Friday, December 20, 2013

Smooth Journeys Into the Past


  You never really know how bumpy a road is until you travel it with a pot of chili in your trunk. Suddenly, every bump and turn becomes an obstacle certain to sling deep red sauce across the interior of your car. While most of my adult life has been spent driving sport utility vehicles, a truly gentle ride has been out of the question, until now.  

  My dream car, you see, had always been a deep red Cadillac because I remember the smooth ride of my childhood when perched in the backseat of my grandparents Cadi'.  We would sail down Highway 31 with my grandmother behind the wheel.  She was dressed impeccably and wore her leather gloves that matched the leather interior of the Cadillac.  All of five feet tall, she handled that car like a race car driver who owned the road. We flew through traffic like a laser beam splitting atoms, with everyone moving out of the way of the tiny woman in the big car.  With my feet sticking straight out in front of me, I sat in the large backseat watching the woman behind the wheel, knowing that someday that would be me.

  As luck would have it, at 49, a deep red Cadillac was placed in my name.  While the ride is smooth and the leather is soft, I've discovered that the joy is more for the driver than the passengers.  I love my car, but have found that most who sit in the back seat experience some kind of motion sickness.   It's a common complaint from the back seat passengers and I'm starting to realize that they aren't having the same joyous experience as my 1969 backseat ride with my grandmother.   

 For those who won't verbalize their discomfort, the beads of sweat on their brow and the greenish hue to their skin, tells the tale.  Even if I drive like there is a pot of chili in the trunk, the backseat riders feel every bump of the road.  

  My husband, who drives an old pick-up truck that is full of hunting gear and fishing tackle, has been quietly aware, over the years, that his vehicle is the best riding vehicle around.  It is smooth and there is room to stretch out in the oversized cab if you're willing to move the outdoor gear around.   When my family began choosing a ride sitting on top of a tackle box over a ride in my luxury car, I realized that my car is designed for me, only.  My daughter, who is tiny like her grandmother, enjoys the backseat ride of the Cadillac, so she and I fly down the road in the car of my dreams, oblivious to the obstacles in our way.  

 Even though I'm keenly aware of those bothered by the tight suspension of the deep red Cadillac, the same color as the chili in the trunk, it is still my dream car.  A fifty year old dream cannot be discounted simply because of a bumpy backseat ride.   My car, a gift from my father, takes me down roads that are not defined by bumps in the asphalt, but are gentle paths back to my past and a time when our family was whole.  Thank you Dad. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Homey Cat


A smooth talking cat who says nothing at all
Yet tells the whole tale with a swat of a claw.
A testy old thing with a patch on his side
Where an ill-tempered fox took a bite of his hide.

A Siamese kitten, now aged in years
Rules the roost like a king whom everyone fears.
Homey, the cat, with blue eyes so deep
Picks the most inconvenient places to sleep.

His favorite one being the top of my head
Once I snuggle down deep in my comfortable bed.
I wake in the night to a soft, rhythmic purr
Of my sweet, sleeping cat who's missing some fur.

With the swoosh of a tail and a paw on my chin
His tail bats my face each time he breaths in.
In a half conscious manner, I hold down that tail
But it just keeps on swooshing ‘til I finally yell

And disrupt his dreaming of mice and great things
And up from my head, Homey cat springs.
With one eye half open and an indignant shrug
He gives me a look that is hateful and smug.

Tossed from his napping and removed from my bed
He’ll decide it is time to be watered and fed.
There’ll be no sleeping for anyone now
As he turns up the volume on his cat’s meow.

Louder and louder he’ll sing his song
Calling for tuna until I come along
In a half conscious fog from a sleep that was deep
Serving up cat food when I should be asleep.

Homey the cat gets whatever he likes
Because everyone knows that Homey cat bites.
He’s king of the castle but I wonder, yet…
Who’s really the owner and who’s the pet?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday

  The Black Friday madness is on and I have to admit that I love every minute of it.  From mapping out quick exit strategies to determining who has the best electronics, it is a treasure hunt that I simply can't resist.  While I have no need for a 50 inch tv or a waffle maker, I find joy knowing they could be mine if I'm willing to wake in the pre-dawn hours and stand in long lines.  I've met some of my closest friends while sitting on the floor at Wal-Mart waiting for the iPads to be distributed from the pharmacy like some kind of controlled substance.

  Social Media has added a new element to this game as we upload and compare "selfies" of each other holding oversized electronics or laying across the last Dyson vacuum cleaner in the store.  My friends and I can instantly message one another about inventory updates and alternate travel routes that will get us where we need to be long before we need to be there.

  While my husband sits in a deer stand in the quiet of the woods, my friends and I are the true hunters the day after Thanksgiving.  We need no scopes to lock a pair of leather boots in our crosshairs from 100 yards away. Proudly, I can spot a discount panini maker from the opposite end of the store.

  Just as there are various hunting seasons for deer, duck and grouse, some retailers have divided Black Friday into different "events", each with their own set of discount goods.  It has added a new element of confusion as one never wants to make the mistake of trying to purchase an out of event Blu Ray Player.  Your timing must be spot on for the true discounted price.

  Much like my husband who pre-hunts and teases the deer with corn and promises of happiness, I've been known to walk the aisles of Wal-Mart hours before the sale to accurately determine the pre-positioning of Price Buster goods intentionally placed where least expected. Imagine the joy of finding a 40 inch tv in the frozen goods section.  It's better than a ten point kill.

