Thursday, December 30, 2010

It's Official... "Facebook" is Now an Action Verb

According to Time Life Magazine, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, is now the man of the year.  While he gave us a magic platform to reach back into our past and locate friends and lovers not seen in thirty years, he also gave busy moms a reason not to feel guilty when we forget our cameras at our children's many, many events, awards ceremonies and such.  We look at the good mom with camera cables, charged batteries and perfectly posed children and can now utter the self redeeming words, "Facebook it."  Within hours, photos of our children come flying in from organized mothers we barely know, but are grateful for.  The word "Facebook" has become an action verb... a task to be performed shortly after the last click of the camera shutter.  "Facebook those pictures to me."  You hear it everywhere.  At a ballgame, when the kids just won the All Star World Series, and you stand there with a pom-pom in hand and no camera, all you need to say is..."Hey, Facebook it." Soon you will be downloading photos of your little winners and uploading them to Walmart for next year's Christmas cards.  I never worry anymore about dead batteries, blurry photos, or missing the right shot.  Someone out there has snapped a prize winning photo and surely will tag me in it.  Even when you don't want photos shared, there is that one person in your group with a handy smart phone who will snap that photo of you and the girls downing drinks at a pub and they will Facebook it before the next round arrives.   The problem with this is that not all of your Facebook Friends need to see these things.   My children's friends will send friend requests and I, like most people, accept their invitation.  It's not like I put anything on Facebook that isn't appropriate for all to see.  It's those dang uploads that get you every time.  I've come to realize that I can't post anything about work, church, politics, or any other sensitive topic.  I'm limited to posting about what I had for dinner and nobody wants to see those posts.  My status bar stays empty most times because I am status aware and need to keep my job.  I need to be a good role model for those kids and I don't want an Instant  Message from my mother asking what I was doing in that pub.  I watch the posts role in about friends who haven't fed their cows in Farmville and wonder how they have time to manage a virtual farm.  I often confuse Mark Zuckerberg with Farmer Zuckerman from Charlotte's Web and wonder if "Some Pig" is out there in Farmville chasing spiders and talking rats.  It would spice the game up a bit.  Surely someone will catch some photos and Facebook them.  Who really doesn't want a photo of a talking pig, anyway.  I surely would and should I ever run into one, I know that I will have no camera in hand. Thank God for that new action verb "Facebook."   I will never again miss another talking pig or pictures of my kids in their greatest moments of childhood.  Someone will Facebook it all to me.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The After Christmas Effect

I would like to introduce Turtle.  He is nameless. He floats around in a tank of hazy water with a facial expression that epitomizes the exhaustion and inability to continue that comes with preparations for the holiday season.   I plan to have postage stamps made with this look and attach them to all of my credit card payments as I slowly begin the process of paying for Christmas.    I know this look and have seen it in my own reflection.  As we grew each day closer to Christmas and all the glory that it is, my eyes lost a bit of twinkle and exhaustion set in as I felt myself sinking to the bottom of this proverbial pond of gift cards, ribbons, bows, increased credit limits, and chocolates from countries I've never heard of.   But, ready or not... Christmas does arrive and it waits for no one.  My Christmas morning begins early because each child wants to wake me in the early morning hours to sneak with them out to the living room to see what treasures Santa has left them. It's our special time that is only shared between mother and child.  We don't play with the toys or pretty things, we just peek and take in the sights and sounds of the living room lit up by the glow of tiny Christmas lights.   We'll sit on the floor together and gaze at all that is there, knowing it is all protected by one very large dozing cat who takes residence under the tree during the month of December. Then.... it's off to bed again.   It isn't long before the other child is gently waking me to sneak with them back to the glory of the living room to see what gifts await them.  My husband and the cat never wake.  They are used to our nocturnal stirrings and pay no attention any more. They no longer wonder what it is we do in the middle of the night.  It has not effected them negatively, so it must all be good.  After child number two was tucked back in bed, I heard what I knew must be my daughter's missing hamster.  It has survived for two weeks by eating the soles of her boots and a tube of pink lip gloss.  Who knew, I must add.  But now.... here he was, early on Christmas morning, and soon I was on the floor with a flashlight and a handful of pumpkin seeds and granola hunting hamsters.  I thought about Mary and baby Jesus and what their night was like some 2050 years ago and thought....   "Wow -  this is so not what they would have been doing" as I tried to squeeze to the back of the closet to find the hamster.  About the time I gave up on finding him, the sun came up and it was time to make that long walk down the hallway again.  This time, the entire family was in tow... except the hamster.  Even with pre-exhaustion setting in before a complete sunrise, the magic of Christmas began to unfold before us. And as always - it was wonderful.  It was a busy day and I'm still trying to dig myself out from a pile of wrapping paper and increased credit card debt, but what fun we had.  The best gift was having my brother home for the holidays.  He brought us jewelry hand crafted from villagers in Africa.  The items were lovely.   He gave my son a necklace that has an image of what appears to be a leaping gazelle on it.  I'm a little concerned that this might actually be the fertility God symbol.  I will add this to my list of things to check on tomorrow.  No room for error there, you know.  My daughter was thrilled with each of her gifts that slowly transformed her into a tiny jet setting Valley Girl... Flannel pants, Uggs, Northface, Apple... We have moved past the age of Barbie Dolls that are wired to their packages and require special welding tools and cutters for removal.   We had all of our friends and family over and had a wonderful time visiting and watching the kids be kids.   My daughter managed to walk into a remote control dual rotor Chinook helicopter that was hovering about the living room.   It made an emergency landing deep inside her long locks of hair.  Dual rotors!  Yes - Not just one to unwind massive amounts of brunette hair from, but two, for added fun.    I do believe that having a helicopter attached to the side of your head is a look that could be pulled off at Christmastime - Look at Cindy Lou Who who proudly wore a tea cup and saucer in her blonde beauty doo.   It's all about owning it, I suppose.   After the removal of the helicopter and a few layers of hair, we gathered in the den for the traditional singing of Christmas carols and downing of eggnog.  Oh, wait - That's not us - that was George Bailey's Family in a Wonderful Life.  We raced to the den to pick our avatars and do a little white water rafting while standing in a raft at the headwaters of Nintendo's Curvy Creek.    We jumped and pivoted and flung our arms in the air to grab virtual coins that I was unaware loomed at the top of the treeline as we plummeted down the raging waters. We crashed through pilings and piers and somehow came out unscathed, but exhausted.  I finally left the kids to play with their toys and claimed my spot on the couch in front of the fire where I am certain I wore the same look as the aforementioned turtle.  I woke this morning and all is calm in the house.   I'm not sure, but I believe there may be an extra child somewhere in the den buried under a pile of wrapping paper and Christmas joy.  In just a short while, I will wake them all and begin putting things back in order.  Perhaps the hamster will return to this cage, the turtle will bask on his rock, and I can thumb through my photos of another wonderful Christmas with family.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Model Consumer

I am the model consumer.  A product label promising new and improved qualities to my life is certain to gain my attention.  These products are strategically placed in retail stores to speak in coded tongue to shoppers like me.  Just the other day, I went to the new MegaTron, bigger than the last one, Walmart, built three sites over from the previous two.   All I needed was a loaf of bread.  As any good Southern woman knows, it is almost impossible to leave Wal-Mart without spending a hundred dollars or more. Immediately upon entry, I was drawn to the vitamin aisle with an already lingering notion that perhaps I needed more vitamin D in my life.  I actually needed a cruise to a sunny tropical island, but I temporarily quieted that wish with a bottle of sunlight and a need to shop.  Unfortunately, all the other letters of the alphabet called out to me and soon I could play a quick game of Scrabble with the bottles of Vitamin A, K, D and B in my basket.   I moved to the next aisle and a can of Skintamate shaving cream called to me from the shelf.  It was baby blue and offered Skin Therapy.  Who doesn't need skin therapy, I ask you?  I did have Vitamin D in a bottle to hold me until I could soak up UV rays at the Tropic of Cancer, but now there was skin therapy available for $4.79.   It was "Baby Soft" and "Lotionized"  My God - Lotionized!!!!  I didn't even know this was a concept, let alone an actual word, but I wanted it.  I wanted a Skintimate experience where I would bathe in skin therapy and be lotionized.  An added bonus.... It had Vitamin E!!!!   Who planned this product! They knew me so well!    Suddenly, I could hardly wait to get home and shave my legs.... an act that brought no real pleasure, unless you are 11 and getting to shave for the very first time.  After that... the fun is gone... unless you purchase Skintimate Skin Therpay.   It's funny to me that nowhere on the bottle does it actually say shaving cream.  And yet, I knew what this product could do for me and it quickly landed in the bottom of my basket with the rest of the letters of the alphabet.    By the time I made it to the bread aisle, I had well over $100 worth of items in my basket, all promising some form of new and improved life.  Truth be told.... I'm certain my life would remain just as good without these false promises of delight.  My husband uses a simple bar of Dial Soap for everything.  I spend $18 for a bottle of volumizing, moisture sealing, illuminating shampoo and he uses a bar of soap.  Our hair looks fine, except mine smells like scented expensive shampoo and his smells like clean hair.  Isn't that really all we are seeking.  Hmmmm?????  We currently have nine bottles of shampoo in our shower.... one for everybody's needs.   My son has teenage straightening shampoo.  My daughter has something that has a fun lid and smells like popsicles.  Even the dog has a bottle in there for tick and flea removal.  I know that one day I will be all leathered up in Skin Therapy and grab the wrong bottle of shampoo and find myself tick and flea free with a scent like I've just been to the vet.  My husband may be smarter than all of us with his single bar of soap and absence of label reading.  His Vitamin D comes from working in the garden and his straight hair comes from genetics.  Perhaps if I read less labels and went back to hot water and a bar of soap, I would be many dollars closer to that trip to the tropics.  I believe it may be time to let someone else do the shopping!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Secret Order of the Big Haired Beauties

