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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Girls

They descended upon us with the stealthiness of the sun. First I heard the squesh squesh squesh of little bear's diaper, and then there was the cheery self-talk that piggy pie does. Sometimes it's a song. Sometimes lines from Annie or Hercules. Sometimes rumination about her stuff versus Ava's stuff. Sometimes her Barbies are conversing. But it is constant. There are likely sensible connections that tie the chatter together, because for all her dramatic tendencies, my oldest is a sensible girl, but it's near impossible to follow the flow because she peppers her soliloquies with questions and demands. "We are hungry. I want the different colored cereal that looks like little frosted flakes. I saw Daddy eat it." "When I was a baby, what was I on Halloween?" It's just after dawn, kid. I am not even sure you're mine.

The other sits on the floor, jamming to "The Muffin Man" on her baby iPod, occasionally chirping "What???" "What???" like she's an axe chopping wood.

So close, they dance in the same circle of activity. Emma brushes Ava's hair out of her face absentmindedly. Ava leans on Emma affectionately while she inspects her pajama zipper. But then the poles shift, and they repel each other, one feels called to inspect the fibers in the carpet, her little eyebrows raised just like her dad. The other needs to plan her outfit for the day.

That's what they do. They wake me, control my activities, changemefeedmesitwithmewatchme. When they are sated, they flitter away.

And that's how I found myself watching Miss Spider this morning. Bleary, weary, confused and happy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mobile blogging is weird

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tongue Dent

Perhaps if I bite my tongue long enough and hard enough, I'll create a dent that will remind me that sometimes, saying less is saying more.

But then again, if I stay silent too long, ideas and feelings will fester, in which case, the dent could become life threatening.

If I forget about it, there's always the chance that I'll repress an emotion that will later pop up one day when I'm ninety and wearing diapers and upset me. Then again, if I'm in diapers, there's a good chance I'll forget it again.

If I work it out and write about it, then it no longer is a part of present me and immediately becomes part of who I WAS, what I THOUGHT, and how I FELT.  I can even go third conditional and imagine how I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT or WOULD HAVE FELT. 

But then, if it's so important that I want to write about it, then it's time to reevaluate my pie of life, because someone's getting a bigger hunk than they deserve . . . 



Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nothing Original Means Nothing Original

     It's just not Thanksgiving until someone fights. It's just not.  The preparation, the food, the little things we do to hang out together and be entertained - all that means nothing until the arguments ensue. Ours centered around drawing names for Christmas, and I'm not sure how we got there or how it ended or even really what was said. I heard only the tone of the words and saw the irritated faces.  My only quip was that I thought we should be good Catholics and lie to each other about how we really feel and no one laughed, but I still thought it was moderately funny.

     My only irritation was I was pretty sure we decided last year we weren't drawing names. Everyone knows who has who and tells what they want and shopping turns into a chore instead of fun and sometimes you even get in some form of currency the $100 we set as the limit. But oh well. The Taylor Swift special distracted me from wanting to say more than "I thought we weren't drawing names this year!" Besides that, Ava was yanking on my earrings and trying to turn on the Escalade with my remote keypad. I had other issues during the storm. 

     Aside from the minor dramatic flare of personalities at the witching hour, it was fun as usual. Lots of laughing, some good stories and the usual teasing,  But know what? I miss my family.  I miss my grandmother and my sisters and my brothers and my mom.  And.  Andandandandand. The secretest, quietest, privatest thing?  I. Miss. My. Dad.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Moms

Who are these women? I very seldom look up to find out, but I hear their conversations with each other. I listen as they discuss dance competitions and costumes and then, surreptitiously, other mothers who they dislike jointly and privately. They don't sit down. That's the worst part. I can handle the one with the iPad who watches everyone's kids and barks out instructions to the new moms and who used to be really very friendly to me until she found out I was Catholic. I think it also bothered her that I made fast friends with Dina, the one Brock and the guys at work would call a MILF. No one really talks to Dina, but she's preoccupied with three girls and is nice to everyone, like Sandy on Grease. She's the one who warned me about the dance team moms.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

You Can't Find 'Em in a Grocery Store . . .