  The best purchase I've ever made was a 32 inch television for $99.  With the $75 gift card received from purchasing the iPad, the cost went down to $24.  Because I waited too long to pick up my pre-purchased item, there were none to be had and the only thing left was a 42 inch tv valued at $499.  With an "in stock" promise and an additional $5 coupon applied, my cost for unexpected happiness was $19. The personal satisfaction was similar to the joy realized the year I squeezed an eight foot Christmas tree into a six foot car and nobody lost an eye.   When you happen onto a musical tree that can play Canon in D major, you're certainly not going home without it, even if someone must ride on the top of the car to get there.

  Black Friday madness causes me to cast physics to the wind and I'm known for procuring items that are much too heavy for a five foot tall woman to pick up.  Sadly, against his will, I've drug my husband into the crowds for much needed logistical support  One would think they would build a shopping cart large enough to carry two trampolines at once.  The biggest purchase ever made was the air hockey table that was larger than the room it was to go in.   Black Friday just makes everything bigger and brighter and one naturally assumes there is room in their world for such bargains.

  As my children have grown and I've discovered life is actually simpler without electronic juicers and hot irons that can shape a piece of French toast to look like Mickey Mouse, I have nothing I really need to buy.  My daughter, however, has her own list of needs and spied and ad for ball gowns for $100 each.  So, this year, instead of battling for kitchen ware, we will be mining for evening wear.  Somehow, I don't expect the lines to be quite as long, but the fun will be just the same.

  I salute my fellow hunters and huntresses and look forward to the day after Christmas when we can do it all again!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Snuggling and Buggling

Picture (c) Charles Schultz
  Since my children were little, we would pile up on the couch under a mountain of blankets, snuggled up like puppies.  It was not uncommon to have a foot in your face or have a hand come crashing against your head from a sleeping child shifting their position.  Snuggling and Buggling is what we did.  My mother had taught me, early in life, that there is nothing more magical than a good blanket.  Yesterday, as I folded the last of the blankets in the living room, I thought, "Man, we have a lot of magic."

  I admit that I am a sucker for a soft blanket and have them readily available from the bedroom to the living room to the trunk of my car.  One should always be prepared for instant comfort.  While I consider myself a collector of fleecy goodness, my son shattered my delusion by informing me, years after the fact, that I had failed in providing him with a proper blanket and pillow when he was in Kindergarten, leaving him to stretch out on nothingness.  I stood there, aghast at such a thought.

  I was young and believed in following the rules.  When the teacher said to send a beach towel for nap time, that is what I sent.  Little did I know, other children arrived with furry blankets of joy and chilly pillows designed just for the angle of a five year old child's head resting on a 1 inch thick mat.  Had I known, I would have sent fluffy monogrammed blankets and matching pillow.  Sadly, I have missed my opportunity to provide comfort and joy and will have to move forward unable to change the past.  This would be more troublesome to me except for the fact that I remember the same teacher telling me how my child's eyes would close and sleep quickly wrapped around him like the good blanket he did not have.  I suppose when you are tired, you can buggle down just as good under a large towel that smells like home. While the bow haired beauties who rested close to my child stretched out on their fleecy throws, a boy under a beach towel rested just as well.   

  My daughter, who genetically possesses the need to seek out comfort, traveled like a princess from the day she was born.  Her Kindergarten nap time experience included a fleecy Barbie blanket and a pillow fitting of a queen.  She was able to snuggle and buggle with the comforts of home.  Her socks were seamless.  There were no buttons on her back.  From the moment she laid down, sleep gently cradled her in comfort.

  As I sat on my couch last night, with a pile of blankets around, there were no flailing feet or sleeping children and I wondered if they would remember the joy of snuggling and buggling. About the time I had accepted being alone, my daughter dropped what she was doing and plopped on the pile of blankets next to me.  She knew.  Some deep memory called to her and I knew then, that both of my children would always remember the magic of snuggling and buggling.  My mother was so very right.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Make a Joyful Noise

My father in the 1940's

 When my son left for college he took the sounds of our home with him.  The constant singing, humming, giggling between siblings and simple sounds of youth slipped out the door with him. My daughter and I tried our hands at the guitar and ukulele and realized that stringed instruments were just not our thing. I was thankful for her endless energy and took refuge in her tumbling and leaping down the hallways that, too, was a constant in our world.

  I longed to hear the sounds of the guitar strumming in the middle of the night or the mumble of singing coming down the hall.  I missed the kids creating videos and recording songs. Allie had been the star of every video ever made in our house and then suddenly the set was closed.  The cameras had stopped.  The songs didn't play and life was simply different.  It wasn't bad, it was just different.  We found our way around in this quieter world and accepted what was. 

  And then when the silence was no longer bearable, God moved His hand and delivered my nephew to my doorstep.  He arrived with guitar in hand and song on his heart.  As much as he needed us, we needed him.  New songs filled our home and constant sounds were a part of our world again.  The piano plays softly in the far end of the house and while Allie leaps down the hallway, my heart leaps with joy.   

  I still wait for the songs of my child to return, but am thankful for the young man sent here when I most needed a joyful noise. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Amelia the Flyer

  Meet Amelia!  Amelia joined us for a short time when her first flight from the nest proved to be unsuccessful.  She and her brother PePe were found on the pool deck and were whisked away to the intensive care unit, also known as the laundry room bathroom. Much like a triage team, we went about gathering eye droppers, a heating pad, and a recipe for home made saline solution certain to provide energy.  

  While my daughter welcomed our new house guests with loads of love, the cats were even more excited about who was living in the laundry room.  Needless to say, they were temporarily banned from the house. Their intentions were quite obvious and less than desirable. 

  Pepe was not long for this world and left Amelia in our care. His fall had been hard and was too much to overcome.  While I'm certain it was my imagination, the tiny she-squirrel appeared to reach out to me anytime we were near.  She took comfort in my hand and I didn't want to let her down.  