My child learned, at a young age, the power of big hair.  It is something I have always wanted, but have never had the luxury of having.  In the 80's, when big hair defined who you were, I was cursed with short wispy blonde locks.   This tiny beauty, however, must have inherited a big hair gene that I never knew was lying dormant inside of me.  I'm guilty of big hair envy and a feeling of sadness still wells up inside of me as I pass down the hair care aisle and see all of the hair freezing and big sexy hair products used to create these heavenly coifs.  My daughter enjoys her gift of big hair and spends many an hour in front of the mirror working it into styles that would make Miss America and fairy tale princesses proud.   I've discovered, while looking in from the outside of the big hair world, that there is a sisterly bond, an unspoken covenant, between those who are lucky enough to have big hair.  This bond transcends language barriers, shorelines, and age differences.   Let me explain....Most every mall in America has vendors in the inside court area who sell hair straighteners, iron rods and such.  Many of these saleswoman are here on work visas from Israel.  They are dark haired beauties armed with kind smiles, big hair and a cash register.  While their English may be limited, they have no problem communicating with their big haired sisters.  My daughter can walk in the mall and I instantly hear.... "Oh my God,  you are beautiful.  Look at your hair!  Look at both of you."  They hug, touch each other's long locks, and speak in some kind of secret language of giggles and hair care terminology.  I hear whispers about  phenol derivatives, chemical changes and finishing sprays used to maintain styles of the hardest to hold hair. There are more giggles and dark hair begins to fly out in all directions as they shape, straighten, mold and create new beauty doos.   I stand there with my straight wispy blonde strands and wonder if the salesgirl's comments are sincere or just quoted from a sales manual that is obviously well written because before this happy reunion is over, my child's hair is three inches bigger, I'm feeling pretty sexy, too and I've written out another check for $120.00   I know women who spend thousands of dollars on pills and therapists to fight depression and raise their self esteem, so I never feel guilty about my occasional support of these hair care girl's work in America when they leave me feeling confident and sexy even if it is only until the chemicals break down and my hair is flat again.    After our last encounter with our hair care friends, my daughter left with a large bag of hair care products and I left with the notion that I, too, would look good in a pair of gold spandex pants and leather boots like Aleana and Marnisha were wearing.   Thank God better senses prevailed and I remembered that is only a look you can pull off with big hair and a small butt.  There is a mathematical formula that calculates the mass of one's hair style and the size of one's back-side to determine if you can pull off that look without defying laws of physics, breaking any fashion rules or scaring friends and neighbors.  Our friends wore this look well.  As a forty six year old mother of two, I accepted the fact that I was a few years too late and a few hairs too short  to wrap my ass in spandex and parade around in boots. But oh...if I only could!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Darkside of Social Media

One simple desire to build a word with seven little random tiles in an on-line game called Scrabble has led me down a path of destruction where I woke this morning to find my identity has been erased.   You would think that sitting on your sofa with your children while they do homework would be a fairly harmless event.   While piddling around on the computer, my son told me about an online game site where I can play Scrabble with strangers.  Sounds fun, I thought!  As I began to register to play, I discovered a button that says I can connect with my Facebook account.  How easy… How thoughtful of them to give me this option.   Oddly when I did this, I was instantly in my account with the screen name  “Darkside 902”.  Honestly, that should have been my first red flag.  But no… I wandered down this road oblivious to the violations I was incurring.  Curious about this seemingly dark identity, I asked my children how this came to be.   My daughter informed me that the screen name was just randomly assigned.  I should have known better.  My son gave me a better explanation that his friend was on my laptop and tried to connect when I must have had my Facebook running in the background.  This seemed reasonable and I bought it.  I tried to change my screen name, but I was stuck as Darkside902.  Heck – all I wanted to do was build a word or two, so I continued on my journey.   I didn’t know that my name would be posted on the side screen where I could chat with other gamers.    While “ButterCup78”, “LuluSmiles”, and “PJinMaine” built words fast and furiously, they chatted it up on the sidelines.  Nobody wanted to talk to Darkside 902.  Somehow I felt alone – ostracized by a bunch of alphabet wielding strangers.  I built a seven letter, 32 point word and exited the room with my head hung in shame from a name I never chose and somehow couldn’t change.   I closed the computer and went to bed – unaware what was occurring in the background.  As I woke, I discovered that my Facebook account had been disabled without warning.  No reason was given - just an immediate removal from the virtual world where I have 542 friends, 1050 pictures of my children and two messages from people I haven’t seen in 30 years.   I’m being punished and I don’t even know what I did wrong.   In the pit of my stomach, I know that it has something to do with that damn Darkside 902.  I knew it was trouble.   The name, alone, screamed trouble!   Years ago, my ten year old son was banned for life from a very large on-line gaming community for “real-world” selling.   Seems he figured out how to quickly earn large amount of points, buy precious commodities and sell them on eBay where he would then meet the buyer in the virtual world and hand over the golden axes, cloaks of invisibility and crowns of honor.  This, it seems, was a frowned upon practice.   I found quickly that there was no phone number to contact anyone on the website.  Your only hope for reason is a one-time appeal where you can state your case and hope that the virtual judges and demi-Gods will shed their grace on you and forgive you.   I wrote a letter that would make my college English professor proud and apologized for my little boy’s indiscretions.  An almost instant response came back that simply said, “NO – He may not play our game.  You may ask again, once only, and we may reconsider.”    I found that the site owners were from somewhere outside the boundries of the United States and did not have a similar justice system as we.  Nor did they have compassion, forgiveness or toll-free numbers.  I could picture them laughing on their little medieval island of pages and pawns enjoying those requests for forgiveness of sins.   After begging for mercy a second time, they now informed me that they were slapping my child’s hand from across the water and that he would never mine for oar again on their lands.  We accepted defeat and moved on to other interests.   I can only hope that the owners of Facebook do not live on that same island of exclusivity and want me to come on bended knee to beg for mercy for unknown crimes.    They too, offer no real-world contact… just a button that takes me to an appeal page where I can upload a government issued I.D. to prove my identity and hope for the best.  There is no space for comments, questions, or pleas.  I believe I am slowly transforming to Darkside 902 who is standing outside the social media world with my hat in my hand begging for mercy.  Oh wait … that would be a hooded cape in hand.  I forget who I am sometimes!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Salutations and Traffic Circles

I was recently in the grocery store when the cashier greeted me with a friendly smile.  Out of common courtesy, I asked, "How are you today?"  While this is a pretty simple question, it doesn't always come with a simple answer.  Certainly there must be a list of inappropriate answers that everyone should avoid using. When you are stacking your overly priced organically grown produce onto the conveyor belt, an inappropriate response from your cashier is... "Well.... I'm better now that the rash is going away.  I was doing good just scratching my lower body until it spread everywhere.  My infectious disease doctor told me it could take a few months to go away completely. "   A rush of heat instantly overcame me and and it took all my might to keep from screaming, "Drop those carrots and put on some gloves!"   This was not the answer I was looking for, nor did I want.   My daughter is a complete germaphobe and the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, I must admit.  About the time the words "Infectious Disease" were uttered, my child instantly began bathing in germ-X and hiding fruit that wasn't wrapped in a sanitary package.  What ever happened to the answer, "I'm fine.  Thank you."?  I've tried to explain to my children that when strangers ask how you are, they really don't want to hear anything other than a few words indicating that you are well and hopefully rash free.    There is a lady in town who I often run into.  I will say, "Hello" and she always replies with, "Fine, thank you."  This has puzzled me for years, because I didn't ask yet.  The natural thing to say after "Hello" is  "How are you?" but now we have already jumped right past that.  Sometimes I get flustered and ask anyway.  It's as if my manners are on auto-pilot and that question must be asked.   The conversation goes something like this:

(Me)            "Hello"
(Stranger)    "Fine- Thank You"
(Me)            "How are you?"
(Stranger)    "I'm Fine, I said"

           long pause....