     At the donut shop this morning, standing in line and overheard a conversation at a table of mature citizens.  I have an eye for older folks, so it took only a second to appraise the situation - 4 men, 4 women - clearly couples having coffee after early service on Sunday.  The men sat on one end of the table and the women sat on the other.  All touched by gray, all clearly comfortable in their own skin, and all engaged in separate but equal passionate exchanges about politics. One woman on the far end was spitting fire about someone in politics that I don't like either, though the day has erased the name.  (It's been a  long day, and I'm under the weather, but I remember thinking, "Atta girl.") The men's conversation was closer to me in proximity, so I picked up quite a bit.  One gentlemen was telling another about G.W.'s book having come out and how he was impressed with the writing. He said he had a granddaughter who is a reader, so he told her he wanted her to read the whole thing, and if she couldn't afford it, he'd purchase one for her.  His listener added his opinion about the interview he had seen of G.W. on "what's his name's show."  "O'Reilly?" asked the other. "No, he said. I saw that one, but not him - the other guy." I'd so fit in with these people.  And not just because I bought the book yesterday.

     It's hard not to engage when you're like-minded, and I wanted so badly to sit down and talk with them. Listen to their opinions on life and death taxes and the state of our country. I have my own opinions, but wisdom and experience offers a perspective that you just don't get from reading the daily news.  I try to usurp as much of it as I can when I'm around the wiser generation and I highly recommend this type of thievery.  You stand in line at the grocery check out and it can be depressing to watch the daily workings of life play out in the faces and actions of people who are more connected to the Facebook apps on their phones than they are to their inner selves.  And that's laughable these days, too. Who has an inner self?  As long as you can tweet or give a status update, nothing's a mystery about you.  Thoughts cease to be original when you find yourself sitting at a stoplight or at your work computer or laying in bed with your hands on some type of keyboard, trying to think of the cleverest way to say what you thought ten minutes ago.   Positive, comparative, superlative . . . sad, sadder, saddest.

     What these folks were talking about is worthy of a status update - one I'd take the time to read - one that says something.  One that doesn't involve an arm shot of how cute they look with their new hairstyle or with just a little bit of cleavage showing. 

     Ah, but ranting and raving against social media is hypocritical. I have my own account, and even though I use it primarily to keep in touch with family and post pics of my girls for them,  I still imbibe the sticky, sweet liqueur. To disqualify myself from the race just because I drink mine from a crystal goblet just isn't fair. 

     Who I want to be was sitting at the donut shop.  Who I am in the process of becoming is sitting at the coffee shop - someone who stares her friends in the face and engages them in lively conversation. Someone who buys everyone's coffee because it's my turn and listens to stories about their kids because I know them as well as I know my own and I care.  Someone who keeps up to date with the world and our country and has an opinion. Someone who sits just a few feet away from her husband who's telling his own stories and sharing his own opinions and who knows that he knows that I know that it's also because I love coffee and he loves donuts, and how that counts, too.  

Saturday, November 13, 2010

     It'll be eight years in July that we've been married.  For the first seven, I kept thinking to myself that it seemed like so much longer.  Like the number was too small to match our experience and our journey together.  It didn't accurately reflect the depth of our time together.  Beyond the days and the weeks and the months and the years has been the intensity with which we've loved each other. Who described numbers and time this way?  That it is more than just more or less.  It's forwards and backwards and sideways. Time isn't just felt in terms of where the sun's place is in the sky - it is felt in degrees.  The degree of drama in our first year. The degree to which we were in debt at the beginning. The degree of worry he endured over my questionable health for a while there. The degree to which I supported his musical aspirations. The degree of patience he had with my continuing education.  Time slowed for us. The time it took to find a house. The time it took the owners to move OUT so we could move IN.  The first holidays together, the long drives, the quiet evenings that we tried to stretch into days.

     Children changed time for us, too.  Emma made it more precious instantaneously.  From her first cry, time meant something totally new to both of us.  Ava did something different with time. She tightened up the schedule.  She made baths in to bath time, lunch into lunch time, and night-night into bedtime. She turned a cold front into fall shopping for the girls grocery shopping into menu planning.  They've both turned time inward on itself, too.  Because it's something we hoard, as well.  Time together, away from the world, at home and doing nothing with time except letting it wash over us like a low tide.

Eight years of marriage and ten years together in July.  Of any accomplishment, this is the one of which I'm most proud - being in love with the man I fell for in no time flat. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

To Do . . .

To be glorious and brave, dark and shrewd and unapologetic.  To say, "This is the art within me" and "To hell with you."

To recognize the power of a minute, if it's all that's left in a day for personal reflection. To damn sleep and use it or fail yourself and lose it.

To curse the rapid, vapid, needy world that seeks to reduce you to a status update, reportable the very second you realize you have engaged in a new activity and robbing you of transition neurons.

