corn on the cob. When I finished his haircut I wasn't satisfied with it because I couldn't get close to his ears or behind them.  What makes a men's haircut a wonderful, custom, impressive haircut that will get compliments and make people ask who cut it?  Around the ears.  Honest.  You might could prolly mess up the rest of a man's head, but if you pay close attention to the detail of the lines of his sideburns, around his ears, and his neckline, he's happy.  True story.

But I couldn't cut around Mr. Ralph's ears.  So even though he had a good haircut, he still looked messy.  Not a thing I could do about it.  I had used my longest, slimmest shears, braced my hand on my other hand and then on his shoulder so I could get in there and cut without bumping his ear, but there was only so much I could do.  I was not happy with it.  I wasn't finished.  It wasn't finished.  I couldn't finish.

"It looks great.  I'm happy with it," he said.  "Walk me up to the front desk."

So I did.  He paid for his haircut, turned to me and as he handed me a wad of bills and patted my arm, he said "You paid so much attention and gave so much effort to try to make my hair look perfect even with all THIS going on (as he raised both hands and pointed to his head with both index fingers).  I appreciate you so much."

I wondered if he knew how inadequate I felt as I watched him from behind walk out the door, curly burly unruly hair all behind his ears.  I hope I didn't let it show.

I hope Mr. Ralph comes back to visit me.  But boy.  I gotta say, I really hope somebody else cuts his hair.  I'm STILL a nervous wreck.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


But then I only want the best it's true
They can't believe the things I do for you
What you won't do, do for love
You've tried everything but you don't give up
In my world, only you make me do
For love what I would not do
Makes me do for love what I would not do

Heard that song live at Chastain Park. I can picture the night, who I was with, the way the world and weather felt, how the sky looked, the smell of candles, wine, and lots of expensive, stinky cheeses from the party next to us. I can remember moving my lips along with the words of the song (not singing. Definately not singing. I did want others around me to actually enjoy the evening.) with my eyes closed and swaying my shoulders and head just a little, and I can remember holding my hunky hubby's hand tightly and moving my ear closer to his face so I could hear his awesome tenor, James Taylorish voice softly singing along.

But what I can not remember - you won't believe it - Is WHO was on the flip-flappin' stage singingit!!! Can you just bleedat? It might have been Al Jarreau. That's who I truly believe it was, but then I have moments when I think it might have been George Benson. And then I really start to doubt, close my eyes and SWEAR I can hear (and see, yum) Bobby McFerrin standing on the stage with his all tall, skinny, dready, linen-clad, big white toothed bright smiley self, moving around like he doesn't have a bone in his body - like a slinky. He's the black Jimmy Buffet. I do know it was Bobby McFerrin that I was blessed to watch and hear him perform Baby: (backed by Chick Corea. Top THAT.)

baby baby baby baby runnin' everywhere,
baby baby baby baby runnin' here and there,
baby baby baby baby lookin' what we do,
baby baby baby baby watchin' want to do it too.

baby baby baby listenin' what we say,
baby walkin' walkin', talkin' talkin' want to play,
playin', playin', growin', growin', you an me to be,
have you thought of thought of what you're what you're makin' baby up to be.

mama mama mama mama treat your baby tenderly,
papa papa bounce your bounce your baby on your knee,
tell you tell you baby baby stories, play your baby games,
teach your teach your baby baby, sharin' makin' love your aim.

what we gonna gonna leave our babies when we leave this place,
how we gonna gonna help our help our babies take our place,
'cause baby baby baby lookin' what we do,
baby baby baby watchin' want to do it too

I used to sing Bobby McFerrin songs to my youngest when he was teensy and still slept in a crib. Rocked or walked both bebbies to sleep at night, sang Patsy Cline to the oldest, and Bobby McFerrin to the youngest. And they survived! Their ears did not bleed. True story.

I've often marveled at the things parents will do for their children. Often I have looked back in my own journey as a parent and only recognized then that something I had done in the past was one of those things you can only shake your head at and cluck, as you mutter, "Well when you're a parent, that's what you do. Right?"

Currently I am driving my son, once a week, to a tutor who lives two hours away. Because she's what he needs. Friends think I'm crazy. My hunky hubby even looked at me dubiously when I delivered the news to him that's what I'd be spending my Friday afternoons and evenings doing, and some Sundays as well. Ultimately now he knows it's the right thing, but it's a fair statement that that news is a little shocking. Difficult to process. It's sort of like someone locking himself in the house and giving his keys to a friend, just so he won't be able to get out of the house to go buy cigarettes, or booze, or ice cream or chocolate, shoes, or whatever it is that's got the grip. It's what's called for sometimes, but so extreme is the behavior to accomplish it that the recipient of the news discombobulates momentarily. Or, for some temporary period of time.