(Me)            "Uh...I'm rash free."

Obviously we never have progressed much further in this friendship than the greeting.   Sometimes when I'm walking along at work and my mind is preoccupied with important things like budget variances, what tonight's dinner might be, or that woman at the mall with the really big hair,  I will get lost in the cycle of greetings and repeat the question making everyone terribly uncomfortable.    It always happens when you combine your salutation with the question addressing the other's welfare. They should never be joined as one.     I will politely greet them with  "Hello.  How are you?" and the other person will respond appropriately with, "I'm fine... and you?"  I will return with "I'm fine.... How are you?"   It is like one of those hideous traffic circles they have in lower Louisiana or Washington D.C.  Once you get in them, you can never get out.    At some point, you are forced to just lower your windows, circle for hours and yell at all the drivers - "Hello...How are you?"   I've actually made some really close friends this way.   Sadly, when you are standing in a hallway, face to face with someone and you have asked how they are one too many times, you need not answer when they ask about you because they have already figured out that you are obviously bordering on some kind of mental breakdown, just rude, or related to Dr. Seuss who is known for his wonderfully weird greetings:  "Hello - Do you like my hat?" "No I do not like your hat - do you like mine" "Yes oh yes I like your hat - do you like mine?"     At that point, you try to break eye contact and escape into the nearest office where hopefully you will not be met with those dreaded words, "Hi - How are you?"  The simplest things in life can sometimes be the most daunting.  

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Power of the Pyramid and Other Pointy Structures

Personal space comes in many sizes.  My family genetics tends to point towards a much larger personal space than most.  Creating, crafting and controlling our own little space is an involuntary function almost as important as breathing.   My daughter has understood this powerful inner driver ever since she was a very young child.  I know this to be true as I sit her looking at the teepee she has erected in my living room that she has transformed into her personal office.  Now, not many people have a teepee in their living room.  In fact, most people would not allow a teepee or any other large structure to remain for long in their living room if ever erected at all.  However.... each night as we begin homework,  my tiny princess enters the room with a zebra striped, hot pink book bag in one arm and eight foot poles covered in cloth under the other arm.  She quietly goes to work setting up her work space.  She carefully positions the structure so that she can see the television through one entrance and have healthy snacks delivered through the rear flap.   Eraser dust flies from both entrances as she dives into mathematical word problems and begins to alphabetize 47 words all beginning with “S”.  I understand that there is an unexplained phenomena about the power of sitting under a pyramid.  While the teepee isn’t a perfect geometric shape of mathematical perfection, it is a shape known to have properties filled with cosmic energy.  I was reading on line about the power of the pyramid and there are some very clear rules about managing your personal pyramid. Who even knew there was such a thing.  The first is that a pyramid is a very personal item and you should never share it with anyone.  I’m guessing that most people in this day and age that have taken the time to build their own pyramid probably will find themselves sitting in it alone anyway.  Now… as for teepees (near pyramid shapes) I notice that there is a steady stream of visitors to my daughter’s fortress and I’m guessing by the straight A’s on her report card and her 500 friends on Facebook that the power of the pyramid shape welcomes friends and guests.  There are often several pair of feet sticking out from the sides of the teepee and muted giggles coming from within.  This morning, I found two dozing cats curled up inside soaking up the mystical energy and leftover pieces of string cheese.  There were also empty juice boxes, forbidden materials in the living room, that were found laying near the cats.  I’m certain they will take the blame for securing the party goods and laying drunk amongst the discarded Juicy Juice boxes. Everyone, it seems, has been to the teepee, but me. So... Because today is the first day in some time that I have no luncheons to attend, school functions to be at, or demands to deliver forgotten items to children illegally texting from school in a panic, my plan is such... Make a healthy veggie sandwich, which nobody likes but me, drink a soda and sit in the teepee and let it reverse the effects of a week’s worth of stress and caffeinated beverages.  I’m planning on returning to work next week at least a year younger and with visions of great things headed my way all thanks to the power of the pyramid and my inability to say “no” to the wants of my tiny girl.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hope Comes in Many Forms

The story of Randi Hope is one that must be told.  I've referred to Randi several times throughout my writings, but one must know the real story of how Randi Hope came to be.  Most families have a pet or two - normally these are cats or dogs, even fish or birds.  Then there are those that live on the outskirts of civilization that have their own private zoos with exotic creatures that both excite and frighten children all at the same time.  My family is caught somewhere between those two ends of the spectrum.   We are a normal family, in a normal house, with a normal life.  But tucked away inside these facades of normalcy are multiple pairs of little loving eyes hanging upside down from a carefully placed limb, lounging about on the roof or even running full circles on a tiny plastic wheel deep within my daughter's bedroom.  

We never set out with any goals to procure these creatures... they simply find us.  If there is an injured animal anywhere around, its internal GPS will lead it right to my back door.    The most unlikely arrival was a chicken that had fallen off of a Tyson Truck on it's way to certain demise.  A neighborhood child found the wounded fowl and brought it straight to the Brodnax house.  I stopped asking why years ago.  The little white chicken lived with our daylight challenged rooster and two ducks for almost a year until he disappeared one night without a sound.  We have earned a reputation of being able to nurse injured critters back to health.  It's not because of our mad veterinary skills or our desire to run a farm, it's because of my huband's genuine love of animals and our daughter who holds and loves and soothes every creature she comes across.  One touch from her candy coated fingers and pain seems to disappear and healing begins.  It is much like living with Snow White.  I looked out the window one day to see her walking down the street with her dog, followed by two curious cats, and a white tail deer..... Randi Hope.

Randi was one of those fallen animals that made its way into our hearts.    Almost two years ago, Randi's mother was running free and wild when she jumped a fence and broke her back.  My husband was immediately called to come and help, for the young mother deer writhed in pain on the ground in front of a growing group of onlookers.   Not wanting the children to see what was coming next, my husband attempted to load the deer into his truck until he was stopped by a policeman with orders to put the deer down.  He pulled out his gun and shot the deer, much to the surprise of those standing near.  My husband asked the much needed question, "Did you know she was pregnant?!?" and proceeded to open the now deceased deer up in an attempt to rescue the life that remained within.  With the help of a friend who happened to be an ambulance driver, they removed two baby fawns.  After mouth to mouth resuscitation and a conveniently located oxygen line, one of the two  babies survived.  The crowd cheered with delight and a young woman asked if they would name the deer after her son since it was his birthday.  Thus.... Randy was born. Forgetting that he had his own child at home that named pets before she even got them,  my husband was met with the loving eyes of his daughter who exclaimed, "Oh Daddy, can we name her after me?!?"  Compromising and sharing middle names, Randi Hope was now officially a part of our family.  She was lovingly placed on a warm blanket under a heat lamp in the corner of our living room where I was certain she would remain for weeks like a baby in an incubator.  Surprisingly, it seems a baby deer can use those spindly legs and walk upright in a matter of hours. In a few short days, they are able to jump over the couch and stand by your bedside nibbling on the ends of your hair while you sleep.  Who knew?  It took only days to move Randi to the big outdoors where she was free to roam deep into the woods and mingle and play little deer games.  The problem with this was the fact that Randy had arrived by C-Section and unbeknownst to us all, had imprinted on my husband and now believed, without a shadow of a doubt, that she was a charming retired fisherman.  She had no desire to join those rowdy deer in the wood. She preferred lounging on the patio furniture eating grapes and sneaking a taste of whiskey when she could.   Her life was good!   Randi roamed the neighborhood and ate the neighbor's hostas and impatiens.  A freshly planted bed of flowers looked like a snack tray laid out for her to enjoy.

Randi grew and her spots faded and she turned into a full grown doe.  One Spring day, Randi was not found lounging by the pool in her usual spot.  Several days passed and she was nowhere to be found.  She had been run away by stray dogs off to an early start of deer hunting.  Luckily, she wore a pink collar with our cell phone numbers on it and she was spotted curled up in a woman's carport miles from our home.  My husband went to get her and coaxed her into the cab of his truck.  I would have paid to have seen the next scene.   He lights a cigarette, starts the engine and about the time he shifts into drive, this loving deer goes mad and demands to exit the vehicle.  At this particular time, the only exit was the driver's window that had been lowered to allow the smoke to exit.  Smoke and a full grown deer lept from the truck window bounding on the pavement, leaving my husband uncertain what bodily injuries he had just sustained.  That is when he called me to come and help.  When I arrive on the scene he explains his plan to climb into the back of my SUV with the deer in his lap.  He will hold her until we get home.  I knew then, as I do now, that it would never play out like he imagined.   With everyone safely in the vehicle I begin to move forward.  As the car shifted into second gear, the deer began to buck and jump and it was a blur or hooves and hands and fur and hair.  I screamed that if she came over the back seat I was jumping out and they could crash together.  The battle was on and he held her down as she slammed his head against the ceiling, the side panels, the headrests and more.   It was the longest eight mile drive of my life.   Randi and my husband both survived the ride home and fell out onto the front yard when the hatch was opened.   I walked away in shock.  The deer took to it's lounge chair and my husband lay in the front yard as the bruising set in.   It didn't matter to him.  His love of that deer outweighed any cranial hermoraging that might be setting in.  To most people, this would seem unusual.  I'm certain our neighbors never viewed this as out of the ordinary for the Brodnax family.