To step outside when it suits you best, when the night calls or the morning beckons. To recognize your place in the universe and how you contribute to its balance as much as it does yours.

To ignore the ruts in the road and the ruts in humanity.  To remember that the only road you rule is your own.

To say it when it needs to be said.  To tell polite society that apologies can be found in anything if ones looks deep enough.  To let them spend their time looking. 

To cut effectively from the activities that are incongruous to your composition.  To do what calls you - what consumes you - what keeps your head in the clouds. 

To purse your lips and wrinkle your brow and cock your head and consider what needs consideration. Anytime at all.

To go home. Wherever that for you.  To live there and love from there no matter where you go.

To look at love and see love and not the thing that is said wrong. To stop tabulating the slights like the scorekeeper at a basketball game.

To laugh at what is funny.  To explain why instead of hording a wry smile like it'll do you any good later.

To do . . .

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Life Tip

When someone is clearly stressed . . . don't add to it. No matter how wrong you think they are.

Friday, April 30, 2010

CHECK MATE

Hmm.  Have been deep in thought this morning - mulling this whole "Mexicans to March in 70 Cities" thing, and I'm wondering if knockoffs of logic were on sale this month.

When I go to Matamoros or Progreso in Mexico - border towns near my hometown of Brownsville, Texas - I pay a toll to get into the country.  Pretty simple "Hi, I want to visit for a little while, buy some stuff, eat, drink, and bring my stuff back home - to my home - the United States. No, I'm not coming to work. I know I can't do that without a permit. I know better than to break laws in your country.  Just visiting, really. Thanks!"

When I come back across the border, I sit in line in my car with my family and friends and wait my turn.
When it's my turn, I know what to do when the U.S. Border Patrol agent peers into my vehicle, studies us, and asks directly, "Are you an American citizen?" I tell the truth.  "Yes, sir/ma'am." "Are you carrying anything illegal?" "No, sir/ma'am." Simple questions, simple answers.  I just tell the truth. I know I can't set up a residence in Mexico, a business in Mexico . . . I know that.  There are laws in that country, and I'm not a citizen. I respect their laws as much as I respect the laws of my country.  And I drive home, where I work, pay taxes, vote, raise my kids ands and enjoy the benefits of the rights afforded to me by my citizenship here.

Now Arizona is under fire for their recent stance on criminal aliens, and I don't understand the anger of my fellow Americans of Mexican descent. My t-shirt says, "I'm Mexican and I'm Not Mad." Here's why:

- If I'm speeding in Arizona, I'm breaking the law. Pull me over. I'm a citizen breaking the law. I deserve the ticket.
- If I'm weaving in traffic and appear to be impaired, I could be breaking the law or need help. Pull me over.  I'm a citizen who is either breaking the law or a citizen who needs help. I either deserve a ticket, jail time, or assistance.
- If I break into someone's house and help myself to their stuff, arrest me.  I'm a citizen breaking one or more laws.  I deserve what I get.

If in any of the scenarios above, you as a law enforcement officer need to verify my status as a US citizen, feel free.  You're going to verify my age, date of birth, gender, hair and eye color and drivers license number anyway when you get my license from me, so what's an extra check, mate? If I'm driving, you're going to verify my vehicle registration, inspection status and my insurance.  Doesn't bother me. I'm a citizen, and I might be breaking the law.  Do what you need to do.

Now, let's say I'm NOT a citizen . . .

I'm a criminal alien who is speeding down US roads.  I ignored the process for legally immigrating, and I am ignoring the rest of your laws.
I'm a criminal alien driving impaired down US roads.  I not only ignored your laws for legally immigrating, I'm having a blast doing it.
I'm a criminal alien who breaks into someone's home. I am here illegally mooching off your system, and now I also want the stuff out of your house and who cares if you paid for it all yourself.

It's baffling to me.  I go to the Social Security office, and I stand in line. It sucks, but I have to follow procedures set before me like every other citizen, so I do it.  I go to the DMV, and I stand in line. That sucks equally, but again, procedures and rules - so I do it.  I stand in line to renew my car registration, I stand in line to get a copy of a birth certificate, I stand in line to get a marriage license. I AM AN AMERICAN, AND I SPEND MY LIFE IN LINES.  At the end of each of these lines, what do I have to do?  I have to prove who I am. I have to show identification - I have to prove I am a citizen.

I am an American, and I have to prove I am a citizen on a regular basis for the rest of my life.  What's more, if I want to move to Mexico and start a spider monkey circus, I'll have to do what?  Stand in lines in Mexico. Ain't that something?