  The same fall breeze that brought down the squirrels reminded me that it was time to plant winter flowers.  While time waits for no one, I found myself doing household chores and planting pansies, all with one hand while a baby rested comfortably in the other.  Amelia traveled outside with us for a reminder of the smells of home.  It was Velvet, a flyer who had come before Amelia, who reminded me that these babies bond quickly and easily take comfort with those who care. After a few days, it was clear that Amelia's strength was fading and I prepared my child for the process to follow.  Comfort was the most important thing to offer and Amelia left us on a Monday resting softly on a warm bed of fluff with tiny squirrel memories of a family who loved her. 


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Halloween Express

  Fall has arrived and that means caramel apples, sweater weather and the greatest joy of all.. the arrival of the Halloween Express Costume Catalog!  It ranks right up there with the Sears Christmas catalog and brings sheer joy to my family.  I have always been drawn to the Power Ranger costumes for my son and the cute witch costumes for my daughter.  Unfortunately, they have long since outgrown such, but I can still see them dressed in their festive costumes.  

  For nineteen years, I have found great enjoyment dressing my kids as Flintstones characters, superheroes, zombies, and more. For those same nineteen years, I have tried in vain to dress as a sexy pirate.  I'm never quite successful with this look as somewhere during the process of getting children dressed, dying their hair blue, mining in the attic for plastic swords and plastic pumpkins,  donning outerwear that is reflective, trying to get the blue off of my fingers, and chasing down the dog who is chasing down the neighborhood children, I find myself exhausted and feeling nothing like Anne Bonny or any other sexy pirate.  But I cling to the dream and each year the Costume Catalog shows me glimpses of what I can be one day. 

  My husband, who has no concern for costume selection, has faithfully donned the same Mexican serape for years.  Wrapped in his blanket shirt and armed with a bowl of candy, he sits on the patio watching the kids come and go.  One year, upon a whim, I opted for the King and Queen outfits, thinking we might ditch the serape.   The royal wear was on sale and my dreams of sexy pirate were put on the back burner.   While it was good to be queen, the headwear paled in comparison to a feathery hat that secretly called my name.  

  My daughter wanted to be a rock and roll cat but changed her mind after the outfit arrived and she discovered everyone else was wearing wings that year.  I couldn't fault her for this change of decision, as who doesn't want to wear wings.  I was jealous that I didn't have some and realized that wings just make everything better.  She wore them for weeks after Halloween and I never asked why.  The answer was clear.   They made her happy.  

  While my kids no longer want costumes, their mother still does.  My heart skips a beat just knowing the opportunity is there once again to dress up as something I may never be.  There is excitement in the possibility and whether that be with wings or with a ship under my command the dream is always with me.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fish On


  My husband has dreams of family outings that simply don’t play out the way he envisions them.  Once a year, the kids and I gather round and participate in some outdoor expedition sure to bring happiness to “Dad.”  It only takes one trip to steer him off of this insane pursuit of unrealistic family adventures.  This year’s annual attempt at family fun was a fishing trip in the dead of winter.   When we woke that morning to rain, I should have said "No!"  When I demanded that we take sacks of groceries, extra clothes in case anyone gets wet, an assortment of ointments for everything from contact dermatitis to cobra bites and enough camera gear to look like a tourist, my husband should have said "No!"  Instead, we loaded the gear, text our children to rise from their beds and get into the truck, and headed off to the lake. 

Note that I consider myself a professional angler with my Snoopy rod and reel and can cast a plastic lure across our backyard pool, past five cats and around our patio table with great skill.   It’s those giant saltwater rods and reels that challenge me.  Once aboard the boat, my husband gave me specific instructions not to cast the reel.  This defeats the entire purpose of fishing.  I knew this was unnecessary advice and immediately flung the rod at the water.  Much to my surprise, his advice should have been heeded because unlike the Snoopy Rod and Reel, fishing line went everywhere except towards the fish.  It’s hard to hide a giant twisted ball of monofilament line coming from your reel and my husband soon spied the mess I had made.  No words were spoken.  After what seemed like a very long time, the fishing line was back in place and the rod was placed in a holder.  Again, I received instructions not to cast the reel or even touch it.  He explained that you have to keep your finger on the line when you cast or the line will tangle.  He obviously believed I was not properly skilled to perform this maneuver.  Now that I understood the concept, I was curious if only a second was a precise measurement of time needed to create such a large and tangly mess.   Surely, you could lift your finger for a split second and still have control.  Apparently not is that answer to that question, as I stood there a second time with a giant ball of fishing line tangled around the reel.   Since my daughter was driving the boat, I wondered if my husband would be focused on her, giving me time to untangle this mess I had gotten myself into.   Apparently not is the answer to that question, as well. 

