Friday, December 30, 2011

Snickerdoodles and Headless Ducks


   Christmas cookies have a special meaning for my family. My mother begins preparations for the holiday season by stocking up on enough baking goods to make about 4000 cookies. She whips up batches of Snickerdoodles, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Mexican Wedding Cakes (note - As I type this, I realize that might be a politically incorrect term), and many more.  Great care goes into making sure each cookie is perfectly shaped, packaged and safely delivered to loves ones around town. We laugh that the larger the cookie tin, the better the friendship.    

   I'm not actually part of this cookie making machine because of lack of time to participate, but I do try to keep up the family tradition of making the Sour Cream Cut Out Cookies.  This is a recipe handed down from my great grandmother, Grammie. She gave her cookie cutters to my grandmother, Nana, who, in turn, gave them to my mom.  I have enjoyed forty-seven Christmases, all with cut out reindeer and tiny angels.  My favorite is a 1940's looking Donald Duck in a sailor cap.  His neck always breaks during baking and we end up with a bunch of headless ducks.   All the cut out cookies are always lightly sprinkled with just the right amount of red and green sugar crystals.  They are a sight to behold and a treasure to eat. 

   This year, the cookie cutters were handed down to me and instantly placed in my twelve year old daughter's hands.  She loves to bake and began the process of preparing the family treasure.   I let her go with little guidance as I was literally tied up trying to wrap Christmas gifts, pay bills, sort laundry, and prepare dinner.  It seems she discovered some Easter colored pastel sugars in the cabinet and thought they might be good to use. I assumed she was stamping out red and green reindeer and a few headless ducks and I took comfort knowing the family tradition would continue on.  

  After two trays of cookies, I suppose she lost interest and wandered off.  My mother came in about that time and I found her standing over the counter in a state of shock staring down at a pan full of purple bells, one legged horses, and a glob of unshaped dough all baked to perfection.  I saw her begin to tremble as she tried to grasp what had happened.   I knew her blood pressure was rising and her pace maker was probably jumping into override as she scanned the kitchen hoping to find the sour dough cookies that had been carefully prepared in the same fashion for over eighty years.   I quickly moved her to a chair, slapped some dough on the counter, rolled it out quickly and pressed out twenty perfectly shaped bells and angels and sprinkled them with just the right amount of red and green sugar.  I prayed as I placed them in the oven that I wouldn't discover a pan of burnt Christmas cookies with Halloween colors and tiny bat and pumpkin sprinkles.  That would probably send her straight into cardiac arrhythmia.   I continued with my cut outs and crafted pans of reindeer, Christmas trees and headless ducks.  Before too long, we had a container full of cut out cookies that would make Grammie proud and my mother's heart beat return to normal.   

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Aren't I A Fun Driver

    Of all the Christmas presents under our tree, this one was the most difficult to wrap.   While Allie was thrilled with her new Christmas ride, I don't think anyone expected her dog Jodi to be quite as excited as she was.   All day long we could hear a continuous whirrrr outside the window as Allie and Jodi traveled up and down the street.  Jodi was the envy of every dog. 

    This Barbie style golf cart comes with street glow lighting, cell phone holder and a series of mirrors, none of which actually face the road or oncoming obstacles, but are strategically positioned so that Allie can view herself as she flies down the road.   She took me for a ride around the neighborhood and we flew over speed bumps and rounded corners while Jodi maintained perfect balance and I struggled to hang on.  We flew down a side street and crashed though rain puddles with Allie and Jodi smiling the whole time. I was frozen from the damp cold air and the occasional string of dog slobber that would fly in my face and I secretly hoped we were headed back to our house.  Just as we turned towards the warmth of home, Allie veered down a side street leading away from our house, flew through another puddle and exclaimed with great pride and a giant smile, "Aren't I a fun driver!" 

   I instantly pictured her at sixteen, flying through town in a convertible, with a car full of friends, all having a great time because of Allie's "fun" driving skills.  Suddenly, I wished the golf cart ride would never end and we could just stay stuck at this age for a while longer.  I realize that one day Jodi will be replaced with a girl Allie's age and the golf cart will be a thing of the past.  I can only pray that Allie is a safe driver and not a fun one.  I should probably start saving for a steel framed tank with no mirrors, a hands free telephone system and special seat in the back for Jodi.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

When You Call Me Big Papa

My son has the new iPhone 4s that comes with a personal assistant named Siri.  I was unaware that Siri learns about the phone owner and uses that information at later times.  When issuing commands or requests to this new apple product, Siri will respond by calling you by name.  While driving through the city tonight, I heard my son, who was sitting in the passenger seat, inform Siri that he liked it when she called him Big Papa.  I instantly found this both odd and creepy, but even more peculiar was Siri's response...."Okay Master Brodnax, from now on I will refer to you as Big Papa."  I wondered just how bizarre this could get and then decided it was best to let sleeping dogs lie. I had not noticed that my son was going by the name Master Brodnax and had also failed to recognize that somewhere along the line he picked up the phrase Big Papa.   Little did I know this was an internet fad and people around the globe were asking Siri to call them Big Papa.  Big Papa conjures up all kinds of images, good and bad.  It also brings into play images of women lovingly referring to their "man" as Big Papa.  I can't say I have ever used that term and I'm not sure it could fall from my lips without a giggle. Siri says it with no giggle or stumble and I wonder what kind of gal refers to a man as Big Papa with true sincerity, as Siri does.  I picture the Apple personal assistant as a woman with good shoes, a sharp wit, and cutting edge.  Could this be the kind of woman who has a "Big Papa" in her life?   I realize she isn't real and perhaps I should find the lesson in this that some things should not be over-analyzed.   So what if my seventeen year old son finds humor in having an electronic personal assistant who uses terms of endearment when speaking to him.  I suppose the true concern should be when he brings home a date who refers to him as Big Papa. Now that would be disturbing.  Perhaps I should get the iPhone 4S, change it to the male voice and ask it to call me Sweet Mama.  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chips, Salsa and An Ice-Pack

     I make it a practice to try to return all of my children's friends home safely to their mothers without a trip to the Emergency Room or an intrarcranial hematoma.    This particular day, my daughter brought along a new friend whose mother trusted me with her daughter's safety. We stopped in Chili's for lunch and I walked into the restroom at the exact moment that my two girls discovered that one should not use their head as a door stop and that the other had the power of a freight train.   The Red Cross First Aid steps ran through my head (Check, Call Care) as this baseball size knot began growing on this poor child's head and I realized that these simple steps were only good when giving first aid to a mannequin named Red Cross Annie in a classroom setting.    I checked her head, called for the waitress to hold the appetizers and just bring an ice pack and care was evident as Abby posed for the kids to snap photos to quickly upload to Facebook.  I knew I had to call her mother as they were photo-shopping a large horn coming from her head and preparing to send it out to 462 friends of friends.   This is not the photo you want her mother to run across with 17 "likes"next to it and no knowledge of what has happened.   The fourth step in the Red Cross First Aid plan should be to secure everyone's cell phones and control all outgoing messages and photos until you have properly notified the child's mother. After that, the kids are free to upload messages, photos and videos.  You know it's bad when the table next to you is trying to take a picture, too and they don't even know you.