Randi has been with us now over two years.   Her colors change with the seasons and she has overcome many a challenge.  As a fawn, she ate a roll or telephone wire and came close to death.  She was later shot while in the woods and came home with a shattered knee.  Against all advice to put her down, we allowed nature to run it's course and after months of limping and constant attention from my husband,  one day she sprang up on all four and her knee was good as new.  She  now lives in a very large fenced in area with two predator dogs that she calls brothers.  They chase each other, love on each other and most definitely respect each other.    The large dogs are fully aware of the power of a hoof to the head and the deer knows the strength in the jaws of those dogs.  Neither has ever hurt another.   She no longer roams the neighborhood, but is allowed out of her fenced area to taste the honeysuckle on particularly warm Spring days.  She has been known to sneak in the back door on occasion and realizes her mistake as those spindly legs hit the slick hard floor of the kitchen.   Wondering what she was looking for, we allowed her to enter to see where she was going.  She nosed around a bit and found her way to that tiny spot in the living room, once warmed by a heat lamp.  Love grew from that spot and Randi remembered it well.     We both smiled and knew what was next.... me with that crazed look yelling "Get out of my house!"  Off she skated on all fours in a mad attempt to exit the house.   She is a good girl.  She is one of us and she knows she is family.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Driven to Madness by the Dollar Menu Board

"Medium Coke, light ice, one napkin."  This is my early morning drive-thru ritual.  I pull up in my comfy car, Van Morrison spills from the window, I recite that short order, pay my $1.10, pull through and am out in 42 seconds.  I have it down to an art form.   It's so easy.   

During my twelve seconds in front of the menu board, I glance over at the dollar menu and think, "How nice that you can feed a family of four for $12 or less"..... UNLESS it's my family. Just entering the drive-thru with my car full of family members and friends brings on an anxiety that must resemble what dogs feel like days before a giant earthquake.   

I've always considered myself a confident woman who can handle most any situation with common sense and a good up-bringing.  But... a trip through the drive-thru instantly strips me of any skills I have of maintaining order.  I do attempt to take control and keep the madness at bay.  I have good skills.  I use them wisely.  They may never help me on a resume, but they have enabled me to ice 48 cupcakes before work, ensure the delivery of clean children to school minutes before the tardy bell rings, remove a Chinese Takeout Chopstick from my air-conditioner vent with a glitter pencil and a wad of gum, and lick the icing off my sleeve before meeting with coworkers to discuss strategic planning initiatives and corporate vision.  These things come easy to me.  So why is it then, that tackling the drive thru with people I love is a challenge I may never succeed at. 

As my car enters the lot, I begin by laying down drive thru rules.  You may not change your order once it has been given.  Nothing will be super-sized and drinks do not come with blended up candy bar pieces.  Once we have that understood, the kids will begin to call out Combo Meal numbers that never match the items they actually desire.  "I want a number five, 3 piece meal with Oreo McFlur."  The speaker calls back to me, "You can't get a 3 piece double cheeseburger meal."  Any semblance of order I had begins to crumble.  I can sense the giant crack in the Earth's crust racing down the street towards us.  I translate the kid's orders into English, procuring the exact amount of chicken strips, fries and sodas that match the number of seat belts in the car.  If I'm in the SUV with the fold down third row, I get two extra value meals. There are no cookie containing drink products ordered and the kids can figure out who gets Sprite and who gets Coke.    

Once I have mastered the kid's orders, none of which came from the dollar items, my husband will begin his order and this is where my world falls apart, my head falls slowly to my steering wheel and I enter a new world of dollar menu madness.  He will order items that aren't actually on the menu.  I will explain that you can't get a Fish Sandwich at Taco Bell.  He will then create menu item names that closely resemble items actually on the cash register buttons, but don't actually exist.  Last night he attempted to order Macho Dell Grandes at Taco Bell.  Curious as to what this might be, I sadly had to explain to him that there was no such item.  He will then ask me, "Why?" and I have to explain how once upon a time a focus group sat down and asked the question, "What do people like to eat?"    Macho Dell Grandes never came up, meaning he will have to chose an alternate item, perhaps something actually on the menu board.  

As cars line up behind me, he then begins to read each menu item out loud as if experiencing the taste and carefully selecting the perfect item.   The kids are salivating in the back seats, anxiously awaiting their deep fried chicken bi-products and my husband continues with his disection of the menu. "What is Baja flavor?" he will ask the young person on the other end of the speaker.  Knowing an answer is nowhere to be found, I will jump in, order some random combo number, tell him it's a Macho Dell Grande and screech around the corner waiting for the total and the peak of my complete nervous breakdown.    The cashier will smile, look at my husband and ask if we wants any sauces with our order. My hands clench the wheel, one eye begins to orbit my head and with a nervous tic brought on while in line,  I whisper through clenched teeth, "Please don't ask, Please don't ask..."  And then he speaks.... "What kind of sauces do you have?" Twenty minutes later, the people in line behind me have written down my license plate number, tracked me on google, left unfriendly messages on my Facebook page and moved over to McDonald's to enjoy the tasty fish sandwich my husband wanted from the beginning.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Apple of My iPhone

My children truly are the apple of my eye and, in fact, have apples in their own eyes.  It’s just that their apples are attached to laptops, ipods, and cell phones.  I’m certain that it is probably a bad decision, but I enjoy giving my children better things than I have.  Who can resist the twinkle in their eyes as those apple commercials taunt them with the next Steve Jobs creation.  When it comes to technological gadgets, I am at the bottom of the pile with my antiquated hardware.  Months before I am due an upgrade on my cell phone and modern technology is within my reach, my children have hacked my account, reviewed and compared all five users to see who has the nearest upgrade on the horizon and have pre-selected the phones of their choice.  My little flip phone has served me well, but when you can no longer dial the number “8” it is a clear sign from the AT&T demigods that it is time for an upgrade.  While I tape my screen together and have lost all friends with eights in their numbers, my children get my upgrade and leave the store with the latest and greatest in cell phones.  Their eyes are  all bright and shiny with silver apples in them once again.  I smile and take their hand me down phones and am thrilled to get them.  It is interesting what you can discover on your children’s phones.   I currently have my daughter’s former phone.  As an added bonus,  I now have pictures of every puppy she has seen within 1000 miles of our home and 200 photos of her framing her face from one arm length away.    My address book is most interesting because everyone has names of celebrities.  I did not know that I was Carrie Underwood and don’t even want to know how I got that name.  Her father has the name of a cute boy at school that she likes so that her friends could see him calling her every time her dad called.   She would smile and talk sweet  leaving her friends to ooh and ah while they were completely unaware that she was actually making her dad feel oh so important.  My address book also includes characters from books she has read, movie stars and other famous people.   It’s not many people in this town that get calls from Brad PItt and Jesus.  I do.   Recently, I had left my phone full of famous people at home and needed to call my son.  My daughter’s new phone was in my purse, so I retrieved it to make this very simple phone call.  The first thing I discovered was that phone was locked.  I tried every password I could think of such as her birthday, her pet names, and even curse words after I had exhausted all ideas and had reached total frustration.   I took the phone to her and with that one eye half shut look that only a mother can give, demanded she unlock the phone without ever saying a word.  She types in “The Sky”  with two thumbs and the phone opens up offering me a palette of applications and more glamour shots of her.  I jumped to the “J’s” in her address book to call my son, but he wasn’t there.  Realizing he must have some alias, I asked how she had him listed.  She told me to look under “A’s”   It seems his name was “Too Cool for School A Really Cool Guy.”   Realizing I was entering the world of Allie logic I had to ask..... Why “A”?    “Too Cool” begins with a T.  It appears that “A Really Cool Guy” was the last name.  Never saw that coming.    While I learn to navigate my hand me down phone pre-programmed by a ten year old I am keenly aware that many a surprise is tucked away in this hand held device leaving me with a virtual treasure hunt.  So as I discover more pictures of puppies and rekindle relationships with those with “8”s in their phone numbers, my daughter’s arm grows a bit longer each day so the evolutionary process will allow her future offspring to take perfectly focused pictures of themselves and have all they need within an arms reach away.  