I hear "racial profiling" as the reason for this GASPSHOCKHORROR reaction from folks, and I wonder this: are they not aware of the power of a civil rights lawsuit against a police force?  Are they not aware that real citizens are protected by the law against such behavior? If a crazy man from Tasmania is driving down the road shooting a gun and cops pull him over, is there really a problem with asking him to provide documentation confirming his legal status while he's being cited for endangering lives including his own? Probably not.

Just don't ask a criminal alien from Mexico, because at that point, it stops being about safety (despite the fact that many aliens live in the US and benefit greatly from circumventing the system) and starts being about racism.

By the way, don't get offended, but the next time we talk, I may have to ask you to show me your logic . . .

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Would You March for Me?

Crime victims of illegal aliens

Thursday, April 15, 2010

THE ACCIDENTAL VEGGIE WRAP

It's not quite like falling face first, open-mouthed onto a veggie wrap, but it's relatively close. See, I ordered the wrap and forgot to say, "Add chicken." Well, more like "Add chicken because I am a carnivorous dinosaur who sees no point to a life without the type of protein that gives your teeth a good workout."


Either way, I had a wrap stuffed with lovely field greens, sliced cucumber, seriously thin slivers of avocado (How did they do that, and more importantly, WHY would they jack with the integrity of the avocado wedge?), chopped tomato, and balsamic vinegar, served with a side of chips and salsa.

So, what did I do? I ATE IT.

And I did it suspiciously.  Like Horatio from CSI Miami with the sunglasses.  I squinted at the wrap, cocked my head to one side and fully appraised it.  "You call yourself food?" I wanted to ask. "You think you're all that, huh? Sitting there all neat and tidy with your toothpick and cut at an angle like it makes you look more fashionable."  My husband offered me some of his chicken.  "No," I said. "This is fine."  I even left a little of the wrap on the plate, just to show who's in charge here. 

And now? I'm kinda hungry. Sorta. I mean. I'm not sure if I'm hungry-hungry or just Iwasrobbedhungry. 
And I kind of want revenge now. I know that's crazy, because I truly don't know who I want revenge against. The wrap itself? The waitress in the plaid schoolgirl skirt who had a face like a bunny rabbit? I'm not sure. Nor am I sure of how I would even exact my revenge.  I have scenarios, sure. But you have no idea how my mind works, so I'll spare you the film shorts. 

I DID have an emergency piece of dark chocolate. It's considered emergency because 1.) I have a sweet tooth and a morsel of chocolate is much more hip-friendly than a chocolate brownie sundae. (Why sunDAE? Who did that? Did they need to word to look more Latin and Sunday didn't cut it?) 2.) Emergency chocolate because I put it high on the shelf behind me hidden in my "YOU MAY ALL GO TO HELL AND I WILL GO TO TEXAS" mug. If I'm hiding stuff from people, it's a happy little surprise. If I'm hiding it from myself, it's from the devil.

You know, I think I'm starting to soften towards the offensive wrap now. I'm not starving. I don't feel sick. There are lots of people out there who eat like this all the time, right? Vegans? Vegetarians? Meat haters? What do we call them these days?
I can do this. I can eat a veggie wrap for lunch.


I'll just have a steak for dinner . . .

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

No Life Tip - Just A Lifetime Ago

Some things are too dark to write about, really.  So, you think them and you move on to something nicer to think about. And then some things are so dark that UNLESS you write about them, moving to a happy thought will be about as easy as climbing Everest in high heels and a miniskirt.

Brock doesn't often sit down to watch movies.  He's got too many thoughts, too many ideas, too much work. And if he's going to sit down, it's usually because he has a guitar in his hands.  But tonight we had dinner at his folks' house.  The food is always terrific - homemade everything - but the atmosphere is . . . well, I liken it to the way my grandmother's house made me feel when I first came home from college for Christmas - exhausted, safe, and completely lazy.  This house doesn't know seasons. It matters not if it's hot or cold outside, wet or dry.  Once you walk in, you just want to lay down and go to sleep.  So, when we make ourselves leave, we're usually just as bleary-eyed and child-like as our kids. We pout the entire way home. Emma needs a bath.  Pout.  Ava needs a bottle. Pout, pout. 