  Once my rights to cast had been stripped away, my daughter drove us further into the cold and my son huddled at the back of the boat texting friends and family back home in warm, dry places. I was the only one determined to catch a fish and call it a day.  I should share with you that when you are fishing with really big fishing reels, you should not wear a hoodie with draw strings that dangle loose and free.  Since I was unaware that a giant striped bass was on the end of my line attached to a rod I didn’t cast, my husband yelled at me, “Fish On.”  I’ve since learned that those two words demand immediate attention by all and everyone has a duty to fulfill whether it be to stop the boat, reel in the other lines or set the hook and bring in dinner.  I panicked and leaned over to reel in the giant fish when the drawstrings on my hoodie wound right up into the reel.  In a split second, I had reeled myself straight up to my neck and stood there with my face attached to the rod and a 20 lb Striper attached to the other end.  The fish was pulling.  I was panicking.  Once again, I hoped that nobody would notice and the best plan I could come up with was to yell, “Don’t be mad, Don’t be mad.”   Without turning to look at the situation I had gotten myself into, my husband prepared himself for whatever mess I had created this time.  I can’t remember if we got the fish or not, but I do remember sitting in silence as he removed my drawstrings from the reel and realized this was nothing like fishing with buddies.  
  There’s a reason men fish together.  It's to keep people like me out of the boat.  Now, if a day of swimming and excellent meals is on the agenda, the kids and I are the ones you want to take fishing, but if you want to actually catch fish, it’s best to leave all of us behind and find someone who longs to hear those words “Fish On.”  I still panic when I hear those two words and do my best to move out of the way and avoid being gaffed or hooked in the head. The kids are great about going along for the ride and stand ready to post pictures of me with my head attached to a reel or of their father realizing that his dreams and his reality are two different things.  Both are good and blessed is the man who finds the fun in each.  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The One Footed Sock Thief

Kabbaz-Kelly Photo

  I pay $40 a month for a security system that tells me if any doors or windows are being opened in my home for would-be thieves or wandering neighbors coming home to the wrong house.  It is supposed to protect us from crime and yet, each week, dozens of socks disappear from our home, leaving their mates to pile up in the laundry room.  Surely a one footed sock thief must be living amongst us as there is no other explanation for this loss of property.

  I've done the math and it simply doesn't add up.  Four pairs of socks go into the washer and only three have mates when they come out.  I've devised systems to ensure input equals output, but my systems fail somewhere during the cleaning process.  Someone thought it would be a good idea for me to safety pin each pair of dirty socks together before I put them in the washer.  This person obviously has no appreciation of my time and would prefer mated socks over a home cooked meal or other niceties that take priority on my to-do list.   Sock pinning is just below re-grouting the tub and somewhere above clipping the dog's toenails.   If I am ever found pinning dirty socks together, I can assure you it is only because I have slipped into madness and am sitting in the dark after the utilities have been cut off and all chaos is breaking out.

  My family is well aware of the sock trials we have and has accepted it as normal.  My son, who is away at college, was recently introduced to his own dirty laundry.  I realize I have failed him because he believes there to be four steps in the washing process.  Wash, Dry, Fold, Buy New Socks.  He was amazed when he put 18 socks in the washer and 18 came out.   He called home to share the wondrous news and I was filled with pride and envy.  I had waited for days to hear about the details of his classes and new life and yet, the news that got his attention and sent him running to me with tales of amazement was the fact that the sock product had stayed constant through the entire wash cycle.

  While the sock problem continues at home, one would think that I would be smarter than this dilemma and purchase all identical socks, thus greatly increasing the probability of matching pairs.  But, there are so many cute socks out there in the world and who can resist a pair of furry red socks or lavender infused cotton footwear.  My ten year old child surely must have needed kitty cat socks with whiskers and button nose on the toes as I still have one in my pile of mismatched socks.  Until I toss the mountain of socks out and invest in matching socks for all, my output and input will simply never add up.  I just don't know where the missing socks go and it will remain a mystery until that day when all parties have taken on their own laundry. I figure a few clean pair of socks is better than no clean pairs of socks and call it a successful day when everyone has on socks that match.  There is no time to mine for runaway socks, so those that lose their partner will be cast away where they will wait to be transformed into sock puppets or simply tomorrow's trash.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Leaving Home

  The day had arrived and it was time to travel north to carry my son off to college.  We had prepared for months and loaded the back of my husband's truck with boxes and bins full of things from home that I was certain my child would need.  We passed cars on the highway that were obviously carrying their children to college and I feared we may have actually overpacked as we passed a Prius with a student, her suitcase and a laundry basket.  We had a small refrigerator, half of the Apple store, clothing for every type of weather event, pictures, whoozits and whatnots.  As we approached the college with our bed of goods, I prepared myself to announce proudly that I was checking two students into school.  It was the only explanation I could come up with.  It was about that time when the giant Penske truck rolled in and quickly diverted attention away from us and we were no longer "that family" who overpacked.  There are people, out there, far worse than I.  By the time the evening was over, I witnessed tired dads carrying in appliances, tables, chairs, and dressers to try to create that homelike atmosphere for their children.   I love those people as they validate my own need to sometimes go a bit over the top.  They let me know I'm not alone in my craziness.

   In a moment that came much too soon, however, I left my son at school and made the six hour drive home in a state of pride, shock, and sadness.  When they hand you that baby in the hospital, it should come with a warning label that says your heart will never be the same.  It will swell with pride. It will race with excitement as each new chapter of life brings new wonder and it will break when that day comes that you must let go and allow that child to make their own life.  

  I understand the natural order of things, but that doesn't mean I have to embrace it all at once.  My friends have frowned on my decision to drive my son's car around and promise an intervention if I don't return to my own vehicle within a few weeks.  I'm not worried, though.  I know I'm okay, for the joy comes when you know that your child is happy and is well prepared for what comes next. How could he not be with 37 shirts, a single cup coffee maker, instructions on how to wash clothes cleverly pasted on his screen saver and enough Ramen noodles to last the winter.  While we may have overpacked, we carried with us additional things that weren't in those bins and suitcases.... years of training.  It is that exact training that gives me comfort knowing my son understands the importance of honor, the need for compassion, the strength of family roots, the power of vision and the faith to approach it without fear.  It is his time now and what a blessing that is!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Smiley Face Button for New Drivers

  My daughter has earned her driver's permit which means we must spend every waking moment driving the streets of town together.  She fully understands that any use of her phone while driving will result in loss of driving privileges and long lectures from both parents.  Our real concern is not texting and driving but is more a fear of gregarious driving.  My child believes it is important to wave at everyone she knows and make sure that she is seen behind the wheel of the car.  This is a highly coveted place of honor only held by those who have already had their 14th birthday and passed the State Police Driver's test, so it's important to let the world see you.

