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.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Are Four Cans of Tuna Enough When Packing for The End of Days


Yesterday, while in a meeting preparing for the possible shutdown of the government, I received a text message from my son wanting to know if I still had a job.   I also received a message from my daughter telling me how cute her shoes were. It was followed with "Luv ya" and three emoticons, all too tiny to see.  Both children should have been heavily involved in mathematics or history and were obviously secretly packing cell phones while in school.  I assured my son that we would be fine.  The thought did cross my mind, however, about what would happen if I suddenly found myself without a paycheck.   The twelve pack of soda and assorted baby bottle pops in the back of my car wouldn't carry our family far.  That night, while we were all gathered around the kitchen counter discussing the end of days as we knew them and life without Netflix or "Words with Friends", the power abruptly shut down without notice or advance flickering. We were thrown into a sudden blackness where you could not see your hand in front of your face.  While I groped in the darkness for matches and candles, I discovered they had all been replaced with plug in "Scentsy" candle warmers.  I was living in a wickless, flame free world.  My cave people relatives from the beginning of time would be so ashamed.  My son grabbed his cell phone for light and communication to the lighted world only to find that AT&T was off-line as well.   The invisible cell phone signals and wifi networks that normally surrounded us with a pleasing false sense of security were gone.   My daughter, very astutely announced in the darkness that the government must have shut down. Brilliant observation, I must say.  As we sat there in the falsh wash of light we had mustered up from our cell phones, my son whispers to me, "Do you think we've been EMPed?"  I only knew what this meant because of watching too many end of the world movies.  It's an electromagnetic pulse that arrives just before the nuclear bomb, shutting down all things electrical and wonderful.   I assured him that this was not the beginning of something horrible other than the fact that my burrito was now cold and I couldn't find the pica de gallo in the dark.   Because we are curious creatures and it was so dark in the house, we decided to drive around the community in hopes that we wouldn't drive off into some giant chasm or be zapped by the alien space-ship possibly hovering over city hall. We discovered people everywhere, just standing outside in the dark, waiting for something... a sign, a spaceship, a giant plume. I'm not sure what they were all looking for other than just an answer. I wondered if we had not all been so sucked into this 2012 end of days prophecy and fear of sudden terrorist action that we did actually believe that it was the end of time as we know it. I found myself driving around in the dark thinking that I should really change my investments in my 401K plan to something less riskier now and that it might be good to have some kind of emergency plan.   Today while at the grocery store, I picked up four cans of tuna and a really big bottle of water. And yet... somehow I think my emergency preparedness plan is lacking something. I toyed with the idea of actually taking those little bottles of shampoo and conditioner that they leave for you in hotel rooms.  That could come in handy for bargaining or simply for hygienic practices in the end of days or if the government shuts down.    My plan is obviously in the formative stage right now and I can see many things that might be helpful to have should we suddenly be thrown into the darkness with no communication or access to the deli-mart in Kroger.    I realize that it depends on what level of isolation we find ourselves in.  Would we need seeds to begin planting for subsistence living or would it be more of a need for weapons for protection of life and property?  I do have a giant spatula that could be handy and I'm adding it to my toolbox of things I may need if the world comes crashing to a halt. I know that when this day should possibly come, my husband will be 200 miles away on a lake completely oblivious to any change in modern day living.   While I'm at home fighting off Mayan warriors reincarnated or duct-taping the windows and doors, he will be gently rocking on the waters waiting for another big eyed Bass to tug on his line.   I will be attempting to shape tuna into McDonald's chicken nugget shapes and praying that we have the things we need to survive.  I'm certain I can grow things like kale and cabbage, but my children wouldn't know what to do with it. What I really need is emergency packs of P.F Chang's Honey Glazed Chicken or to be on the lake with my husband when the bottom falls out.  Our family could live out of the boat and eat the fish of the waters until the skies open up and a hand reaches down and pulls us out of the darkness.   That final act is the best part of my emergency preparedness plan and will take us much further than four cans of tuna or a giant spatula.

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...