Anyway, by the time we got home, Brock sat on the couch like a weeble-wobble planted securely in the sand, and a movie caught his attention. It was a movie about teenagers.  Stupid teenagers.  Stupid teenagers who were on drugs and had little parental supervision.  And had cars. And money. And no fear.  I knew almost immediately that I couldn't watch it.  I recognized the speech patterns, the defiance in the faces, and the feeling that something was going to happen before it did.  There are educators who just know when there's going to be a fight, and I was one of them. It's just a feeling of unrest, of nervous energy.  Even when the kids are all tucked safely away in classrooms, you just know. 

So, I'm on the treadmill, and I'm doing these lateral side skips that my trainer assigned me, and I keep having to turn and face our great room, where the TV is playing.  I have my ipod playing, but my eyes catch the violence of one teen stabbing another.  They're at the beach, and there are many of them. The girls are hiding their faces, curled up and screaming in a car, and the boys are getting turned on by what's happening until one after another takes a turn at bringing the victim to his end. That's all I saw and needed to see.  It made me feel like I could have crawled out of my skin and just melted into a puddle on the ground. It's a MOVIE, you say.  Yes, it's a movie.  A movie about kids I knew. Kids who sat across from me in my formidable desk and had the look that other kids don't have.  Like the gangster girl who stood up and told me in a quiet voice that I would give her her cell phone back if I knew what was good for me. (I didn't.)  Or the overgrown and gangly pot head who didn't even flinch when I pulled a long, fat joint out of his shirt pocket - where it wasn't even hidden from view.  It made me think of the 7th grade girl who sat across from me and told me she had come to like cocaine and she didn't see anything wrong with selling bumps of it off her pinky nail in between classes.  Or the 12-year old who put a needle in his eraser and went through the halls slicing at other students.  His big brown eyes were so surprised by my shock and horror.  "I was just playing," he said.  There was the girl at one school who was so doped up on Xanex that I couldn't wake her.  She was passed out in the middle of her art class, and I had to have the teacher help me carry her to the nurse's office.  I waited until 8 PM that night for her parents to come and get her.  Parents who told me I was lying and had no proof she was high.  Parents who laughed in my face and told me I was crazy.

There were so many.  Some I've forgotten, some I laugh about, and some I try to never, ever think about. Like the one who died after he lit himself on fire. On purpose. I don't think of him, and I've never said his name. Not in 7 years.

I think that some people can handle it and some people can't. I think I became a school administrator because someone told me I would do a good job.  I was a teacher, a cheerleading coach, and soccer coach, department head, and on and on. And I believed them when they said that.  I was flattered, and I believed them. So, I did it.  Check.  For six years. Check, check. And the love I had for the kids I knew in my classroom evolved into suspicion and frustration. I never again looked at a tween and thought, "What a neat kid." I never again believed a kid when they swore they were telling me the truth.  I learned that all kids lie after an honor student on an important school club was found to have been cheating for weeks and weeks.  After a mild-mannered star athlete assaulted another child so badly that he was charged with a felony.

When you're a teacher in your classroom, you have the dynamic to help propel your agenda.  That's why, year after year, you find that you love your 2nd period class but hate your 7th period class.  It's all about the dynamics.  But when you spend your entire career in low SES schools and time marches on, you spend your days looking into the eyes of children who don't trust you any more than you trust them.  Children who didn't get to be children. Children who know a world they shouldn't know, and who calmly admit that you're just stopping them for the short term. 

Oh, it wasn't like this every single day, but what I'm saying is that once you've seen that side, you never forget it. And it humbles you.  And it scares you. There were many times over those six years that I messed with the wrong kid or the wrong parent, and I knew there could come a time when it would all come back to me.  It's not the only reason I left, but it played a part.  I was never meant to be a suspicious person. And the investigations wore me out.  Kids can lie for days before you finally catch the weak link and get him to roll on the others.  No, I'm sunnier than that. And I'm sorry, but you can't be sunny and a junior high administrator without prescribed drugs. A teacher, yes.  By God, yes.  Junior high teachers are the best and most fun of any people I know.  But administrators are NOT.  I think my teachers could watch that movie and draw comparisons to kids they know and even laugh about some parts.  But I couldn't.  There was a real fear I carried after so many kids and so many punishments.  And I was glad to let it go. 

So, Brock comes in later and says that movie reminded him of stupid things he and his friends did.  Things that could have gone terribly wrong and didn't, and he said, "That movie was bad."
"I know," I told him. "I know."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Life Tip #10 - Keep in Touch

     Rare moment: me, a large cup of hot coffee, and my blog.  It's been a while, and I have a strong appreciation for moments of clarity that also allow you enough time to record them . . .

     It's hard to capture what I am feeling in words. Over the last few days, I have caught myself smiling or laughing to myself before I realized I'd been remembering the good times I shared with my college dance team.