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Tall Drink and A Short Straw

As a good parent, I have talked to my children about drugs and alcohol and the dangers of using and associated addictions.  Where I failed was when I forgot to discuss the many other addictions that will flash before them with false enticement and a siren song.  I hang my head in shame when I have to admit that we have all become terribly addicted to late night Frappes.  Yes,  McDonald's is our dealer and we find ourselves circling the parking lot like excited crackheads trying to decide if we want mocha or caramel.   There is a prerecorded voice that greets you as you enter the drive-thru.  I'm certain it must be the devil, but it calls our names and fills us with joy.  In high pitched excited tones, like a girl going through Greek Rush, she says, "Hi, Would you like to try one of our delicious ice cold mocha frappes?"  "OF COURSE WE DO",  I want to scream.  You would think they would recognize my car by now and just start whipping up frappes as I enter the lot.   One by one, they hand me our drug of choice and I pass them to the far ends of the vehicle while little hands reach out for that delicious, caffeinated cup of evil that drives us.  For the next few miles, the only sound in my car is the sound of slurping and some awful 70's song I force my kids to listen to.  I have learned to associate these cold, chilly drinks with wellness and after a stressful day, a frappe cures what ails me.   I have discovered that there is one other chilly treat out there that works almost as well.   Until you have experienced a Sonic Lemon Berry Slush on a 103 degree day, you have not lived. An added bonus is happy hour between 2 and 4 when drinks are half price and for a few pennies difference, you can get the extra large Route 44 cup which can later be used to bathe a small puppy in.   It's more chilly treat than one can endure. However, with all great things, there can be downfalls.  Just yesterday as the thermometer soared past 104 degrees, my car was on autopilot and it took me to Sonic for my lemon berry relief.  In a hurry to get to work, I took my tall drink and straw and darted out of the lot.  As I drove down the road I realized the straw was shorter than the cup and while slurping ice citrus slush, my straw slipped inside the cup and my face went straight into the lid.  Berry Slush went everywhere! While it did have a cooling effect, it's hard for people to take you seriously while you have lemon pulp frozen to your hair.   I should stick with the frappes and a sippey cup lid. You're bound for failure with a tall drink and a short straw.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Laundering Money

Dirty laundry is my nemesis.  It is my greatest challenge and biggest foe.  It is the one thing in my life I cannot get my hands around - it’s just too big. Just as I think the last sock is washed and the bath towels are folded and put away,  five kids in wet bathing suits and wet towels will fly through the back door leaving a pile of laundry on the floor.  After fifteen years, I have accepted the fact that the laundry is bigger than I and it is truly a mountain I will never conquer.  There are no support groups for those who need a laundry intervention, so I decided to tackle this problem using the tools at hand... namely, child one and child two.  I announced to my kids that they were responsible for doing their own laundry.  This was said with great authority and self-pride that I had taken charge.  Nothing happened. No laundry was done. The kids were quite content mining for clothes at the back of their closet and had no need to wash their dirty clothes as long as there remained an abundant supply of clean items to wear, even if they were out of style and two sizes too small.  I accepted defeat once again and relinquished control of my failed laundry skills to a higher power.   One day while forgetting to remove $35 cash from my jeans pocket, I began another round of laundry.  I had no idea what luck lay ahead.  I sent my daughter, against her will, to remove the clothes from the dryer.  As she reached into the dryer she discovered a crisp, clean five dollar bill.  She squealed with delight.  We all know laundry law dictates that you keep what you find and she ran about the house  gloating about her new wealth.   She returned to her laundry duties with a new found excitement and shortly after retrieved a twenty dollar bill from the dryer.  Prepared to dispute laundry law, I was ready to take back my twenty, but realized that this lesson might be worth twenty dollars in the long run.  She took her cash and showed all the neighborhood kids who were standing in my kitchen in their freshly laundered towels and suits.  It wasn’t long before the kids were begging to do the laundry. I even had one of their mothers offer to wash our clothes.  I had accidentally stumbled onto something bigger than me and possibly bigger than the laundry pile itself.   Doing the laundry had become a treasure hunt and my kids were begging for more clothes to wash.   The neighbors even wanted to see my dirty laundry and they meant it in the most literal way.   I actually caught a glimpse of the end of the laundry pile and a feeling of success and happiness welled up inside of me.  I discovered great enjoyment watching the kids race to the washroom each day to start a new load of clothes.  Most people throw dryer sheets in their dryer.  I toss in a few dollar bills and before long I have clean laundry, happy kids and a new found freedom from the evil laundry monster that had enslaved me for years.     The cost of this new freedom....a couple of dollars a day and an occasional five or ten thrown in for motivation.  I’ve toyed with expanding this idea and throwing in a surprise find to keep up the excitement.  Unfortunately, most of my ideas such as concert tickets, chocolate, or a puppy just won’t work. The kids will simply have to find self-motivation with their Downy fresh ones and fives because once you make it to the end of laundry pile, there is no going back!  

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It Always Helps to Own the Stolen Vehicle You are Being Arrested for Driving

It is one thing to have your vehicle stolen from your own driveway while you sleep. It is another to be pulled over months later driving that same stolen vehicle with your kids in tow.  We had owned a popular version of a Chevy Silverado that had a spectacular paint job that sparkled in the sun.  The first time it was stolen from us out of a local parking lot should have been a signal to us not to purchase the exact same vehicle. When it never returned and was probably being sold off for parts, we did exactly what we shouldn't have done and bought the same style truck again.... same paint job... same shine.... same invisible sign that screamed "Come Steal Me."  Several years later, as the paint began to fade and the shine wasn't quite so obvious, it sat tucked safely in our carport full of all things a hunter would love.... guns, bright orange vests, Columbia jackets and more.  My husband rose early the next morning to take to the woods and join the masses in the first day of deer season.  Not being a good hunter wife, I only rise that early one day of the hunt and it's not to prepare eggs and bacon.  I join him because I'm the only one who knows where all the hunting gear has been stored for the rest of the year. We stood outside with our steaming cups of coffee admiring the moonlight as it cascaded over the garden and the sleeping dogs who obviously failed in their guard duties.  It was at about the exact same moment that we both realized there was much more space where we were standing than there was the night before. Something was missing.....the truck!  It's one of those moments of disbelief where you have to have a few more sips of coffee to understand exactly what has happened.  There is no great sound of realization, but rather a subtle whisper of "hmmmmmm.... the truck is gone."  Of course, we belong to that special club that gets to add one more word to that whisper of realization...."again!"   The truck was gone again.    There had been no dog barking during the night and no sound of engines roaring.  The vehicle had driven off silently as we slept away.   The funny thing about having something stolen is that is makes you crazy for a few weeks. You begin to look at everyone with suspicion and you see your stolen goods all over town out of your peripheral vision, never quite able to focus on them and you convince yourself you're seeing things. We went through all the motions of reporting the vehicle stolen, filling out all of the paperwork, and leaving it for the detectives to find.  They never did.  However... a month later a few boys on bicycles came out of the woods behind our house and spoke of an abandoned truck stuck in the mud miles down the powerline.   Being a good southern family, we jumped on the 4-wheeler (mom, dad, baby and a rifle) and shot down the powerline where we found our muddy truck, stripped of everything except for our Federal ID badges. I suppose the thieves knew that it was much more serious to steal those than our hunting truck.  Here is the funny thing about finding your own stolen vehicle.  You need to make sure the police log in their database that it has been recovered.  We informed the police, the insurance agent, our neighbors, the crazy guy down the road who we suspected all along and even told our friends and family about our fantastic find.  However.... somewhere deep in the police station, I suppose the report sat on a desk and never quite made it to data entry and unbeknownst to all, the truck remained listed as a stolen vehicle.  Can I tell you what happens when you are driving down the highway with your husband and a baby, none of whom have a shred of identification on them...... usually nothing..... unless they are driving a stolen vehicle!  As the blue lights flashed across the less shiny truck, a fearful realization took over that we were indeed going to be arrested for driving our own stolen vehicle. I hugged the baby, kissed her on the head and told her "Daddy's going to jail!"  The good thing about actually owning the stolen vehicle you are being arrested for driving is that you get out of jail free.  Of course, that's after your friends stop laughing and bring your identification to the jailhouse.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Early Morning Visits from God, The Utility Guy and the Crying Eyed Cat