     My heart sank as I knew I would be unable to return this child unharmed.  According to Abby's mother, some guy on yahoo answers and a quickly googled up version of the American Medical Pediatric Guidelines, she should be okay since there were no signs of  nausea, blurred vision, headache, or exposed skull.   But let's face it... a giant knot is just a horrible thing to return a kid with.   We finished our chips and salsa, refilled our ice-pack and prepared to leave as the girls announced that they needed to go to the restroom.   I begged them to open the door with their hands and not their heads this time. Last thing we needed was a matching knot on the other side.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Making of Nerds and Other School Projects

    It is normally close to bedtime when we discover that our kids have forgotten to make that scaled model of DNA or an interactive mobile of the planets aligning in preparation for some magnetic shift certain to change the world as we know it.  Because of this, I keep a supply of poster board, hot glue and assorted candy that I can quickly craft into chromosomes, solar systems and  working models of pulley and lever systems should I need to do so in a moment’s notice.    I also keep an assortment of costumes on hand for Book Parade day so we can dress as just about any Newberry Award winning character should we need to.   
    It was an exceptionally long day, recently, when my daughter informed me that tomorrow was “Nerd Day” at school and we would need a complete Nerd wardrobe.  Since this is the child with 42 pairs of shoes and a closet full of designer jeans, this was going to be a more difficult project.   Thanks to a 24 hour Wal-Mart and items from my Book parade collection, she transformed herself into an adorable “nerdy” girl.   Something inside of me tugged at me, though, as I wondered if this was really an appropriate activity.  It’s probably not so fun for the kids that already appear a bit nerdy and I was worried for them.   We had stepped upon the fine line between having fun and being rude.  I finally decided my over-analysis was a useless effort and just let my kid go with the school activity. The next day was sports day and that was followed by school color day.  Both of these were easy to pull off.    I kept my glue gun handy should I need to hot glue some candy ribbons into smooth endoplasmic reticulum, but it looked like Jr. High might be easier than elementary school and my crafting days may be numbered.  

    When my son reached Jr. High, he and his friend had to build a model of a roller coaster.  I was so excited as I mapped out plans for piping and tubing and tiny mechanical lifts until my son informed me he was doing this on his own.  My bubble burst as I realized I had to let go of control.  I handed him my glue gun, which has never been the same since, and sent him on his way.   I asked for project review at key milestones such as 60 and 90% completion and my son gave me that look that said, “let go.”    I saw him take his father’s drill to school and wondered how they were going to build this without a safety briefing and a proper assortment of drill bits.  Alas… they finished their project and I would get to see it on Project night.  

    When I arrived, there were roller coasters in the shapes of snakes and little coaster cars shot out of the eyes with such mechanical precision it made your head spin.  Another coaster dived under water amongst a complete ecosystem of fish and plants.  They failed to incorporate in oxygen, so the fish were all dead, but the idea was grand.  My son and his friend’s roller coaster did not have the flare of the others so they tacked on a home-made sign that said Vegas and duct taped his sister’s Barbie to a support pole.  She donned a tiny grey duct tape miniskirt and tube top and her feet and hands were bound to the pole.  I stood there in shock as the other mothers walked by quietly shaking their heads in disapproval.   Next to us, was a small crowd awed by the coaster built by a child whose parent was obviously a mechanical engineer.  I glanced over to see Barbie hanging from a strut and knew that one day soon, I would be asked again to help with school projects.  I can build coasters, nerds, life forms and more.   It is good to know you are needed! 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Spinning Reindeer and Mountainous Treks

    It was 1975 and as I walked out of elementary school for the last time, my grandparents were waiting for me in the parking lot in a Midnight Blue Lincoln Continental with a full size Airstream trailer hitched to the back.  It was summer and we were off to see America.  My cousin Ramonna, who is several years younger than I am, sat in the oversized back seat with me, as our feet stuck straight out in front of us and we headed West.   The car smelled of new leather, Old Spice and expensive perfume.    I was young enough that many of the memories have since faded, but I can still clearly see the wild storms in Kansas and the never ending highway that carried us to Colorado.

    We landed at Garden of the Gods Campground in mid June only to be met by an unseasonable snowfall.  We jumped in the big car, with trailer still attached, and headed to K-Mart where my grandparents bought us all winter clothes to replace the suitcase full of summer wear we had packed.  Hoping now that it was actually fashionable in the 70s, I remember leaving the store in a lime green pair of bell bottom pants with a giant cat embroidered on the leg.  The finishing touch was the white pom pom on the tail that gave it a 3-D effect.  Gosh, I loved those pants!     

    The next morning my grandparents would take us to “The North Pole,” an amusement park at the base of Pike's Peak.  It was a magical place with summer snow all around.  This trip would not be complete, however, without a journey to the top of the mountain.   Forty years later, I have to recommend that one do this without a 30 foot trailer dragging behind you.   At the age of 11, I had no clue to the danger we were in or the small heart attack that my grandfather certainly must have been facing as we climbed higher and higher on narrow roads with steep drops off the side and no place to turn around.   These were the days before break stations, runaway vehicle ramps and nitroglycerin in the glove box.   I only remember the amusement park and the view from the top and both were absolutely wonderful.

    Years later, I took my own family to Colorado and we ventured down to the Springs to see “The North Pole.”   My daughter was one year old and looked like a tiny Babushka doll in her headscarf intentionally donned to protect her ears from a late summer wind.   My son was five and wanted to ride some spinning reindeer sleigh ride.  I had forgotten about the Disney Tea Cups of Death not intended for any child with motion sickness and should have remembered to stay away from such rides.  The first time the reindeer passed us in its large circular course, I noticed my son’s color had faded.  The second time he flew by, he was looking a bit green.  On the third rotation, his head was down and I was leaping over reindeer to signal the operator to let the boy off the ride.  He had turned green and was in the full throws of motion sickness.

    We headed to the car and decided a slow ride to the top of Pike’s Peak was what we needed to relax.  I had no idea how slow that ride would actually be as we stopped every few miles for me to hold a sick child on the side of the road and curse those spinning reindeer.  As we got closer to the top I saw the dangerous two lane gravel strips of road with steep drops hundreds of feet below that we had to travel.  I thought back to the Lincoln and the Airstream trailer and wondered how worse this road had to have been forty years earlier.   It was bad enough now and I felt the energy of my grandfather’s courage that still remained on the mountain.  We continued our periodic stops on the side of the road and I wished that the car smelled like new leather, Old Spice and perfume, but it did not.  It was more of a sweaty child, cotton candy, carbonated soda and dust smell that filled our car.