     Remembering the day Judi and I arrived at our dorm and the wonder we felt when our parents finally left us to start college life together 10 hours away from home.  Ranger was a tiny town of little more than 1000 people, and that included all of us at the college. Judi got a dance scholarship, and got me on as a walk-on. It was the best favor any friend ever did for another. It was there that we saw the clearest skies and brightest stars in Texas. Where we stood in complete darkness on the overpass on I-20 and leaned way over it so that when the semi trucks passed under it and us, we felt a rush of wind and power and adrenaline unlike anything else.  It sounds crazy, but when someone was having a bad day, Judi and I looked at each other knowingly and took them to the "bridge." It only took one truck to get a smile, and after 10 or 12, talk turned to where the evening would find us.  It was there that we learned to run the 5 mile loop without stopping - mostly to prove to our hard core dance instructor that we could it and not because we could actually do it. 
And it was there that we learned both how to country dance and how to skull a beer and how not to have high expectations about places called "Sandy Beach" or "The Hill."  In the plains of North Texas, the first was a field and the second was the side of an overpass that was hidden from view.  It was also there that we learned to buckle down and work hard.  We studied as much as we partied, and on many nights, you could find one or more girls sitting out in our everlit hallway, working on something that had to be turned in the next day.  I myself learned that I could study quite well when I was drunk. As long as I got an hour or two of sleep, almost all of the information stayed at the top of my brain, like the foam on a draft beer.

     Independence was a better teacher than anything I'd ever experienced.  Being hours away from home meant we had to do our own laundry at a laundromat.  It meant we had to be careful with the money our parents sent to us in the mail.  It meant we had to nurse ourselves and each other when we got sick. Judi got me through the flu, and the two of us called Shannon's mom when she got so sick we knew she had to be hospitalized.

     I think of each girl . . . Judi, Carrie, Shelly, Trisha, Renee, Misty, Ammie, Tiffany, Shannon, Stephanie, Leticia, and Dianna, and I marvel at how such strong young women had the good fortune to end up in the same place.  Each was determined.  Each was compassionate.  Each had a fighting spirit that never let her get down for longer than it took to get her to The Bridge.

     We talked. We talked all day, every day, and late into each night. And every Sunday, when those who were close enough to go home on the weekends were back, we gathered in someone's room expressely to hear about how the weekend was.  Everyone got a turn to share, and we thoroughly enjoyed all the details that made up our days apart.  Fridays were great, but I think many of us thought Sundays were better. 

     On more than one occassion, we learned how to "mildly" break a law.  It wasn't breaking and entering at the bass house, it was "exploring."  And when we found the perfect pier for laying out, we figured no one would question six fit girls in bikinis.  And they didn't. :)  And stopping on I-20 in the middle of Fort Worth to pee on the side of the road?  We called it public service in the form of entertainment for the passing drivers. And when we were stopped by our security guard, Rocky, as we headed to Bostock's in Stephenville, I rolled my eyes and shook my head in disgust when he opened our ice chest full of Zima's.  "God, Rocky,"I said.  "Zima's are energy drinks, not beer.  We're on the dance team, for crying out loud!" The girls in the car expressed equal disgust as he meekly apologized and let us go off into the night, hooting and hollering the whole way . . .

     Oh, and there were boys.  Boys who turned our worlds upside down and made us crazy and broke our hearts. Shelly and Stephanie found the loves of their lives, and the rest of us found life lessons and inner strength and frankly, some duds if there ever were any.

     When our two years were up, I don't think I was the only one who struggled with the separation.  It was too sudden - too hard - too over.  And there was no one who understood what it was like to lose a team of sisters all at once. There was really no one to talk to about it, and I guess we all assumed that we didn't need to impose on each other as we moved on. Talking to all of them now, I wish I had been stubborn about these friendships. I wish I had looked at it as normal instead of an imposition.  I thought more than once that I must have needed them more than they needed me. Sixteen years later, I find that I was wrong.