  Just last weekend, as we turned off the highway onto a side street, we passed an SUV full of her friends.  She immediately began waving with uncontrollable excitement.  As her hand stretched to the left, the car veered to the right and we were headed straight for the ditch.  I grabbed the wheel and snatched her attention as she guided us back onto the asphalt path.  After I explained why you must keep your eyes on the road and your hands out of other people's vehicles, she sat there for a second taking it all in.  "You know.... Cars need a smiley button on the dash," she said.  Intrigued with this line of thinking, I had to ask why.  She explained that it would be handy to have a button to push that would take over driving the car when you need to divert your attention for greetings, salutations, and down the road hellos.

  I thought about this for a bit and realized it was not a bad idea.  In fact, there should be a button next to it with a picture of a screaming, panicked passenger that will take over operation of the car when the driver fails to push the smiley face button when executing a perfect homecoming queen wave out the driver's window.  An additional button could be placed in the back seat for those who believe the entire driving process has been compromised and they can then take over operation of the vehicle.  It didn't take long to figure out that the more buttons we added, the less any of us needed to be driving.    While a smiley button could be a handy optional feature, "Hands on the Wheel" is a much better decision.

  So for now, phones are placed in the back seat, to include mine, so that I can pay close attention to her paying close attention.  I figure the world is much safer this way.  Upon safe arrival to any destination, she can celebrate it with all the smiley face emoticons she wants, because like all kids her age, her first stop is to grab that phone and connect with the world she just drove past and was unable to communicate with.  Such is the sacrifice for the privilege of sitting behind the wheel. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tied Up in Knots

  Upon turning 49, I had a terrible realization that I only had one year left before I was 50.  I'm not sure what great difference there is in being 49 and being 50, but that voice in my head was screaming, "Hurry up and do something before it's too late!"  Turning 29 had the same effect on me and left me scrambling to enjoy ever last minute of a decade that would soon be gone. So, as I sat here last night, perusing my birthday gifts of perfume, blinged out slippers, a jar of cash and a bottle of tequila, something hit me.  I want to enter my fifties as if I was 29 again and not be some sloth on the couch overwhelmed from work, heat, bills and other weights of the world.  Renewed with a goal, I donned my shiny slippers and got my body in motion.

  Suddenly a woman on a mission, I tore open the entertainment cabinet and dug out the old Deepak Chopra tapes and unopened Zumba DVDs purchased during a late night binge of cookies, milk and infomercials.  Then I found it.... "Beginner's Yoga."  My yoga mat had been safely stored behind the entertainment unit for more months than I prefer to admit and was a tad bit dusty.  I plopped it on the ground in a cloud of dust, popped the DVD in and began my journey to look like that woman on my television who stood before the Hawaiian shores filled with focus, grace and anything but chocolate chip cookies and high fat beverages.  Granted, she didn't have sparkly glitter shoes, like I did, but you can't have everything.

  She welcomed me and I looked around to see who might be witnessing me befriend a character on my television and took comfort that I was alone in my madness.  The dog walked in and took its place on my yoga mat and I promptly nudged her off with my yoga feet.   My new friend and I stretched our arms to the sky as we welcomed the day.  I realized it was ten o'clock at night but my DVD broke and I can't skip chapters, so I have no way to select the evening yoga workout.   I am permanently stuck with the "Morning Yoga" routine until I invest in a new DVD.   I felt fairly successful stretching my spine and lengthening my body until the yoga teacher threw in new requirements.... soften your jaw....lighten your eyes... honor your space... inhale, exhale, over and over.   I was twisting and breathing and stepping on the dog, trying to exhale the bad and inhale life but it was masked by the glorious smell of birthday cake from the kitchen.  I learned the Downward Dog and Sun Salutation poses and as I tried to balance on one hand, locate the television screen with my head under my arm and stretch my spine, I realized that these were not new moves to me as I had used these same skills in a crazed game of Twister with my children.  Downward Dog was pretty much the same as left hand yellow and right foot blue.  I could do this if my eyes weren't covered by my leg or the dog wasn't wedged underneath my feet.  As I twisted into odd positions and the dog had taken over my yoga mat beneath me, I spied the bottle of tequila sitting on the counter next to the birthday cake.  Both looked terribly inviting and I abandoned my focused stretching, donned my shiny shoes, left the dog to sleep on my mat and wandered off to find my family to join me with some late night birthday cake.

  Today is 49 plus one day and I will greet the world with giant stretches meant to open my spine and return my youth.  If I fail to make it all the way through the morning exercise routine again, at least I will have sexy shoes, light eyes and a soft jaw.  That has to count for something!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Burning the Candle at Both Ends

  Apparently, you can burn a candle at both ends.  I know this because I found a very good deal on candles and bought 144 votives for $5.  I never thought to pick one up and see why it was such a good deal.  Since they simply will not sit properly in a candle holder, I will stash them away in my "Emergency/End of Days/Alien Invasion/Someone Didn't Pay the Light Bill" kit. They will be safe among the ammunition, junk silver, jars of dried beans and Family Pack of Twizzlers.  Should I find myself in the dark, I will be twice as prepared.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Once Around the Bend

    We are not a canoeing family.  While I like to think that we are, nothing could be further from the truth.  My children have not properly been exposed to manually operated watercraft other than the deluxe inflatable pool lounge with cup holder that floats about our pool.  There's a reason for this and has nothing to do with the fear of open waterways.  My husband and I have different visions of floating down a river.  Mine involves a leisurely four hour float to a tastefully decorated cabin where steaks are sizzling on the grill.  My husband's plan for a water adventure involves entering the river where normal people take out, a 23 mile trek through a canyon with no cell phone signal and catching, cleaning, and preparing our own food along the way.  If I have to strap a knife to my leg to ensure an outing is successful, I tend to avoid it. So, for eighteen years, we've been unable to merge our visions of floating down the rivers of the South and stick to watercraft with engines where we can putter around the lake with ease.