    We eventually made it to the top and as we pulled into the parking lot a large dark cloud floated overhead and we found ourselves in a miniautre snowstorm.  We stood there in our shorts as the snow pounded down on us.   I had to smile as I found myself standing where I had once stood before and secretly wished that I now had that pair of lime green cat pants purchased for events such as this one.   I forced everyone from the car so we could take a picture. My son sported a post traumatic sweaty pre-hypothermia look.  The Babushka baby gave me that look of total discomfort and disgust and my husband stood in the background desperately trying to light a cigarette in the storm force winds.   I wished that my grandfather was there with his silver trailer and we could have climbed inside to take shelter from the storm.  I imagine he was one of the few who has actually pulled a small house to the top of Pike’s Peak and I felt honored to be a part of that.  Perhaps forty years from now my children will take this same path in their eco-friendly suburban utility vehicle and remember the flying reindeer and unseasonable snow storm.  My daughter won’t know why, but she’ll remember the warmth of a scarf on her head and the smell of cotton candy.  My son will breath in the cool mountain air and remember down deep somewhere how wonderful the air felt as we stood on the side of the road catching our breath and stilling the world for just a moment in time.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Apocalyptic Skies of Doom or Just Silly Rain Clouds

The year 2012 quickly approaches and with it comes more and more television shows about the proverbial end of the world.   Forced to the couch, while fighting a round of strep throat, I watched my share of documentaries and have gained new skills to help plan for this event. With lessons learned from "Extreme Couponing" I know how I can easily get eleven years worth of fabric softener, fourteen dozen bottles of body wash and 212 containers of Tic Tacs for around $20.   These items would certainly be handy when the last of us our parading around in total chaos and destruction. "Man vs Wild" has taught me that it is important to stay dry and how to kill a wild antelope should one ever come running through my neighborhood during these times of trouble ahead.  I also understand that underground shelter may become a hot commodity.  They are very expensive and I'm not sure I really like the idea of being crowded underground with 8 - 12 other people waiting to see who the next person is that must venture outside to check the antelope trap.

I will admit, that the idea of a safe room for tornadic weather is a bit more appealing to me.   I live in the middle of tornado alley and they usually follow a path just a few miles north and south of my home.  We have been lucky so far. This past Spring, the local live view radar showed a tornado headed straight for my house.  I put the kids in the bathroom closet and tossed the laundry into the hall.  Worried that paramedics may find us,  I had to take the laundry to the laundry room so it wouldn't be all over the hallway floor. With sirens blaring I began a load of whites with extra fabric softener from my end of days stock-pile.    I walked outside to see what demise was headed our way and discovered that the sky looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.   I popped a Tic-Tac, pulled the kids from the bathroom and made them come look at the popcorn clouds above. In 47 years, I had never seen such an apocalyptic sky.  It would not have been surprising to see a dragon suddenly poke it's head through these bulbous clouds or have it start raining two-headed sneeches or puff-a-lumps.  All things were possible.    

It seems that weather patterns are getting more and more extreme and rare weather events aren't so rare anymore.  Perhaps this is all leading to one grand finale.   I understand that there is a company selling safe havens for $50,000.  They are loaded with all things needed to survive the end.  I would so love to see that packing list.  They are in an undisclosed location and you won't be told where they are until days before the end.  This begs several questions.... the first being, "Really?!?"    So someone is going to get advance notice of the end???   What happens if you pay your $50K and receive notice that the end is hours away and your  low rise, gulf front safe haven is located in Antarctica?  I imagine days before the end of life as we know it, total chaos will break out and booking a seat on Southwest Airlines won't be as easy as it once was.  How many suitcases you can travel with is no longer your biggest problem.   Another factor to consider is that there are no antelopes in Antarctica and once the cans of potted meat and vegetables are gone, it's penguin and seal for dinner.  I'm certain this would be a high fat diet and not good for those of us watching our cholesterol.    I think a better safe haven, would be one where you are arm in arm with your loved ones, listening to some old 70's ballads, waiting for that warm light of rapture to carry you home.    The inventory list for this safe haven contains no Tic Tacs, potted meat or penguin grills.  Faith and family is all you really need there.  Okay.. and a Van Morrison CD.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

No Campaign is Complete Without Glitter

My daughter proudly announced that she was running for President of the Student Council.    I was so proud.  With no second thought or worry, she told me how she would have to speak in front of the entire student body.  She seemed oddly comfortable with this.  She had already lined up marker wielding campaign staff who were gluing and glittering at mock speed to deliver campaign posters to the school for her support.   Her campaign slogan was fitting of a Southern beauty queen and was obviously born out of years of experience in front of a microphone stating her contestant number and decree that she was ..."your Junior Miss, 2007" or 8, 9, 10, or 11.    The slogan was pure political brilliance..... "Vote for me (insert perfect photo-shopped head shot)  Luv ya!"   Nothing more needed to be said.  A beautiful girl professing her love for anyone willing to support her dream of being President.   She mapped out what she would wear to deliver her speech, which side of her head that she should part her hair on, and the exact color and type of mascara that would make her eyes pop from the stage.

As she set up a marketing department in the kitchen, my son converted the media room into campaign headquarters.  Text messages were flying back and forth from cute boys playing all sides of the campaign wanting to know insider secrets about the number of posters completed so they could tell the competition - the other pretty girls.  It wasn't good enough to just send text messages and tweets to their friends.  A bedspread was tacked to my wall and an instant television studio was set up to stream campaign updates to all 7th grade students.  It seemed my child suddenly had a web page with video of her sporting a very cute hair-do and doe eyes that begged anyone who clicked there to vote for her.

       Click on the following link for sheer political brilliance:  Allie's Awesome Campaign Video 

I suggested that we discuss policies that needed to be reviewed and things that would make the school a better place.  She announced that kids should have ice cream at lunch and I explained about USDA and rules that can't be changed, even by the masses.  We talked about cell phone usage and school policies on such.   We discussed teacher needs and student needs and looked at ways to make things better for all. She showed me another cute way to wear her hair.  I again, steered her towards the issues that affect Jr. High students and was proud that my daughter wanted to take the lead for change.  It was after all planning was complete and I knew that my child had a firm grasp on her campaign strategies that she asked me the very concerning question....... "What's Student Council?"