     Tomorrow I will see the friends who I have missed for so long, and I can't stop smiling.  I have old photos (some incriminating, some just plain strange.) I have my old dance captain jacket and the last issue of our college newspaper. I have some acting medals and my diploma, and I have a heart full of great memories to boot. I've talked to Shannon, the BEST person in the world. I've talked to Leticia, the most motivating and positive person in the world, I'll be heading out on this road trip with Shelly, who is the FUNNIEST person in the world, and today I talked to Judi, the person who knows who I am even after all these years.  And we've all agreed to one thing: we will go way beyond reunions.  We will pick up where we left off and not miss a beat.  Saturday afternoon will be like our old Sundays and Saturday night will be a step up from Bostock's, partly because we won't have to sneak drinks and partly because we're still the crazy girls we used to be . . . Southern Belles after all.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

LIFE TIP INTERMISSION - THE MOMMA IS NEVER ALONE - A POEM

trying to work, trying to work, trying to work from home
but I should know better, when we're all together, the momma is never alone

the momma can't sit in a corner and glare at her numbers and figures and rates
the momma must answer all questions like "hey, lady, why is our dinner so late?"

the momma must find all the toys to keep busy the munchkins and "put on the smurfs"
the momma must nod at the comments and quips and kiss boo-boos' and owies and hurts.

but mostly the momma, dear, busy, old momma, dear, cranky old momma can see
all the gifts in the mind-boggling chaos around her, in the circus, she somehow finds peace


peace in the smile of a jolly, fat baby who babbles and jabbers and crawls
peace in the style of sassy-sweet misses who's using my bra as a shawl
peace in the way that the daddy pops in for he's just gotta see where we are
oh how they fulfill me, distract me, and and kill me, these people who make up my heart . . .

m.w.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

LIFE TIP OF THE DAY #9

LIFE TIP OF THE DAY #9 - REMEMBER YOUR BIRTHDAYS . . . ALL OF THEM

She's four today.

And for her, that meant waking up to a kitchen decorated in red and pink, balloons everywhere, and gifts ready for her to open in her very particular, Emma-like way.

It meant a special surprise visit by her aunt DeeDee who brought her her favorite two foods in the world . . . donuts and kolaches.

It meant a phone call from Mommy and Daddy on their way to work during which she rhapsodized over her favorite gift of the morning by singing, "I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my princess phone."

I know that it means something different to Brock, who has marveled several times today, "I can't believe she's four. Four!"

And for me? Well, it's my birthday, too. On this day four years ago, I became a mom, and it was as wondrous an event as I imagined it would be. I remember her first cry and the stunning realization that she was her own person but mine all the same. I remember how attentive Brock was, how he fawned over her and spent her first hours of life alone with her, and how, when I woke, he was as gone as a dad can get. Smitten if I ever saw it.

When we brought her home, when we were alone, when the last visitor had gone and it was just us two, I would whisper to her over and over, day after day, "God loves me this much." The idea that I was given such a precious thing - a life to care for and protect was not lost on me, and I have been grateful.

I don't know how I'll handle 5, 15, or 25. I imagine the surprise of parenthood will never leave me, that I'll always look at her and wonder how she can be the perfect combination of Brock and then her own little person all at once. I'll wonder how she can say the things she says and think the things she thinks and still be mine. I'll be reminded day after day that she is not me, and how that's pretty neat all in all.

What end is there of dreams about your children? How marvelous that the daydreams live on year after year. She'll ride a bike on her own, she'll play the piano, she'll cook her first meal (an event rapidly approaching), she'll want a diary, she'll have a boyfriend for five minutes before Brock kills him, she'll daydream in her room like I once did, she'll marry, she'll be a mom . . .

And through it all, she'll be the brown-eyed, long-haired little drama queen of our hearts who makes her own music and walks her own path, holding our hearts in her able little hands.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

LIFE TIP #10 - THROUGH - Make it your favorite preposition today.

You could go around it. Go under it. Get over it. You could get into it for hours and then find you want to get out of it.


I've tried them all. In fact, that may be why, as an English teacher, my favorite lesson of all time was teaching prepositions. These aren't just WORDS, people. They're defense mechanisms. And I am a master at all of them.

But like bell bottoms and jellies and black eyeliner and big hair (oh wait.) those things are slowly losing their place in my life. (I am sorry I have held on to the big hair so long. It's just who I am.)

Nothing profound. Nothing new. No advice. Just a healthy review of what works best. And it's in the simple tasks that this is practiced - like the past two days when my trainer has asked me to do lunges. I hate lunges. If me and lunges got into a fight, lunges would die a long, painful, gory death. But I keep doing them. And they're getting easier. I still hate them, and it always takes me a few minutes to get my form right, but I am doing them.

I'm not much of a talker though, so through is hard because it requires initiating conversations about feelings. And, news flash, gentlemen, not all women want to talk about their feelings. In GET OVER IT families, you're bred to do anything BUT talk about your feelings. But I think I'm going to start practicing.