    During a recent road-trip with my children, I made a surprise detour to Devil's Den State Park so I could take my kids canoeing in the upper lake above the dam.  We had been there years earlier and I have fond memories of floating on the lake with my toddlers properly and safely secured in the canoe.  We sailed around the tiny island with ease and my children squealed with delight each time we spotted a turtle, a hawk and even one snake.  It was a marvelous outing, once upon a time.

    This time, upon arrival to the lake, my children did not jump from the car to run to the canoe with wild abandon.  Instead, my daughter roamed the parking lot desperately attempting to find the last shreds of cell phone signal that may have drifted down into the hollow for she had been in mid-conversation with friends from home and now she was suddenly unreachable. My son sized up the situation and carefully removed electronic devices and expensive sunglasses, properly safeguarding them in the trunk of the car.  After giving up on modern conveniences, they joined me at the water's edge where I paid $5 for a 30 minute canoe adventure.  Three more dollars would have bought me an hour, but I knew this wasn't going to last long.  In the searing afternoon heat, we grabbed our paddles and life jackets and began the walk to our boat of choice.  Certain we looked like Larry, Curly and Mo, as we tripped over our paddles and stepped on the life jacket cords, we somehow made it to the dock without injury.

    Allie immediately stepped into the canoe like she was stepping onto a yacht and discovered that balance is key in a canoe.  I caught her by the arm and explained the new rules of canoeing. The first problem we encountered was the fact that the canoe had two seats and we had three people.  I assumed Allie would sit in the middle, on the bottom of the canoe.  That lasted until my son stepped in and the dirty water from the back of the canoe came racing down to soak the person sitting in the middle.  Terrified of germs that could possibly be from prior canoe people, Allie jumped from the bottom of the boat to sit on the black plastic seat that had been baking in the hot Southern sun.  Having your skin bond to the seat was the lesser of two evils and she remained on her perch to avoid the germ infested waters that I suddenly realized I would surely be taking my place in.   I accidentally dropped our bottles of water into the canoe sludge and Allie announced, "I'm not drinking that," as if we thought she would.

    Before too long, we were all perfectly seated with me in the middle and we were ready to go.... until I realized that nobody had untied us from the pier.  This was not Six Flags where someone pushes you off on your adventure.  There was a group of small children with no parental supervision who were sitting on the dock, but I opted not to employ their help as one of them had already fallen in the water and had to be rescued by a stranger. Much like a balancing act of Cirque du Soleil, I pulled myself up from the bottom of the canoe and climbed back onto the dock to free us from our bonds.  As the canoe began to drift from the dock, my son extended me a paddle and I jumped back in to take my place in the middle.  We all began paddling in different directions and found that this was getting us nowhere.  As my daughter announced we were drifting towards the dam, we suddenly developed a plan and began paddling in the opposite direction.  Just as Joey and I worked up some momentum, Allie stuck her paddle in the water to poke a turtle, thus slowing us down and spinning us in the wrong direction.  It didn't take long to figure out that this wasn't working and I opted to get some pictures, instead.  Allie heard the words "Take Your Picture" and immediately stood up in the front of the boat to pose.  Joey and I yelled at her to sit down and somehow we avoiding tipping over.  Still certain of her balancing skills, she stood up again.  We held on tight and yelled a little louder.   We never actually made it around the bend towards the island, but we did all find our inner canoeist.  Joey's job was to row from the back and ensure we made it back to the dock. My job was to redirect the water freely flowing back and forth inside the canoe to avoid soaking my pants or touching Allie's feet.  Her job was to ride in the front like a Princess and whack the paddles in the water to drive turtles to the surface for her viewing pleasure.

    It was a short trip in our canoe and was less than successful if we actually had a goal of traveling from point A to Point B.  But it was great fun and we laughed all the way.   We embraced our lack of canoeing skills or ability to work as a team and somehow made our way back to the dock where a man with two small children was beginning their canoe adventure.  I thought to myself, "You'll make it around the bend on this trip, but give it fifteen years and it's a whole new experience."  Once around the bend had been good enough for me.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Spam Isn't Just for Breakfast Anymore

  I have developed an interesting new hobby that fills my time while I wait in doctor's offices or at airports with nothing to do.  I have discovered the fun that exists in my Spam folder.  I always knew it was there, filtering out the messages sure to deliver viruses, empty promises and mail order brides.  My friends in Spam are many.

  Andre Ouedraogo has written on multiple occasions and has been waiting for my response for weeks. While I don't want to be his business partner and receive $11.2 million dollars, I do have a strange desire to play Scrabble with this man of many vowels. Bento Desmond has some pictures he wants to share with me and unless they are digital images of my dog from the Wal-Mart photo department, I'm going to have to look the other way. Michael Osei, who suggests that we are dear friends, is a manager of a financial institution and needs me to care for an orphaned child from a country I'm not sure exists. In exchange for taking this child in and providing my banking information, I will receive several more million dollars.  Who would have thought the Spam folder held such opportunities? An individual named Mira Razak is sorry for invading my privacy, but has some important information for me.  If all of this wasn't good enough, I have several notices that I've won an iPhone, a cruise, and a Final Award Winning Prize that can only be identified and claimed once I share my banking info with the UK Economic Minister.