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Angiogram or Wine Flight

    One hot summer day, when the temperature rose to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, my retired husband grew tired of watching the "End of Days" marathon and "Alien Invasion" shows on the Discovery Channel and decided it was the right time to cut down a few trees on our property.  I was unclear if he was preparing for the Apocalypse or just getting an early start on stacking firewood for the winter.   I felt that his motivation was mixed somewhere between the two.   "Shark Week"  and "Nostradamus Predictions" had just ended the week prior and that left me with a swimming pool that was especially crystal clear and predator free.   I don't question what drives this man and have learned to simply look for the benefits in it.   The "End of Days" program always leaves my pantry stocked with food for at least ninety days.  Why would I complain? Unfortunately,  this summer has brought record heating temperatures (surely predicted thousands of years ago) and this was no time to work outside in the heat.  My husband came in dripping of sweat and was red as a beet.  I made the comment that he should cool off because he looked like he was about to explode.  Seems I may have been onto something as we were completely unaware of the small stroke occurring in his eye.   There was no pain, just a sudden blurry spot in his vision.   

    After consulting with his friends, none of which are eye doctors, and allowing me to do some home surgery in his eye, he landed at an eye specialist.  As the elevator doors opened into this office of soft lighting and many patients lined in a row,  I knew we had entered a whole new world as foreign to us as a fluorescein angiogram.  You have to realize that my husband believes that most all illnesses can be treated with aspirin and sunshine and has not been to the doctor in many years.   He immediately clashed with the intake nurse who asked, one too many times, which eye was having problems.   As he stared at the giant E on the wall and was unable to see it, it was obvious which eye had a problem.  The situation spiraled downward and I'm certain his chart was flagged with a note, "Proceed with Caution" or "Stick a Needle In His Eye!"   We waited in the "dilation room" which reminded me of the green room at the Limelight, a popular dance club and bar of the 80's.   It was soothing and dimly lit.  I wondered if a hostess would appear in a green mini-skirt asking if I needed another Vodka Collins because I was too young in the 80's to appreciate the difference in well and call drinks.   A nurse came around the corner and greeted a quiet, elderly woman sitting in the back of the room with a salutation I never want to hear... "Hello there.  Are you ready to get your eye lasered?" making it sound like a fun party game.   My reply would have been a very clear, "No."    Instead, the woman rose from her seat and began the long walk down the darkened corridor.  I looked again for the hostess with vodka.    

    Before long, we had relocated to another tiny, dark room.  The doctor came in and was all business.  After a thorough evaluation, he left the room and returned with this statement:  "You've had a stroke in your eye.  The damage is irreversible.  We're going to shoot some dye in there and take some pictures." This was followed with a regurgitated set of statistics about how many people don't suffer a severe allergy from this or die.   It was less than comforting and I wished we were back in the green room, possibly even the one in the 80's, wearing our silver threaded disco clothes.   I knew the way my husband's deductive reasoning process worked and if the damage could not be repaired, it made no sense to continue to assess the problem.  He opted out of the eye angiogram and selected a red wine flight at a nearby cafe.  After three glasses of wine, his skin was flushed with new blood flow and a warm goodness coursing through his veins.  This was his prevention plan for future vascular events.   I have to agree that a nice Cabernet Sauvignon was much better than a serving of fluorescein dye.   

    We'll take a few days to digest all of this new information and map out a proper plan of action that might actually be covered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield.  Until then, we'll keep the wine flowing and hope the ocular veins are doing the same.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Everyone Knows Top Lockers Are The Best

    It should have been a pretty good sign to me that something was seriously wrong with my priorities as my daughter and I rolled up into the school parking lot on a Saturday in August to carpet and wallpaper her locker.  I was comforted to know I wasn't the only mom there rigging up lighting and shelving systems.  I knew we had crossed a line somewhere, but the smiles on our daughter's faces made it all worthwhile.   There is some kind of social status associated with having a top locker and my 4' 5" child had managed to win the luck of the draw.  It was difficult installing the tiny motion sensor lamp at the top of the locker and a set of scaffolding would have come in quite handy, but I knew that might have labeled me as "the mom who went too far."  I settled for standing on top of a stack of copy paper while we measured, papered, and completed our interior decorating.  I'm not sure that my first apartment looked quite as good!   Half way into the project we realized that there was simply no room for books and school supplies and wondered if we could rent the locker next to us.   Something told me that the answer to that question would be a clear "no."   My daughter decided she could just carry her books from class to class, thus defeating the entire reason for having a locker, but.... who could mess up a small studio locker such as this!
    I have to admit that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and there must be some kind of genetic imbalance that causes us to do these things. When my son was in fourth grade, he was running a small illegal vending operation out of his locker.  I was so proud!  He found a tiny vending machine that happened to fit inside of his locker and he sold candy bars and chocolates for bargain prices.   He, too, opted to tote his books around on his back so that he could collect his profits each day from his tiny snack bar.  It was the motion sensor light that got him in trouble when it came on one dark night as the janitor passed by. Much to his surprise, the janitor used his master key to open the locker only to find that it was not a bomb, but a brilliant small business venture operated by a ten year old boy.  The light and the vending operation were quickly removed and the books were returned to their rightful place.

   We have always had this problem of using lockers for inappropriate purposes, but prime real estate is prime real estate and when you have a top locker, it just can't be wasted on school books and binders. Of course, the problem we have with school supplies is the large amount we have to be stored.  My daughter treats the school supply list like a lost book of the Bible and takes it quite seriously. We are not allowed to deviate from it and must procure every item listed, no matter if it fails to pass the common sense test.  This year, all seven teachers listed the need for two boxes of 48 pencils.  I realize they simply want to make sure students have enough pencils to get through the day, but we were not going to leave the store without 14 boxes of 48 pencils.  We now own 672 pencils.  The same rule applied for each item listed and after I spent $200 on school supplies for one child, it became quite apparent that she would also need a small pack-mule to carry all of these items.  We also have 120 colored pencils, 64 markers, five packs of Sharpies,  7 two inch binders that total a width larger than her locker, gym clothes, sack lunch and more.  I need to rent out an entire bay of lockers to accommodate all of these supplies. I know that after the first few days she'll consolidate everything into one large binder and she'll scrap the six hundred pencils for two cool mechanical pencils that can only be found at some gas station two hours away where her friend got hers.   The true cost of school supplies should be around $30 and does not include self contained lighting systems, enough pencils to supply a small mission school or wall to wall carpet.  If this madness continues, we may find we have to live in that top locker.

Friday, August 5, 2011

It's All About Family

Family roots are important to me and for the past year I have spent $19.99 a month on tracing our lineage back to the year 254 A.D.  It was exciting to find that I am the 23rd great-granddaughter of Dagobert, King of the Franks. Unfortunately I discovered that I am not the granddaughter of the Queen of Franks, but rather the King's mistress that lived down the way. I have my grandfather's eyes, but not his wife's. As I dug deeper, I found that I have roots tying back to the Visigoths that challenged the Roman Empire. It goes without saying that they were not successful. That would be like Fiji declaring war on the United States.  Not a wise strategic move. My 53rd fur wearing, sword swinging, great grandpappy was replaced by a boy king from the same tribe, probably one night over roasted boar at the community table.  "Really Aoric, could you not see that we were outnumbered? Let's get Mikey to rule...   He'll do it."    I guess bloodline wasn't the determining factor for reign, but rather who was smart enough to get in and out of Rome with few casualties and perhaps a couple of souvenirs from the Colosseum.