Since the time that I was pregnant with my first child I have struggled with insomnia.  I wake abruptly and all throughout the night with sudden realizations that I forgot to put Downy in the rinse cycle or failed to mail the water payment in a timely manner.    I never wake from the thoughts that should wake someone, such as..."The iron is on and the curtains are beginning to smolder."  The thoughts that throw me awake are subtle whispers that I failed to accomplish everything on my "Mom" To Do List.    A pattern began to emerge over the years and most nights I wake at exactly 3:33 a.m.  Instead of finding this odd, I find comfort in the fact that I am keeping to a schedule.  While I am acutely aware of numeric patterns, this has never stood out to me as strange.  When I was eight months pregnant,  I would wake from a foot lodged in my bladder and joke that it must be 3:33 a.m.  It always was. It was playtime for the baby.  My son has had the same crazy sleep habit since gestation.  As he moved into his teen years, he once again began to wake at exactly 3:33 a.m.  Now there are two of us in this house of no sleep.  In an attempt to keep to our daily schedules and not be late due to an absence of R.E.M. sleep, I moved my alarm clock ahead ten minutes.  And yet...when I am thrown awake each morning trying to smell the burning curtains or Downy April Freshness, it is again 3:33 a.m.  My manipulation of the clock has had no effect on our odd sleep habit.  It was just recently that I heard tale that this is a common phenomenon and people around the world experience the same early morning wake up call at exactly 3:33 a.m.  There are many reasons listed on the internet and they vary greatly in explanation. Some say it is God whispering to you and others claim it to be a more scary call from the underworld guy.  (I knew the devil ran the water company. He’s peeved about my bill and wants to talk)  I'm curious how we can jump from one end of the spectrum to the other in explaining this common sleep pattern and exactly how does one gain this privileged information about how God and/or the devil communicate...Wikipedia, I suppose.    I like to think that it is God, but it concerns me that all these years He has been speaking to me and I assumed it was the laundry calling me.  What a gross error in judgment!   I read about how the soul can travel to astral planes and this is the time of the morning that it returns to the body.  I'm uncertain exactly what an astral plane is, but I'm quite concerned about the chance that souls are coming and going all throughout the night in my house.  There is enough activity in my house at night and now I'm led to believe that there is another dimension of activity occurring.  Does anyone ever get any sleep?   While this turn-style for souls has possibly manifested in my house, you must know that there is also a little boy who sings in our kitchen at night.  Perhaps he got off at the wrong house.  Nobody has ever seen him, but each of us has heard his sweet song echo down our hallway.  I teach my kids to enjoy such things and not be afraid.  We don't make it out to be ghosts or lost souls- we simply accept that something has occurred that cannot be explained by any of us. To add to the night’s activities in this house with no sleep, my daughter has two hamsters that feel that nighttime is the best time to run and run and run on that dang metal wheel of fun they have in their cage.   Maybe they are running from the singing boy or from the smell of burning curtains.  Most likely, they are running from the crying eyed cat that sits in front of their cage at midnight.  It’s a sad little kitty, born way too early and without any tear ducts in one eye - so it cries non-stop.  Disturbing, but cute in a cuddly “I need something else to take care of” way.    So tonight,  after I turn the iron off, comfort the kitty, and thank the Lord for my working utilities, I will drop off to sleep and hope for another wake up call from a higher power.  I have a lot of things I need to thank Him for and a little lost sleep is well worth the chance to do so.  

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cutting Your Own Hair is Never a Good Decision

Most people learn by the age of four that it is not a wise choice to cut your own hair.  It took me forty five years to learn this valuable lesson.  I am cursed with fine, straight hair and I have spent a lifetime paying good money to have tiny snippets of hair cut off in a simple straight line.  I’ve watched this precision cutting take place multiple times.  How hard could it be?  My barber is a magician and makes it look so easy to do.   After three failed attempts to get an appointment for a trim and one particularly hot summer day that left those straight locks of hair plastered to my face and neck, I got this brilliant idea that I could perform this same simple cut on my own hair.   Let me preface this by saying that I now know why beauticians pay hundreds of dollars for high quality sharp scissors.  One should not attempt this act at home with the same scissors that are used for opening freezer pops or cutting cardboard boxes open.  Being somewhat intelligent, I knew that I could not cut the back of my hair, so I called for my children to assist.   This rare opportunity to cut their mother’s hair was welcomed with great joy and excitement.  They are well practiced with scissors and have cut pumpkins and many a dancing skeleton out of construction paper.    What damage could they do... I was only taking off less than a quarter of an inch.  Did you know that one fourth of an inch varies from one side of the head to the other and is especially deceiving when looking through a mirror or through the eyes of a child?   The first lop of hair was rough cut and uneven.  My concern began to mount that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.  Knowing we had to fix it, we took a little more off to even it out.  As panic set in, I sent the kids away and took matters into my own hands.  I snipped and cut and evened things out until I had nice full looking layers.....on one side of my head.   The other side was an inch shorter, yet did have a nice bounce to it.  I knew that this continued failed attempt to get both sides even would result in more cutting until I would be bald.  To make matters worse, there was no way I could call my magic man barber and tell him what I had done...unless I was five years old.   I just thought I had those same magical skills as he.  When they say, “Don’t attempt this at home” - people should pay attention!  Knowing there is a solution to most every problem, I discovered that I can tuck one side behind my ear and leave the other down in a kind of sporty way.   I can also simply lean my head to one side creating an optical illusion that both sides are even.  However, it unnerves people when you keep your head posed like that for extended periods of time.  They think you are trying ridiculously hard to be sexy and what they fail to realize is that you are simply a victim of terribly bad coiffure choices.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Thou Shalt Not Google Thine Own Self

I have this secret passion for tiny six ounce cans of grape juice.  They are expensive, so I hide them away in the 'fridge like precious treasure.  Last night my daughter was serving them up to her friends explaining how she enjoyed this product at Communion.  She told them how "Back in the day, Jesus and his friends loved Welch's Grape Juice."   She went on to explain how once a month they all got together for a big supper and that they served bread and blood and grape juice. Before I had a chance to jump in and explain the representational association of grape juice and Christ's blood, the conversation immediately flowed to the Volvo Driving Vampires of Twilight and their thirst for blood and not juice products.    This is the same child that once explained the Ten Commandments to me and felt it was her duty to point out if I might be approaching the violation of any of them.   My favorite on her list of Godly rules is  "Thou shalt not cover the bare footed witness." I believe I'm pretty safe with that one and don't have to worry about crossing any lines.   She has a series of others that were somehow grossly lost in translation and involve Christmas characters such as Dancer, Prancer, Doofus and Don - Santa's chosen elite.    Over the years, we have added our own commandments to her modern day list of good rules for living. Somewhere near the top is "Thou Shalt Not Google Thine Own Self"   I've found that this is critically important for one's own self wellness.   One evening, while Facebook stalking my kids, past lovers, and that mean guy from the IRS, I decided to see what popped up if I searched my own name.  I am still emotionally traumatized by it. You would think that somewhere back in Leviticus, there might have been a reference to not peeking in the Book of Life and seeing your own true colors OR... seeing the true colors of 2179 other people with the exact same name. The first thing I discovered was that my daughter and I had obviously been in the "Race for the Cure."  I paid our $50 entry fees, but I didn't collect any additional dollars for the cause and the world could now see a big $0 contribution next to my name!  What!  I was shocked - mortified even.  I give to that very worthy event.  However, I'm guessing I will give much more than our entry fees next year.   Next came a Facebook profile for a young lady with my exact same name.  Her goal in life was to meet the Jonas brothers and kiss the cute guy in 2nd period.   I had to wonder if any of my previous bosses ever googled me and mistakenly thought that while they were paying me good money to come up with project solutions and funding dollars, that perhaps I was really spending my day dreaming about Nick Jonas.  That could explain that one year without a raise.   Each new hit on my name was equally disturbing and I immediately swore off all future self-googling.    I sought solace in my tiny cans of grape juice, but now I'm thinking that perhaps I should switch to other varieties of juice that don't quite represent the meaning of my salvation and that of the other two thousand people that share my name.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Igloo Coolers and Family Wellness