  My son and I have both received letters from Dr. Nabieh Khrastine who is running from fire on a mountain and yet, in his escape to safety, he is filled with good investment ideas that we might be interested in.  I'm curious how one gets internet on a burning mountain as I reside in the city and can't get a quality connection because I live at the end of the street.   Mrs. Amanda Johnson wrote me from her death bed and needs me to help her sort out her will.  A woman I've never met wants me to manage her finances.  Does she know me, I have to ask. It took me twenty years to figure out that credit cards were gifts from the devil himself.

  I have to wonder who replies to these open invitations to fortune, fame, and depleted bank accounts.   Sassy Sara and Gina Pena have recently begun writing and while their names are cute, I doubt they can be trusted. Amy Hacker is bold and while she promises a career in the movies, her clear objective is right there in her screen name.  Robert Muller writes every day and I have to admit that I thought he was the "Feed the Children" guy and almost moved him to regular mail. Then I discovered he was selling romantic mind control.  I admit, I'm as curious about this as I am about the fiery mountain for I'm just not sure what romantic mind control is. Does it give the ability to make others swoon in your presence or leave daisies at your door? I may have to flag that email for further review.

  Between the requests from the Ivory Coast for banking information, the promise of Russian brides and mail order meds, I could spend all day perusing my SPAM folder.   Of course, just as I get ready to send a scolding reply, my wait is over and I head off to the dental chair or exam room where I then spend an hour studying the anatomical charts on the walls and convince myself that I would have made a great doctor. Of course, I have an email in my Spam folder that can make that happen for $99 and a valid shipping address.   - Dr. B

Oh yes... You know you want to know why I have a bat icon on my phone.....

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Not So Easy Chair

  Archie Bunker had a chair.  It was a good chair that he came home to each night after a long day at work.  After a nice dinner, he relocated to his chair where he enjoyed watching television and rested until bed time.   As I headed to work yesterday,  I realized that I do not have a chair like his and wondered where our lives took different paths.   When I come home from work, I've already received numerous phone calls and text messages from my family demanding to know answers to important questions such as, "When is my eyebrow appointment" and "Where are my socks?"   Upon arrival to the house, the dog greets me only because she wants to make sure I don't know that she has been lounging on my couch or nosing through my pantry.  My husband is perched by the pool, donning a red bandanna, dripping in sweat, because he somehow chooses the hottest days of the year to split wood or relocate fencing, both things nobody does in the 104 degree heat. When I enter the house, I have no Edith greeting me with a tasty meal.  I step lightly to avoid a stray Nerf dart that may be flying down the hallway.  The kitchen is quiet and any hint of dinner can be found in the freezer waiting for me to create magic in thirty minutes or less.  The children are armed and ready with beach bags and cell phones ready to be transported to their friend's houses or the ball park.

  Several hours later, I have prepared dinner, done two loads of laundry, waved at my friends as I pass them on the road, traveled miles out of my way to retrieve a forgotten cell phone, dropped by the grocery store for fresh milk and finally returned home where the only chair in the living room is waiting on me with a pile of towels that need to be folded.  This is certainly not the kind of chair Mr. Bunker had and it is clear to me that we shop at different furniture stores.

  While I don't have an Archie Bunker chair, I'm certain that he did not have a band of children anxious to share with him their latest stunts, videos, songs, dances and more.  I doubt he ever walked in his kitchen at two a.m. to find teenagers with night vision goggles engaged in full scale Nerf Combat.  I doubt that he ever looked in his glove box, found a box of mints and said, "Hmmmm  - this looks like breakfast."  Our lives are in fast forward and there seems to be no sign of slowing down and relaxing.  Should I ever find a chair like Archie's, I can only hope that I have a lifetime full of memories to reflect on while I sink down in the comfort of my easy chair.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

On The Radio

The world grows smaller every day as youth around the world become friends through social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter.  Friends are made across borders and oceans and a friend of a friend of a friend just may be somebody you want to talk to.  As my kids upload photos, videos and songs for the world to see, their virtual footprint expands across the globe.  Just yesterday, I was, oddly, not surprised by the message from my son that he was being played on Lebanese radio.  It made me stop what I was doing and smile.  I had to ask the obvious question, "How?"

It appears that one of his many Instagram followers has made a friend in Canada who is residing there while she is temporarily away from Lebanon.  I'm not sure what the means exactly, but the kids believe her to  be Lebanese royalty on the run.  (Da do ron ron)  She liked a song that my son has on Sound Cloud and shared it with her friend who is a Disc Jockey in Lebanon where he supposedly played it on Lebanon airways.  At first, I wondered how odd that must seem to have traditional Lebanese music playing and then suddenly hear the voice of western boy singing an English love song.  Little did I know how much American music is played world wide.  Perhaps my blonde headed boy can be the next Lebanese Justin Bieber. I remembered the Italian tour bus I was on years ago where they played non-stop American 50's music and wonder if perhaps my boy's voice did sound out in the Lebanese streets.  It's a thought that makes me smile.   I pulled up Kiss Lebanon FM radio and Albalad 106.5 Beirut on my laptop and while I did not hear my child, I did hear someone who was not Billy Ray Cyrus belting out the words to Achy Breaky Heart..."You can tell your Ma, I moved to Arkansas."  What a strange coincidence I thought!