After I traced back 58 generations, I wanted to see what my heritage looked like on paper and found that you must spend another $129 for the Family Tree Maker software that uploads your data and puts it in nice little charts.   As I printed my pedigree, I discovered two of me coming from different branches of my tree.   Immediate panic set in as I realized there may be a mistake and perhaps I wasn't the daughter of a king.  I checked my notes and found that people must have been lonely around 1200 A.D. as they traded old wives for new ones.  I can only assume the village was small  and there were few women to choose from because my grandmother of many years ago was also my aunt.  If they had only known that this would mess up my Family Tree maker template and create a division in my tree that would take me months to straighten out.   God knew what he was doing when he said not to be adulteress.  It would later require additional html code to plot my lineage.  Selfish lovers!    I was starting to see a pattern of fighting on the wrong side and sleeping in the wrong bed.  I moved back to modern times where multiple spouses weren't common and the branches of my tree weren't uncomfortably close to one another.

While I know it is not a normal reaction, I was deeply saddened when I ran across a newspaper article describing how my great, great grandfather had hung himself in jail after wielding an axe at his family in a drunken bout of rage at the turn of the century.   I had never heard this story before and wondered if  some things so filled with sadness should just remain buried away.   I felt bad for this man whom I know possessed my DNA.   He was a German immigrant with thirteen children who worked in the brickyards of the north.  His final words to the jail keeper, just hours before his death, were spoken in fluent German.... "I can take no more..."     My heart skipped a beat and I felt a loss for a man and his family that I never knew.... a man that is responsible for my being here today.   While generations come and go, happiness and pain are common threads that run deep in all families.

A litmus test of mine that I run regularly with my children is to ask them how they will describe their childhood once they are grown and I am gone.  I want to make sure their story is true and wonderful and involves no swinging axes or battle insertions on the wrong country.  It should be about happiness, good books, silly tea parties with funny hats, competitive sports, family cookouts, bedtime prayers and more.  It is my hope that the branches to come on my family tree grow in the right direction and connect to media uploads of well families and good stories.   Perhaps one day my 33rd great granddaughter will find me and say, "Wow - my grandmother loved life - Check out that cool hat."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sweet Cheeks and Petunias

    Our latest edition, that came to be with us for a very short time, was a tiny bunny who lost his mother.  He was very weak upon arrival to our house and we placed him in a warm and cozy hamster cage.  He wasn't any bigger than a mouse.  My daughter, who keeps a supply of excellent pet names ready for use, promptly, without any second thought, named him Sweet Cheeks.  I prepared her for the possibility that Sweet Cheeks may not make it, but we gave it our best shot.   We lined his cage with grass, gave him goat milk from a bottle (because I'm the only one in the neighborhood who has a goat milk dealer on speed dial) and made him comfy.   As nighttime fell, Sweet Cheeks left this world.  A small funeral is planned for today. This won't be our first and won't be our last of backyard services.  I  should probably start making where all of these past critters have been buried before we dig in the wrong spot one day.   Somewhere out there are a series of cats, dogs, hamsters, goldfish from the fair, squirrels and two pet birds.

    As my daughter cried for a pet she had no more than an afternoon attachment to, I encouraged her to find something else to do.  Unbeknownst to me, my child was a virtual gardener and was planting, caring for and picking the most beautiful flowers I had ever seen.  I watched as she clicked a button and rain fell across her iPad onto tiny seeds that soon sprouted into beautiful flowers.  They swayed as if some mythical iBreeze was flowing through the monitor.  You could hear the crickets singing as dusk fell on her little garden.  I'm certain there was now a tiny bunny living there amongst her flowers.  It was pleasing.  It was satisfying.  It was anything but real.

    If  I were the software designer, I would have incorporated the truths of having a garden into my computer coding.  I think, when you wake in the morning to go look at your tiny bluebells opening to take in the morning dew, you should find a large dog lying in your flower bed gnawing the head off of a Halloween scarecrow that he must have stolen out of someone's garage.   There would be tiny plantings pulled up by the root, hanging from the dog's mouth and dirt all over his head.  That basket of petunias, that you had just planted and cared for, would simply be gone without explanation.  There would be no signs of the flowers or the basket.  Knowing full well that it defied physical law for the dog to ingest the entire basket of flowers, you had to wonder exactly where it had gone and how.  That one Gerber daisy that your child loved would be broken off at the stem where the crazed dog had trampled it.  There would be no cool breeze blowing in across the garden, but a stifling summer heat and stillness that would wilt the strongest of flowers.  When it came time to water your beauties, you would find that the garden hose was missing from the spigot because your husband had gathered all of the hoses and hooked them together into a 300 foot long connection to water his own garden that was being eaten by woodland critters quicker than he could harvest.   If you could find a bucket to retrieve some water for your garden, there would be a fresh litter of kittens living in it.  The flowers would never stand a chance.

Luckily, we do not live in a virtual world.  My garden may be dried up and beaten down, but a lot of happy animals have traveled through it. All things injured or abandoned pass right by the landscaped homes down the street and make their way to my back door.  My children know how to provide first aid and love without question.  They know how fragile life can be for plants, animals and our hearts.   This is the real world.

The Puppy Bus -Part II

Under cloak of darkness, we gathered in the back yard to transfer Midnight, the last of our puppies, from our yard to the back of an SUV that would take him to The Puppy Bus.  The bus would leave at 7:00 a.m. and we were an hour away from the bus stop.  We wanted to make sure he got a good seat as he traveled all the way to New England. Nobody wants the seat behind the lady with the big hat for 16 hours.   Hopefully all of his traveling companions would be laying down enjoying their ride, rather than sporting a tall hat.   Although images of Dr. Suess's "Go Dogs Go" make me think otherwise.   The bus is clean and and organized.  It is heated and cooled for the comfort of the orphaned dogs that have been rescued and are now ready for adoption.  A foster family awaits the arrival of these puppies and hopefully will find them loving homes.   I hated to see Midnight go, but I hated to see him stay.     He needs someone that can give love to this energetic little puppy that only wants to jump up for love and attention.   He's a good dog, but he needs attention that I simply could not afford him.  I already have a small menagerie of animals to care for.   I admire the people on both on ends of The Puppy Bus run.  They are kind people who work hard to place lost animals in good homes.  No money was ever exchanged.  I had to provide shots and neutering, but that requirement is quite necessary.  This mission of kindness exists purely to care for dogs in need.  As Midnight headed north I whispered a prayer that he have a safe journey and that no one ever abandon their pregnant dog at my house again.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Puppy Bus

The term "Puppy Bus" conjures up awful thoughts of a large worn out bus traveling at ridiculous speeds, full of unwanted puppies, headed for the island of misfit toys or someplace worse.  I have to admit, though, that it is anything but that.  The first time I heard this term was when I asked my neighbor to help me find a home for a puppy I had.  It was never my intention to raise puppies but after a pregnant dog was abandoned at our our home, puppies found their way into our hearts. The puppy bus was a good mechanism for the last puppy to make his way home.