The Fourth of July is upon us and that means a weekend of wet beach towels, BBQ sauce on every surface within a 20 yard radius of the grill and a sudden self-mastery of back yard pyrotechnics.  For the past twenty years I have spent many an Independence Day camping with the family.  Last year, I officially proclaimed that I am past the age of sleeping in a tent on the side of a lake eating out of a cooler.  Granted, I have done that on many occasions and the memories are wonderful, but there comes a time when you’ve experienced all you can possibly experience.  I learned early on that the success of a Fourth of July camp out is completely dependent on the contents of the cooler.   When I was in my twenties, that red igloo cooler contained beer, water, more beer, chips, salsa, limes and more beer.  Camping was relaxing and loads of fun.  The first camp out with children completely changed my cooler packing skills.  Now we had juice boxes, frozen breast milk, fresh fruit, and an assortment of ready to grill meats marinated in virgin olive oil and love.   Camping was still fun, but wasn’t quite so care-free.    A second cooler was added for dry goods such as diapers and an assortment of pediatric medicines for everything from runny noses to scraped knees to a sudden outbreak of whooping cough.    As the kids aged, yet a third cooler was added to our packing that contained all things we wanted to keep dry.  The contents included video cameras, cables, chargers, cameras of every make and size, cell phones, SIM cards, Game-Boys and more.    We were going to capture every moment of fun in high speed digital format.  We upgraded to a large SUV just to carry all of our coolers full of needed camping supplies.    We would arrive at the camp site and spend hours setting up our weekend home.  We discovered early on that every campground across the South has a family of twelve who has been at the park for two weeks enjoying the bliss that is camping.  I counted their coolers last time out and realized the cooler to child ratio did not fall within the accepted norm for family camping.   They had ten kids and two coolers.  What was their secret, I must ask!  Camping was so easy to them.   Somehow it was different for us.  We spread the dusty canvas tent across the gravel pad and prayed for success in setting it up since the instruction book had long since disappeared.  While the posse of ten kids was circling us on bikes watching us attempt to set up camp, my son was building a make-shift cellular tower to boost his signal strength for uploading photos to Facebook.  The happy parents down the way were preparing sandwiches by the dozens, toasting marshmallows and singing campfire songs I’ve never heard of.    It looked so right.  The mother wore a bright blue bandanna and had the complexion that Mother Nature surely must have.  Let me point out again… she had ten kids, I had two.  I stood there in sweat with Clinique mascara running down my cheek secretly wishing that I looked as peaceful and content.  My husband was busy trying to make tent stakes with twigs because he had failed to pack any stakes in those coolers.  He had every fishing lure known to man, but no device to keep the tent secured to the ground.  As he began to mumble obscenities and make strange gestures, my daughter headed off to the playground to map out who had control of which playground pieces.  Playground law dictates that the kid who can do the most back handsprings rules the playground.  That power, however, can be usurped by the kid that is known to sit quietly and eat the playground sand.  He can pretty much go anywhere he wants and all kids step back.  So while my husband was building our castle, my son was manipulating cellular signals and my daughter was strategizing playground control with well executed flips in the sand, I sat alone on my red cooler watching the families around me zipped up in their mosquito tents wondering how I was going to wring the cooler water out of the pre-formed hamburger patties that would eventually be our dinner.  Nobody was filming anything, the work had overtaken the fun and I knew that these days were numbered.   It is now days before the Fourth of July holiday.  My son will be at his friend’s house swimming in their salt water pool.  My daughter has a series of birthday parties and social events that will keep her busy all weekend.    I have to wonder what would happen if I grab the old red cooler, throw in a six pack of beer and ask my husband if he wants to go camping over the Fourth.  Without a doubt, I know where we would end up…… That’s right…at Embassy Suites in our terry cloth robes with a red cooler of beer at the end of the bed thanking God for the many memorable years of family camping and the wisdom to know when to let go. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Near to Nothing

My husband is building some kind of large boat in our backyard that has a striking resemblance to Noah's Ark.   At one point in time, it was someone's party barge, but now it has been disassembled, lengthened and a large steel frame has been built on top.   This maiden ship already has a name on her side, "Near to Nothing."  Oddly appropriate, I must say.  I know there is some mathematical formula for buoyancy and I'm not sure that the weight of the steel won't top this thing over and send us all straight into the lake.  It is one thing to have a hobby and work on a project.  It is another to be in the backyard with steel frames, pontoons, a welding torch and pairs of animals watching on in great interest... or possibly fear.  I'm unclear of exactly what the look is that the animals have, but I realize I have a similar expression on my face as I stare at this floating box.  I believe it's the look of uncertainty.  I had the same look when he arrived home with a horse for our daughter.  Note, we have no pasture - just a large backyard.  Something deep inside me said "This is never going to work." I donned that look once again when he tried to teach an injured red-tail hawk how to fly.   After weeks of nursing this bird back to health, he tossed the bird into the air in hopes that it would spread its mighty wings and take flight.  It did a kind of spiraling helicopter plunge straight to the ground.   Deciding that height was the missing factor from this equation for success, he and the bird took to a branch in a tall tree in our front yard.  The animals and I watched on with great interest wondering which one would spring forth from the limb.   After a very long wait, the bird was tossed into the air, flapped its wings and made another spirally descent to the ground.  This went on for weeks until one day, as my husband sat on the limb for the last time, he tossed the bird into the air and, like magic, it took flight.  Our looks of uncertainty changed to expressions of amazement.  To this day, a large winged bird flies low by the house in the afternoons.  We believe it to be our feathered friend swooping by to say thank you.   I'm not sure, but if it is an ark that we are building, I'm certain there will be a place for the hawk, the horse, and the many other critters that have found safe haven at our home over the years.   I have learned to embrace my husband's projects even when they defy the odds.   I may look on with uncertainty, but I never doubt that he will be successful in the end.  If ever one needed to be rescued from a flood, a broken wing, or from someone else's reigns, it is this man that they would turn to.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Luck of the One Legged Cricket

This morning’s activities included hunting for a one legged cricket that has moved in under my couch.  I understand it is supposed to be good luck to find a cricket in your home.  I’m not sure if that is a real belief or one I made up for my kids.  I’m bad about making up traditions and beliefs that will ensure my kid’s happiness and probably land them in therapy one day.  (unless they  have a one legged cricket in their house)  My kids also believe it is good luck to be the one to get the last red Popsicle or wake up and all the numbers on the clock are the same.  At 11:11, your greatest wish can come true.  As I type this, I realize the damage I may be causing my children.    Can you imagine the luck if you woke up with red stained lips, glanced over at the clock and found a one legged cricket sitting on top of it at 11:11 p.m.?    I don’t know that we could stand so much good luck!  But... back to the cricket hunt….  When the last nerve in my brain had endured eight hours of the cricket’s singing, it was time to find this critter.  We saw him jump by on his one powerful leg and take cover under the couch.  The goal was not to kill him, but to scoop him up and place him outside in a bush where he could sing all day.  The next scene was highly entertaining to anyone not directly involved in the hunt.  I’m on hands and knees chasing this thing around the floor.  My kids are armed with fly swatters and baseball bats, like we are taking on a tiger.  My daughter is screaming, “Don’t kill it Mom” as she swings the bat precariously close to my head.   I snatch the bat out of her hands about the same time the cricket jumps in my blouse.  (How can he do that with one leg!) The rest is a blur…. Flying swatters, girly screams, me doing some ancient ceremonial cricket dance to remove him from my blouse and the sudden disappearance of both the critter and the luck that came with him.  I’m certain he is probably somewhere in my pocket or waistband sitting quietly as post traumatic stress disorder sets in.  He’ll show up again – probably as I’m standing in front of a group of co-workers later this morning – jumping from my blouse right into my boss’s coffee.  Then again, he may be hiding quietly waiting to terrorize us again tonight as we try to sleep.  This carrier of luck has been singing his high pitched cricket songs in the middle of the night keeping us all awake for weeks.    Of course, I can’t place all the blame on the one legged cricket.  It’s a wonder we get any sleep from all the voices in my house at night.  (note – I did not say the voices in my head)  My daughter has a pink furry Barbie phone that rings randomly.  It is not uncommon at two in the morning to hear the phone ring and hear Barbie’s voice echoing down the hall asking if we want to have a party.    And… Mr. Potato Head is buried somewhere in the playroom with battery acid, I’m certain, oozing into his head.   He will randomly cry out “Pick a hat…Pick a… hattttt…...”    The most grounded people and toys can go mad living here.  (But what fun we have!)  Saturday night we had tornadoes in the area and while the weather alert radio was telling us to take cover immediately, we were in our beds under the wrong assumption that the toys were talking again.   Thank God for the luck of that one legged cricket or we might have been blown away! 

Monday, May 31, 2010

Confusion in the Shower

Shampoo, Rinse, Repeat -   I realized this morning that the instructions on the back of a bottle of shampoo were not put there by greedy marketing staff, but were written by some working mother who understands how one can stand naked in the shower wondering if they have already shampooed or not.  Our minds race with the needs and wants of our family members and while lathering gently, we are focused on which store might sell a tiny motor needed to build a model of a roller coaster for our son’s science project.  We are absorbed in thought by the new blue vein that has suddenly showed up around our ankle and wonder if it will go away or if it is just another Mom Tat.  Suddenly we stand there with water cascading down us, unsure if we just shampooed or not.  Thankfully - help is there.  On the back of the bottle, we are clearly exonerated from our own preoccupations and inability to remember if we have lathered up yet and are provided with instructions to do it again.  Lather up girl - it’s okay!   Of course, as with all vicious cycles, there should be instructions about when to stop.   Last week, I used an entire bottle of Pantene shampoo and washed my hair six times in one shower.    While I give props to the woman who knew to get this message on every shampoo bottle in the world, perhaps she could have taken it just a bit further for clarification.  I believe it should read....  “Shampoo, Rinse, Repeat, Check leg for signs of aging, Shampoo Again, Toss in some Cream Rinse, Look to see if belly is flatter than yesterday, Make shampoo bubble horns jet from your head because nobody can see you and you do have that dark side hidden away, Shampoo again because it’s keeping you from the piles of laundry that await you, Repeat until the water runs cold or you hear one of your kids screaming that they have just super-glued their hair to the counter.”  When that cycle is complete, you can rest assured that your hair is clean, straightened, and tangle free.  As the bottle promises, you will be ready to take on the world.  