As I perused the Lebanese radio websites, exploring their world and probably being watched by my own, I realized that their world is not how I see it in tiny CNN video clips of protests and war.  There is music and laughter and beauty.  Somewhere over there right now is another person, with similar likes as we, sitting behind their computer clicking on Instagram photos and uploading beautiful images of their world.  It's not just a small world.  It's one world where we're all connected.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hitchhiker Beware

  After a particular challenging day at work, I was glad to escape to my car so I could head towards home where I could collapse on my couch under the cool breeze of a ceiling fan.   As I sat in my car that had baked to a nice 104 degrees in the middle of the asphalt parking lot, I rested with my head on the air-conditioner vents praying for cooler temperatures.  While certain it has nothing to do with age, I've recently begun experiencing sudden onset hot flashes. They come on quick, without warning, and according to my family, my mood changes instantly, as well.  In my defense, I would imagine anyone's mood would change when they are about to spontaneously combust.  I've seen those pictures of the tiny pile of ashes sitting on the pile of clothes where an unsuspecting victim once stood.  Of course, if I were to suddenly burst into flames, my ashes would be found sitting next to a pile of laundry waiting to be folded and nobody would ever notice.  They would shake the towels out and assume I was at work or out running errands and have no idea that I was now floating about the living room disguised as dust.   Hoping to avoid spontaneous combustion, I peeled myself off of the air vent, put the car in gear and headed home. 

  As my car approached forty miles per hour, I glanced over to see a bright green cricket attached to my window holding on for dear life.   He had the same look I had when attached to the air vent - a look of total despair.  I  noticed his little cricket feet grasping the window in a desperate attempt to hold on.  I empathized with the cricket and slowed my car down to thirty miles per hour to see if his hind legs would still flap in the wind or if he could secure a better grip.  Before long I was driving down the highway doing 20 miles per hour watching the changing disposition of the cricket as he continued to hold on to the last shreds of hope.   I passed many a grassy area where I could have stopped to release the cricket from this ride of terror, but I was determined to get us both home to the safety of my house. 

  I passed in and out of hot flashes and speed zones as the fearful cricket stayed with me clinging to the side of my car.  Of all the challenges I had faced that day, this was the challenge that consumed me...  Could I round the corner at thirty miles an hour and still keep Jimminy attached to the car?  It was like a video game with a real live player.  I realized the craziness of this as I slowed traffic behind me.  My daughter called and asked where I was and I was embarrassed to tell her I was three hours away from home because I was now traveling 5 miles per hour down the parkway in an attempt to secure the fate of a hitchhiking cricket.   

  You'll be relieved to know that the green bush cricket and I both made it home safely and he was gently placed on a leafy clematis plant where I'm certain he is still recovering from shock.   It concerns me that the summer heat wave and pre-menopausal behavior are having such affect on me and fear it may be a very long summer in these parts. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Squeeze Bottom Road

  When a container truck and a horse trailer collided on Interstate 40 near Cuba Landing, it shut down traffic in the East bound lane.  After three hours in the car, sitting in the same spot on the highway, it became apparent that some of my choices were probably not good ones.  For instance, providing the family with extra large caffeinated beverages and a sack of candy might have been a poor choice had I known there would be no bathroom available for hours and that we would all be stuck in a small space, wedged between semi trucks, for a prolonged period of time.  As we entered the fourth hour on the highway and the lady in front of us urinated in her car and poured it on the ground, I knew we were witnessing the loss of civility and decided it was time for drastic measures. Over the course of our wait on the highway, we would occasionally notice the adventurous law breaker who had broken from the ranks and was then driving down the side of the road in hopes of finding a better route.  I put the car in gear, placed my trust in our GPS system and headed off down the side of the highway, unknowing if we would drive into a roadblock or straight off the edge of the Earth.  We made it to the closest exit and began our journey into the back roads of the Tennessee hills.

  It's funny how little things suddenly become important.  I assured my family we were fine when the asphalt changed to gravel and I continued forward in search of the highway.  I was thankful for the rock road that led us away from the thousands of people still stranded on the interstate.  The GPS showed that we were entering Hellsneck road and I wondered if perhaps this was a huge mistake.   We snaked around the hollows and found we were soon on Squeeze Bottom Road.  I ran into a lost pack of SUVs around the time the gravel changed to dirt and I asked them if this was the way to the highway.  They had no idea.  I exclaimed that my GPS indicated that it was and the group rallied around and we headed out like a wagon train of weary travelers no longer able to sit idle on the highway.   I led the pack as we climbed hills and turned sharp dirt corners expecting to find hidden stills or drive into some Aryan Brotherhood Lodge.   The piled dirt on the edge of the road was indicative that someone had recently graded the path, so I assumed we hadn't driven too far away from civilization and continued forward.  We saw back woods that most have never seen and I was thankful for the adventure.  Suddenly we rounded a corned and were driving through expensive farmland.  We passed a man fishing on the side of the road and pretended that it was probably some famous country music star wondering why a caravan of SUVs was flying past his house intentionally located in the middle of nowhere.  It was great fun and we laughed all the way as the roads disappeared and we took a chance traveling into the unknown.  Before too long, we drove onto the asphalt road that led us to the Interstate.  We had successfully bi-passed the accident, and avoided the detour that was now carrying traffic 50 miles out of the way.  
  When we returned home a few days later, we passed the exit that we had taken to escape the traffic jam and I smiled knowing that I driven by there a hundred times before and never knew what adventure was just a few feet away. It's because we found the best in a bad situation that we can add one more fun memory to our list of things we did that were completely unplanned.  It seems the best times have been found in those moments.   That's the same way we discovered the blue bird factory, the giant gong in the woods, the spaceship chair and the bathroom that defied physics. My kids know what I'm talking about... and I know they are smiling when they read this. 

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...