We had given shelter to a friend who was down on his luck.  He arrived with his suitcase and his dog.  Unfortunately, our friend left, but the dog didn't.   She stayed with us as we all hoped her master would return for her.  Nobody knew she was pregnant until the day we came home to discover seven puppies in the yard.  "Were we blind?" I had to think to myself.  How did we miss this????  We are now down to one last puppy who desperately needs a home with a yard and kids and bacon flavored treats at the end of the day.  I advertised him on Facebook to my 268 friends and their kids and found that my friend count instantly dropped as I was being deleted left and right.

I tried an online Pet Finding service and was inundated with disturbing messages from people assuring me that ..."God will bless me" and that "...their daughter was waiting to hold my adorable pet who would surely help her heal after the tragedy. " The messages all seemed rather generic as if it didn't matter if my "adorable pet" was a dog or a cat or two headed newt.  While I admit that I would like to see the look on their daughter's face as she took hold of the two headed newt, I felt certain this would never come to fruition.  I know that there is no daughter and the only tragedy is the dog fighting ring or snake food pit that they failed to mention.  These people scare me.

Luckily, I have a neighbor who has dedicated her life to rescuing dogs.  She works with a rescue group out of New England and through her connections she has found my dog a possible adoptive family.  To get there... he will board The Puppy Bus.  He will simply need his second set of shots, to be neutered and possibly get a mani/pedi before he is in with the "in" crowd and allowed passage on The Puppy Bus.  While not a carrier found on Travelocity, it seems that this Mystery Machine Animal Carrier comes through every other Friday and takes puppies north to a new life.  I instantly envisioned The Green Mile or a long ride down death row to a pound somewhere, but my friend assures me that this is a reputable service that screens applicants and places dogs in loving homes.

Every day on my way to work I pass the Tyson Chicken truck and look into the eyes of chickens bound for their demise. I can only pray that the Chicken Truck is nothing like The Puppy Bus.  My puppy is a beautiful little boy that can never have the look in his eyes as a Tyson Chicken.    While I know this is the right thing to do and I trust my friend 100%, images of Rudolph's journey to the island of misfit toys fill my mind.  That and that weird little elf that wanted to be a dentist.  Between the pet finder messages, terrified chicken eyes and the cast out boy dentist, my mind is filled with scary thoughts that could impact on my little puppy.  All this convinces me more and more that I need to take to the mountains and build a hideaway like The Wilderness Family because people just frighten me at times.  I could have all the pets I want there and my little black puppy, Midnight, would have a good home. Of course, I could never catch and kill my own food so I would die out there in the Wilderness with my Foxfire books and failed attempt at building a shelter for all of us.  It is because of such that I will delete those crazy people's email, place faith in The Puppy Bus, and find a new route to work that is far away from the Tyson plant.   I have to trust that Midnight will board The Puppy Bus and have a pleasant journey to northern lands where he will be met with hugs and kisses from a real child waiting for "my adorable pet."


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie - Unless They Have Deep Sleep Disorder

    You should not let sleeping dogs lie when they choose inappropriate places to do their napping.  Our latest edition, Riley, a small puppy, turned out by its mother, has come to know the comforts and security of being cared for like a newborn baby.  He was bottle fed and sleeps on a bed of plush cotton with a tiny stuffed animal that looks just like his mother. When Riley sleeps, he enters some kind of deep R.E.M. sleep that nothing can wake him from.  You can poke him, pick him up, even dress him in tiny Build-A-Bear clothing and he will never wake.  When he finally does come to, he loves to be outdoors running and playing. The problem is, Riley is the runt of the litter and tires easily.  After a few minutes of terrorizing the cats and scratching around in the flower beds, he finds a cool place to nap.... usually behind my tires and enters his deep comatose like sleep.

    Before I drive, I always honk the horn several times, alerting the cats sleeping inside my engine and any small children who might be standing behind my car.  I normally walk around, checking behind each tire, but on this particular day, I was in a hurry.  I made the horn wail for a ridiculous amount of time, sure to scare off any sleeping critters in or around my vehicle.  I preface this by saying that it is bad to run over your own dog, but to do it twice is much worse.   I began backing out of the drive when I heard the most horrible yelping.  I knew what had happened and feared that I was on top off the dog, so I put the car in forward and pulled back over the poor thing.  More yelping ensued and as I put the car in reverse to get off of him again, I realized that this may be a vicious cycle that would never end and I should probably park the car and assess the damage.  Scared to look and traumatized by the screams from my child and the yelps from my dog, I ran around the car only to find my little dog staring up at me with a look of dismay. There seemed to be no real damage.  There was no blood or brains or any of the other things I suspected I would find.  The dog had urinated on itself, but I would too if a large SUV was coming over the top of me... twice.   I scooped up the dog and carried him to his bed of fluff and laid him down gently.   I had taken that CPR course at work and knew that his vitals signs would be off the chart if there was bad damage.  His heart wasn't racing.  He appeared to be in no pain and he wasn't shying away from me.  I quickly told him it was the cat that was driving the car so not to destroy the caregiving image he has me associated with.
    A few hours later, I discovered the leg that wouldn't work and decided to go to the Emergency Vet.  That was my first mistake.  Upon arrival, I was greeted by a nurse who handed me a pamphlet on the costs associated with being hit by a car.  A small red flag went up in my mind.  While waiting in the tiny sterile room with my dog who still appeared to be in no pain, I noticed a sign on the wall that encouraged patients to use the office phones to contact friends and relatives who could call in credit card numbers to help finance my pet's emergency care.  Hmmmm... Flag #2 had now popped up.  The vet arrived and looked my dog over.  He talked about free flowing abdominal fluids and hidden injuries and I explained that the dog had not actually been hit by a car flying down the street, but had simply been run over... by me.... twice.   There was no blunt force trauma.  The vet left and in came a financial counselor.  I should have left then, but no... I stayed for more.   He walks over to a large write and wipe board and begins creating a visual diagram of all of the required treatments and associated cost estimates.  It began with Pain Medicine - $50 - $75. X-rays came after that for $200.   After we flew through anesthesia, surgery, physical therapy and life coaches, I screamed that he had to stop before my head exploded.  The obvious question had to be asked... how can you even talk to me about surgery when you don't even know what is wrong with the dog.  They were preparing me, he told me.  I suggested a better method and asked that we just X-ray the dog and then map out a course of action.  "Not without pain medicine," I was told.   I dismissed my Pet Loan Officer and asked to talk to the vet.  I voiced my great dissatisfaction with this plan and even went so far as to challenge the ethics of drugging an animal or person when there is no sign of pain.   I would like to point out that challenging a doctor's ethics is never a good thing to do.  I lost the debate, my dog got Toradal and I now own a series of expensive X-rays of my dog in various disturbing positions.... running, sitting, spread out like a hog on a spit and more.   I believe my dog may be flipping me off in one of those photos.   I'm sure that was a humorous Vet joke because of my ethics comment.  