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Don't Forget to Pack the Axe Handle

    The kids are out of school now and we are preparing for our Summer Vacation Road trip.  It will be like a scene out of a Chevy Chase movie.  Even though there are only four of us,  when we travel, we take two vehicles.  My husband follows me in his truck happy as a lark for the peace of sailing down the road behind me without a worry in the world.  I can look behind me and see half of our belongings piled high in the back of his truck...   bikes, rafts, kites, coolers, all things beachy.   We’ve traveled together, but he likes to tease the kids, the kids pick on each other, chaos begins and before you know it, someone’s hair is rolled up in the window, tears are flowing  and I have slipped into insanity.  It is cheaper than going to a therapist, so we gladly pay for the extra gas and wear and tear on the car because “it keeps mom sane.”  That last phrase is usually whispered in hushed tones to our neighbors when they ask the kids why... “Why do you take two cars?”   

    The kids spend days preparing the car for their own entertainment needs. My daughter’s side will be filled with pink furry pillows, cushy blankets and Disney DVDs.  She’ll have a box of Sharpie permanent markers that will end up on the leather seats before the trip is over along with a book of horse pictures, a plastic axe handle, and an assortment of left over Halloween candy that I’m certain I threw out months earlier.   The axe handle is an odd  item to pack.  It’s left over from one of those toddler plastic tool kits, but it has traveled with us for years.  We crossed Europe with juices boxes, a beanie baby platypus, and the axe handle.  If it brings her comfort, who am I to ask?   You never know when a gal might need to whip out an axe handle.    

    My son’s side of the car will be a grid of wires and cables connecting iPhones to speakers to mini-micro processors, tiny cameras and anything with an apple on it.  He will have a bottle of Pellegrino Water, a retractable plastic coat rack that can reach his sister's head from across the car,  a secret stash of pretzels and be able to view the traffic lights at all major cities on the Eastern seaboard as we sail across the Mississippi delta.  The kids will text each other from one seat away.....”I’m bored”...”K”  “A 4 door sedan just ran a red light in Connecticut”... “Kewl”.     

    Often, my mother will travel with us and this is assurance that not only will we eat well upon arrival to the beach, if we are hungry on the way there we need simply to reach over and dive into a tin of cookies, baked ham or a pan of lasagna that are all traveling on her lap.  You just can't get those things through airport security anymore.  So off we go in our two cars and rolling deli.   

    I believe when you are traveling  it is important to torture your kids with the music of your generation and Time Life Classic 70’s CDs were made for just such purpose.   Oddly, my kids now know every word to “Knock Three Times” and every Dr. Hook song ever written.  We actually fight over which vehicle gets the 70’s CD.  When we stop for gas, my husband will steal the CD from my car and then pass us on the highway making gestures that the kids know mean “Knock Three Times.”  I believe we were  in Pascagoula, Mississippi last as the 70’s tunes blared from my husband’s truck and my daughter shook a plastic axe handle at him through the rear view window.  But is was all okay, because people forget that 30 days after you get your first CD, along comes Time Life Classic 80’s and “Relax, Don’t Do It” is just the song for cruising down the highway drawing permanent pictures of horses, mapping out control of the East Coast traffic cycles, and dreaming of how relaxing it will be once we get to the beach.

Friday, May 28, 2010

If I Ran the Circus

As a child, I loved the Dr. Seuss book “If I Ran the Circus.”  Little did I know it was a glimpse into my own future.  As an adult, I have found that I do run the circus.  Too bad, it doesn’t come with the really cool glittery outfits and feathery headdress.  That could be such fun.  I realized as I stood outside this morning fishing a kitten out of the dryer vent that Mr. McGurkis (the circus owner) and I have a lot in common.   My wolf-wanna-be dog trots by with a hot pink high heel flip flop in its mouth.   Who would purchase such, I thought.  I never know what treasure my dog is going to bring home each morning.  Last week she brought home a spine.  That's not something you find just anywhere.    Randi Hope, my confused white tail deer who imprinted on my husband and believes she is a retiree who should fish all day, wanders up quietly and has breakfast on the aglets of my shoes while I am elbow deep into the dryer vent.    I can hear the echo of my daughter crying inside the house through the dryer vent because she has managed to roll her Priscilla Presley hair up into a round brush and it won’t come out.  Our house alarm is going off for some unknown reason and I’m still arm deep in the vent holding onto the tail of a traumatized kitten.  My son is drumming on any surface that will make a hollow noise and the sounds begin to build to the point that  I could feel the blood vessels in my head exploding.   I was diagnosed with tinnitus a year ago which leaves me with a constant high pitched ringing in my ear 24/7.  I firmly believe it is from spending too much time with my head in dryer vents, pianos, and other loud hollow places fishing out family pets. My daughter is now standing outside with a brush attached to her head sobbing.  I would like to point out that my husband is off somewhere drifting across calm blue waters in his bass boat, soaking in the early morning sun, blissfully unaware of the chaos that is his household.  On second thought, he is probably acutely aware and that is why he is there and I am here.   I think I will put the circus on auto-pilot and buy my own boat and learn all that jib and yar talk.   Next time someone has hot-glued their hair to the counter or an animal is running loose with the neighbor’s lingerie hanging from its jowls, I will be out on the pond sailing in blissful circles watching the greatest show on Earth .... A show I love and wouldn't miss a minute of!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Elusive Sleep and Daylight Challenged Roosters

Summertime allergy season is upon us and I’m certain it is the pollen in the air and not the small family of cats living under my bed that is causing my relentless sneezing and watery eyes.  Antihistamines knock me out for days and leave me walking around in a zombie like state.  My mother, who is 72  years old and has the energy of a young woman, has no time for slow moving people when there are chores to be done.  As I sat at my counter in the same nightshirt I had been wearing for two days, waiting for the weather channel to actually give me the weather and not another blasted storm story, I was enjoying a leisurely breakfast of sinus meds and Frosted Flakes.  My mother was picking up my kitchen and whisked my spoon right out of my mouth as I tried to eat breakfast.  She said it was time to wash the dishes and I was moving too slow.   Sensing my family's frustration with my medicated state,   I changed to non-drowsy medication and that has left me without sleep for days.   It has also left me disoriented at times and when I do doze off for a moment or two, I am thrown awake with that sudden panic of “Whose house am I in?!?”   I crave sleep, but it eludes me.  I suppose it doesn’t help that we have a cat who insists on sleeping on top of my head and a daylight challenged rooster who lives in our back yard that announces the break of day all night long.  Last night I slept on the couch because I was tossing and turning so.  About 4:00 a.m. my daughter woke to find I wasn't in my bed and she came into the living room like a crazed, wild child.  I wake to see this little person standing over me, hands on hips, brunette hair sticking out in all directions, questioning me with great disgust as to why I wasn't in my bed and where did I go.   After the initial shock of getting ripped up by a ten year old at 4 a.m. and remembering who was in charge, I told her to return to her bed and come back when she was sane.  The attitude was instantly checked, the little girl voice returned, and she softly crawled under the covers with me for the rest of the night.  She's going to be a great wife someday! 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Appliance Envy

Wonders never cease.  I took my kids with me to buy a new washing machine yesterday.  Explain to me how children who can't pick their clothes up off the floor suddenly know the difference in a front loader and the old standard $400 “Drop your clothes in the tub” washer.  Their eyes twinkled as they looked at the colored models of top of the line, high efficiency washers and dryers. They began discussing cubic feet, spin speeds and low suds options like they woke up this morning and all of this was suddenly important to them. They discussed which friend's parents had machines with steam options, L.E.D. lighting, and something called Fan Fresh.  It was apparent that my children were suffering from appliance envy.   I walked them over to a $300, top loading, plain Jane washer just to see their reaction.  They began to wring their hands and beads of sweat formed at their temples like little appliance addicts.  I reminded them that a good river stone and flowing water can produce the same results.  They were insulted, shocked even, that I would suggest such.  I’m certain it is more of a “Keeping  up with the Jones” phenomenon rather than a sudden interest in clean laundry and energy conservation.  They’re fooling no-one.    I picked out an average Extra Large Capacity washer and as I could have predicted, it wasn't available for two weeks.  Want to guess which ones could be picked up that day?  Of course, only the ones that resemble the space shuttle and have a similar price tag.  So tonight, I will stand in front of my new appliances and hopefully select buttons that will lead to clean clothes and not launch inter-galactic rockets from my home.  My kids should be so pleased. 

Early Retirement and the Great Resignation

        At the age of 57, I stared at my 35 year career, whispered a polite thank you to the heavens and hit the send button on my retiremen...