I haven't often been accused of not dealing with something. (Yes, Grammar Police, I know.) Rarely have I been known to procrastinate. Hardly is it like me to let something unacceptable drag on if there is anything I can humanly do to correct. So. It's not a stretch that I might be prone to overzealous motions or acts in this arena. My motto is I hope to always be able to claim having done too much and never have to be responsible for having not done enough. (Yes. Again. I know. You may call it Grammatical License.)

One time I drove one of my kids fifty miles, once a week to a specialist who was not covered by our insurance when there was one seven miles away that was. I had good reason. Was it worth the extra $800 a month out of pocket? You betcha. Was it worth the extra drive, time, and aggravation? Yyyyyyyep. Would I do it again? Most certainly.

Every parent has these stories. I love to read them. Love to hear about them. Tonight I took three handsome ten year olds to their school Talent Show - oh wait, scuse me - VARIETY Show, cauz heaven forbid we use the word talented *sigh*. Dozens and dozens of parents running, stepping, fetching, wearily setting up and tearing down, managing ticket sales, and so much more. For their kids. TALENTED kids. There I said it. TALENTED, they're TALENTED. Can we please call it that?

Anyway. Strangely (she said sarcastically) all THOSE parents, the active ones running the show? Those ones? THEIR kids were many of the ones IN it - not afraid to get up on a stage in front of 700 people and DO something, do it joyously, vigorously, energetically, and with all the innocence and pride of youth. To have taken all the time they did to practice, and practice, and practice some more. And another thing. The other parents - the ones that BROUGHT their kids to see the show? Those kids were the ones that clapped the most, cheered the loudest, got excited about their classmates performances. Both sets met up at the FroYo after to mingle, Group #2 patting Group #1 on the back, giving them positive affirmations and attaboys, and all of them shoving frozen yogurt down their piehole and being so excited and high on life and the academically and parentally sanctioned togetherness going on. I looked around the room and noticed that the best and brightest kids were there, visiting, bumping shoulders, knuckles, hips.

These kids are the ones that will be the Valedictorians and Salutatorians in their high school classes. They're the ones that will be in school plays, orchestra, band, on the football team, the soccer team, in BETA club, FCA, and the like. Mostly because they're smart, full of piss and vinegar, and joyfully motivated. But somewhat too, because their parents schlepped them places, introduced them to beauty, talent, a social life, shows, art, history, music, dance, and so so much more.

Whether they wanted it or not.

What we parents wouldn't do.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Stink Eye

You know the one. It's the one Mamas give their kids when they're misbehaving in public. Mom slings the Stink Eye at the kid and the kid straightens up at once, fear orbing from his very core. A more expressive look there isn't, in all your inventory of looks you could bestow. It's the same look that Wife gives Husband when he embarrasses her in public. The one kid shoots Mom when she comes to school to pick him up in yoga pants, a wife-beater, and one of those goofy lookin' Rosie the Riveter bandanas tied around her head with the knot and bow ears cocked crooked on top of her noggin.

It comes naturally to most adults- the Stink Eye, not tying a bandana around your melon - particularly if you have children. Or a spouse. Or a sibling. Or, heck. People. Some kids are born with it, too. My ten year old developed it prior to turning a year old. It's a gift.

Of great import to note here, the Stink Eye is NOT the same as a Hate Look. The Stink Eye says "You are very important to me. I will love you always. You're a big part of my life. And, by the way. QUIT IT. Quit it this NANO-second and do not do NOT EHHHHHVER do it again as long as you shall live. Which if you do that again isn't long."

The Hate Look, on the other hand, says "You, my pretty, are a wretched, contemptible beast, and I could quite easily perform the Five Finger Death Punch on you while you sleep and then go get ice cream to celebrate. You make me want to shoot a puppy*."

The Stink Eye is often given via the magical ricochet properties of the rearview mirror. Or, it may involve an almost indistinguishable (to the general public) squint of one eye and/or a teensy but evil raising of one eyebrow. Sometimes a very soft, gentle, but BRUTAL grunt or sucking of the teeth accompanies.

It's one of the greatest communication tools available. Anybody can throw it and anyone (oughta be able to) catch it.

If you didn't see The Devil Wears Prada (where HAVE you been???) one of my favorite parts is where Stanley Tucci educates Anne Hathaway on the expressive facial tells of Meryl Streep and what each means. Here's what Stanley (as Nigel) says:

"There's a scale. One nod is good. Two nods is very good. There's only been one actual smile on record, and that was Tom Ford in 2001. She doesn't like it, she shakes her head. Then, of course, there's the pursing of the lips."

And Anne Hathaway (as Andi) says, "Which means...?"


I have yet to meet the human who throws a meaner Stink Eye than my ten year old boy. If you catch a Stink Eye from him, you know you're in some big, fat, hairy trouble.