    An hour and a half later,  I received the news that my dog had a hairline fracture and we would splint him and place a large funnel on his head. Having a basic understanding of the healing process, hairline fractures in young bones and that fact that neither my husband, nor the three dogs waiting at home, would ever accept a funnel headed Spaniel.  I opted to take our drugs and take the dog home to heal without the splint or funnel that would be more traumatizing than the tiny crack in the dog's leg. The dog was stoned on narcotics at this point and was weaker now than when I brought the happy puppy in.   $240 later, we left with a drunk dog in a box exploding body fluids in the back seat of my SUV. It was the longest 45 minute ride home I have ever made.  My daughter and I were hanging our heads out of the windows, ironically, like dogs, trying to escape the odor coming from my stoned dog passed out in the back seat.

    A week passed and the leg began healing nicely.  The dog is getting around great and will continue to heal with no narcotics or funnel hats.   I walk a little slower around the car now, checking for sleeping dogs or tails poking out of the engine and hope nobody is napping in places they shouldn't be. It is critically important that I not run over another animal, because they will never let me back in the Emergency Vet Clinic.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Shark Boy

If something amazing and truly worthy of a photo opportunity occurs, I am usually the one who has just turned their head for a split second, missing everything, only to hear the "oohs" and "aaahhhs" of my family reveling in what they just witnessed. I've missed goals, perfect landings, certificates of award from the President printed on colored card stock, and a series of other special events moms are supposed to be clicking their cameras on.  My timing is off by just a millisecond and the world can change in that tiny moment of time.  I'm certain if an alien invasion ever occurs, I will be head down, rifling through a box of popcorn or digging under my chair for someone's lost shoe.   I will miss the introduction to the new life form and have to ask them to kindly recreate the scene so I can capture it on my Handycam.

While at the beach this week, Shark boy, in the above photo, was moving in on my territory with his cute smile, foreign accent and eye for my girls.   Of all moves intended to impress a couple of young girls, I would have never expected him to reach down into the Atlantic waters around their feet and whisk out a baby shark, as if he does this everyday.  I was, of course, rifling though my bag of multi-SPF lotions and sunblock, digging for a tissue to keep the sand out of my Pina Colada, when I heard those familiar "ooohss" and "ahhhhs."  What had I missed... again?! I, instinctively, grabbed for the camera, still unaware if it was an alien takeover or just a good hair moment that needed to be photographed.  I knew it was something cool, though.  And there, as I looked up with a Pina Colada milk mustache, is Shark boy with tiny shark in hand.  The girls' shoulders instantly drew forward in some genetically instinctive act of coyness like Wally Cleaver's girlfriend when he donned his argyle sweater.  They oohed and ahhed and giggled as waves of doubt washed over me and Shark boy's self confidence beamed like a beacon from a lighthouse. Surely, that boy didn't just grab a live shark, I thought.  In yet another act of greatness, he gently places the tiny man eating sea critter back into the waters to swim away, showing his sensitive animal activist side.  I managed to pull myself up from my beach chair that was already six inches deep into the wet sand and walked up to this trio of kids.  Like an investigator, I questioned him on how this happened. People just don't reach into the water and pull out live fish unless you live on the Blue Lagoon and are working a movie set.  With excellent manners and a boyish foreign accent, Shark Boy offers to go grab another shark for me to see.  I knew the sun was hot and the rum had been flowing straight from my blender to my beachy little spot by the shore, but I was keenly aware that this was not normal.  The three ran back into the sea.  The girls normally scream when seaweed touches their feet, but now they were knee deep with this mystery boy walking with the sharks, safeguarded by his aura of self esteem.  It was a scary glimpse of the future, filled with ooohhs and ahhhs that I know will never be intended for me to capture on film. It took only moments and they returned from the sea with yet another baby shark in hand.  The girls giggled, the boy beamed and my older son was googling away, researching Shark boy on the Internet to determine his actual name, Facebook profile, age and political affiliation.  We all petted the little shark,  snapped a few photos and then released him back into the waters to rejoin his family of killers.  I took another sip of my sandy Colada, whispered a little prayer that the sharks will always stay far away from my girls, and took my place back in the sand next to my son.  As I closed my eyes in the summer sun, I heard the familiar "ping" sound of an email being sent.   Pictures of sharks and pretty girls were being uploaded and sent across country.  I found out later that one additional message went out from the shoreline.... a simple and easy to understand message from my son to Shark boy that simply said, "They're 12."    We did not see him after that, but pictures will last forever.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Leaves Falling

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Written by Jana Klemke and Julie Poss 

(Jana - Email me or get in contact with me.  I need to talk to you.-M)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pre-Driving Protocol for Busy Moms

If there was a survey that could be done and ever was... I would like to know just how many people have been sailing down the highway oblivious to the bag of meat that was on top of their car.  I'm certain I am one of those elite few.  You must know that there are two bad things about having a bag of raw meat on top of your vehicle... 1.  It would be hard to explain to the trucker behind you why meat products flew off your car onto his windshield at seventy miles and hour and ....2.  If you do stop to retrieve the meat, what do you do with it then???  It's not like you want a Ziploc baggie of beef tips dripping onto your floorboard.  Of course, all this being considered, you have to wonder why one would have this item on top of their car in the first place.   I suppose it's just part of being a Brodnax.  Some things simply have no answer.  While traveling from my mother's house to our house, a distance of about fifty feet, my husband is known to place things on top of my car.  I'm never really certain what is up there.   As long as it's not children, I've learned not to complain.   I've traveled with pies, meatloaves and cups of coffee all on board without my knowledge.  It's those times he forgets to remove these items, that become bothersome.  I traveled for two weeks with a bag of licorice on my car that never came off.  That's not as bad, however, as traveling across the neighborhood with a kitten in my engine, that did manage to get out... safely, I might add.  Only because of Facebook and the status of a young child announcing to the world that she had a new kitten, did I know that our family pet had relocated.  Just like the meat products and the licorice, the kitten was retrieved and brought home where it belonged.   I'm sure there is a proper pre-driving protocol for checking your car for unknown contents or even unknown passengers.  I believe the driver's manual in my glove box says to check for tire pressure, cracked windshields, proper running lights and such.   I will never make it to those steps.   My pre-driving protocol consists of making sure each child has a shoe for both feet, removing the left-over latte cups from the last time the kids and their friends were in the car,  and racing to the car charger before someone else lays claim to it.  There is no time to check for tire pressure or meat products on the top of the car.  A quick scan to make sure everyone is buckled is the signal to go.  I've actually made it half way to another city before I realized I had an extra child in the car with us.  She was in the third row with the latte cups I can't reach.  That's no man's land and she is lucky I found her when I did.  At least she wasn't on top of the car like a bag of meat products or licorice.  

Friday, April 29, 2011

Smiling Eggs are Harder To Eat

It's hard to make egg salad when your eggs are staring at you with warm smiles and all have names.  These are the post Easter eggs that fill my fridge. I always have plenty of them because half of the neighborhood kids arrive about the time I drop the first Paas dye tablet into its glass of white vinegar. I don't know if they hear the gently fizzing tabs calling their names or if the smell of vinegar and eggs wafts down the street calling them to my kitchen. That wouldn’t be an appetizing smell, but it does scream of fun at the Brodnax house.  Before the smell can dissipate,  we have dozens of wacky, colorful eggs in the fridge, pastel fingerprints permanently stained on the counter, and someone teary eyed because their last egg to dye had a big crack in it.  

All of this is part of Easter tradition at our house and I am thankful that this Easter season was not  torn apart by shattered beliefs and disappointment.   Let me explain.... It was a year ago at Easter when my daughter announced that she felt so sorry for all those kids who didn't believe in the Easter Bunny. Seeing how she was ready to stand up for Peter Cottontail on the school playground and protect all that he is, I knew it was time to have a talk.  I had safely avoided the Santa Claus talk and had even skirted past the "Wonderfully Made" sex talk that was given to all sixth grade students and still had my little girl with all of her wonderful innocence.  I wasn't ready to turn tail on Peter or St. Nick, but I knew this was my cue.  I sat her down and explained that she may not want to keep such a strong stance in her protection of the Easter bunny. She gave me a puzzled look.  Sweat began to form at my temples and I groped for words.  I cringed at what was about to happen and tried to ease the pain with chocolate and promises of shopping sprees and mani/pedis.   After delivering the news that a bunny did not actually arrive in the cover of darkness and leave eggs and candies all about, I saw her processing this information and I was afraid of what was coming next.  I had no idea how bad it would actually be.  She looked me dead in the eye and asked, "Then what about Santa?  Is he fake, too."  I felt horrible and a rush of heat came over me as I fought back the urge to comfort her by avoiding the truth, but she stood there in front of me, demanding to know. I talked about the Spirit of Christmas and giving and all things good and hoped that she would continue to believe even though the truth had been laid on the table. She said nothing. She sat at the table and tear after tear quietly ran down her face. There was no loud sobbing, simply tears rising up from a broken heart.   She did not want to be comforted.  She did not want to be hugged or touched. While I wanted to to do all of those things, I knew that most of all, she did not want to be lied to and I allowed her the space she needed to process this information.   

When enough time had passed, I offered to take her to the mall where we spent some quality Mom and Daughter time.  After new hair highlights, a few new outfits, a  2 pound bag of candy and the depletion of my checking account, we were headed out of the mall, with spirits lifted a bit.  As we neared the exit, we spied the Easter Bunny one floor below sitting amongst a spread of giant pastel Easter eggs and floral displays.  We both stopped at the railing and looked down.  Testing the waters, I smiled and asked my daughter if she would like to go see the Easter Bunny. She looked up at me with one of those looks that says, "I'm smiling on the outside, but don't be fooled by it" and replied, "...and perhaps I can ask him for ...The Truth."    I commented on how nice her highlights looked and we walked past the bunny without ever looking back.  This year, as Easter rolled around,  all traditions were still in place.  We dyed eggs and filled baskets with treats and celebrated in Christian fashion at our church, focusing on the real meaning of Easter without letting go of the fun a child finds in the season.  It is a wonderful relief to know that my refigerator is once again filled with smiling eggs that nobody will be able to eat.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Laughter Is Good Medicine


They say that laughter is the best medicine.  While laying in the Emergency Room of the local hospital getting updrafts and steroids to open my lungs, my son was somewhere else in the hospital shooting bizarre photos of my family members and sending them to my phone.   This obviously failed brain transplant photo did more for me than the meds being pumped into my veins.
My daughter's picture soon arrived and carried the look of "Will she ever get home... This is taking forever." This is a genetically inherited look of frustration and tells those around her that one eye is about to pop from the socket and fly into orbit around her head if somebody doesn't do something to rescue her.  I wear this exact same look at tax time, when standing in line at a Wal-Mart store and when I learn at ten o'clock on Sunday night that my daughter has to write twenty poems before Wednesday and I'm boarding a plane at 6:00  a.m.  the next morning. Unless I want to be writing cinquains and haikus from the airport bar, I have to push my eye back in the socket and help her start crafting poetry and rhyming words while the rest of the world is fast asleep.    

The more I look at this photo I realize that this is the same look of an exhausted working mom.  Yesterday, we were trying to get to a 2:00 appointment.  We began our exit from our house at noon when we discovered that not everyone had exactly two shoes.  I'm not sure how you lose a shoe, but it's a common occurrence here. We discovered the missing shoe in the backseat of my car about the same time I turned quickly and knocked over the giant blue drink someone had left in the car near the shoe.  As my daughter rescued her glittery pink mule, I was ripping floor mats from the car and sopping up blue goo.  My son is wired in to great music in the front seat of the car and is oblivious to the chaos around him as he slowly floats away to the melodic sounds of Muse and some folk group not yet discovered. The cats have discovered that there is a tasty substance dripping from the sides of my car and they are now underfoot, licking up blue raspberry goodness.  It's raining, so I toss the floor mat into the rain hoping Mother Nature can lend me a hand and wash the carpet for me.  My daughter and I carry similar facial expressions and neither speaks while we go through the motions of trying to fix this without complaining or crying.  We are finally in the car,  free from blue liquids, each with an even number of shoes and are headed out the drive when I realize I have no gasoline.  Refusing to accept the rising cost of gas,  I always fill my car to $50 no matter what the current price per gallon is.  This way I don't stress over the rising prices and I'm more cautious to make it last longer because the tank isn't actually full. During the 30 seconds it takes now to pump in fifty dollars of petroleum,  my daughter has jumped from the car, entered the station and returned with yet another unnaturally blue drink product.  The muscles around my eye tighten as I try to keep my eye in place and I say nothing, because deep down inside I know that I want one too.  I remove the earphones from my son who actually doesn't have the big head you see in the photo and we all go inside to get something to drink.  Before long we are sailing down the road in a car with a half full gas tank, sipping on sodas, laughing and talking.  Our eyes are in place and stress levels have dropped to acceptable levels.  It is true, laughter is great medicine.

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...