The good news is, he's not old enough or tall enough to pull it off. It's just stinkin' cute. So. The takeaway is, go big or go home. And. Don't do it if you can't pull it off. Wait 'til you grow into it.

Ta for now.

Stole the puppy thing from my sister. Just sourcin'.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Out With the Old, In With the New

My last few posts have been about the celebrated and honored seniors of our family. Time to turn it around and talk about the youngsters. The whippersnappers. The youth, or as Joe Pesci says in one of my favorite lines ever in a movie, "yoot. Two yoots."

On the last weekend before school was to start, my hubby decided he would take our two boys to the local gun show. It comes to the Civic Center once a year and I'm not ever sure who enjoys it more; my husband or the boys. At any rate it's become a tradition, and they generally call some friends to go with them. They make a Saturday morning of it and eat lunch at some dinky man dive after.

This year, as most, Clay and Nick went with them. Nick is my eldest's best bud, and Clay is his Dad, one of my husband's hunting buddies. When my three drove by to pick them up, they piled in the truck. They were off.

Only something was different, my husband reported later. Clay and Nick were both sheepish. A little quiet. Discombobulated even. Little did hunky hubby know he was getting ready to find out why.

Nick, Clay reported, had had John over the night before. John is the third of the Three Musketeers. Ever since second or third grade it's been Nick, John, and my Cole. Sometimes others joined, and lots of times two of the three got together when all three couldn't, but all these years these three boys have been dearest of friends and together often.

That night it was just Nick and John. They decided it would be fun to get some black powder from Nick's Dad's basement and light it. Yes, you read it right. Let me interject here that both these boys are all of 14 years old. Both bright. Both in A/C classes in 8th grade. Both have been Scouts since they were in Kindergarten. John, in fact, is getting ready to transfer to a magnet school for science - always has all As, is the 'most responsible' patrol leader in the Boy Scout troop, is engaged, respectful, and blends in well with kids and adults alike. What would make such a child decide he needed to light gunpowder, you ask? Me too - I've yet to figure it out. I'm still shakin' my head over it.

So who lit the powder? Yep, John. As his Mama said, "Yep, Mr. Smarty Pants wasn't so bright." John suffered second degree burns to his face and hands. Nick's hair curled, singed, and broke off, but he had no damage. A third friend, a next door neighbor, got smart and ran when they decided to light it.

Nick and John thought they would go to Nick's room and put some cold water on John's face until it stopped burning; that way they could get away without telling their parents what they'd done. But of course, John's skin began to burn worse and worse and before long, they decided they'd have to go admit to the parental units what had happened.

As the burns began to look and feel worse and worse, they took John to the Emergency Room. There they found out his burns were second degree. He was treated, bandaged and sent home with instructions to return a few days later for surgery. In this surgery, they replaced his burned skin with pig skin (I'm thinking until new skin regenerates?) and in a few days from now, he will return to the doctor to find out if there will be permanent scarring on his sweet face. Kills me that could be possible - I've looked at that beautiful face and perfect skin for years and I don't want to think it could be marred forever. In the meanwhile, he is out of school for at least a week to a week and a half, and in a significant amount of pain and discomfort.

I'm taking Cole over later to visit with John for a few minutes. He wants to let John know he's thinking about him. He's going to take him a basket of candy including but not limited to Atomic Fireballs, Hot Tamales, and RedHots. These kids have a sick sense of humor and in any other case it might be in poor taste to do such a thing, but they will adore the appropriateness of the gift and laugh together while they visit.

We have used poor John's situation as a teaching moment for Cole. Even though we have had dozens of conversations throughout our childrens' lives about safety of all kinds and just as many about guns and explosives specifically, and even though for years hunky hubby and I have each relayed stories to our kids about childhood friends who similarly burned their faces, eyebrows, eyelashes, and hair off and even blinded themselves lighting gunpowder, here's the thing. So had John's parents. I asked Cole what he would have done had he been with the boys that night, and he said he would've told them not to even go get the gunpowder. "What if they did anyway?" I asked. If they continued, he said, he would've gone and told an adult. But y'know, who's to say he isn't telling me what I want to hear, regurgitating the accurate answer? I want to believe it is what he would have done. He's smart and he's reasonable. He's down to earth and he's mature for his age in some ways. And I'd be willing to bet that since this happened it's definately what he would do in the future should he be in that situation, but here is the bottom line.

There's only so much you can teach your children whether by words or by modeling behavior yourself. After that (and during) you just have to pray over them. Daily. Sometimes hourly or by the minute.

I've received a teaching moment of my own from John's plight. It is that good, smart children can get into trouble and can do dumb things. That just because you've taught your children something doesn't mean they'll heed it. Moreover, that I have no power or control over my childrens' actual behavior, just the shaping of it and the consequences after it.