I don't hate talking as much as I hate lunges, so maybe if I just focus on putting one word in front of the other . . . .


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

LIFE TIP #9 - DIG ON COMMUNICATION

LIFE TIP #9 - DIG ON COMMUNICATION


There's a strength of character that spurs a person to speak up and voice an opinion, and those issues that divide a people are the same issues that bind them together. Ideologies may differ, but the steady stream of communication that they spawn tell us that the state of our country is strong - that people are not complacent logs who sit comfortably in the fire. The conversations that most people avoid at all costs are the ones that once helped found a strong nation - one where everyone was entitled to an opinion with each person granted the right to stand by his convictions and be respected for it.

And today, while I breathe more comfortably because the course of the country has been altered, others are worried by the very same thing. What can give us ease is the fact that, while we may sit on different sides of the field, when the time comes, we are willing to play the game.
And, if we stand by our convictions and stay informed, our kids will carry on in the same vein, continuing to honor the rights given to us by those who came, fought, and died before us. And by those who are doing it still . . .

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

LIFE TIP OF THE DAY #8

LIFE TIP OF THE DAY #8 - SAY "WHEN"

I am supposed to be working right now, but I've not been able to get this one out of my mind since I hopped off the treadmill last night. Spoke to two of my kindred spirits yesterday, and aside from the fact that hearing their voices greatly improved my day, there was a resounding theme in what each of them said. To be short - they both said "when" to someone in their lives.

You know how it is. We talk and talk and talk and basically say nothing of substance until someone stomps on the boundaries of our lives and then it's whoa Nelly. Or is it? How many of us really - REALLY - say we've had enough when we have? Yeah, yeah, forgiveness and all that - I get it, but sometimes I think people use forgiveness as a cop out.
"I choose to forgive" = "I choose to not engage."
So, which one is better? Does one method get you further than the other?

I think it's a game of degrees, and here are mine:

- Irritating
- Pushing It
- Acting Wrong
- Just Plain Wrong
- Making Me Seriously Tired of Your Shit
- Possibly a Violation of the Constitution or the Ten Commandments or both.


And looking at those, I get verbal between Just Plain Wrong and Tired of Your Shit. And because I am willing to overlook the first three levels, I usually do so with no regrets.

But hey, get this. I just had this thought. There is also parallel rating system that could possibly exist in conjunction with the first on a LOGIC level. It's an IF/THEN relationship.
Wow. Check it . . .

- Random Stranger
- Friend or Acquaintance
- Family Member You Don't See Except at Major Holidays and Maybe Not Even Then
- Family Member Who Knows Better
- Spouse or Parent

So, IF a RANDOM STRANGER is IRRITATING, THEN _________.

IF a FAMILY MEMBER WHO KNOWS BETTER is MAKING ME TIRED OF YOUR SHIT, THEN ____________.

Of course, I've left out the actions because I am short on time and I'm kind of masochistic about punishment anyway, but can you imagine the possibilities? It's better than the possible drink combinations at Sonic.

I know there are gentler souls than I. But I maintain that "gentle" is a word they prescribe for themselves. "Chicken" is the word I prescribe to them. As of yesterday, there are two less chickens in my circle of friends. I'm no geologic expert, but I know a lot about pressure, and I think they can consider these some of the healthiest eruptions ever.

Congratulations to you . . . my friends, kindred spirits, and muses. IF you were near, THEN I would hug you. And I'd make it a DO LOOP.

Disclaimer: If you did not take FORTRAN or COBOL in college, you might be lost. Deal with it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Life Tip #7


LIFE TIP #7 - UNDERSTAND SELF-RELIANCE
This life tip comes to you at the request of my sweet cousin, Britt. I thought about it for a week or so before I jumped in. See, I struggled with this issue for many years - even wrote my first 10,000 word theme on it in college - "Ralph Waldo Emerson - Analysis of 'On Self-Reliance.'" And it's been such a important theme in my life that I still have that paper and I refer to it once in a while. Here's why . . .

Emerson said something about this subject that scared me. Not in a BOO sort of way - more like a haunting. For anytime I think about what he said about following your dreams, my heart races, and I think protectively of the songs, stories, thoughts, and hints of books I've written. I think of all those thoughts - all those ideas that came from my head - indeed, my heart, and I worry for them because they have not been validated in the way I writer does of their works - they have not been published. Here's what he said - and a disclaimer here - I never said I was going to make you laugh all the time when I started this - in fact, I've been trying to make you think the whole time. That I've been funny is just a bonus.

He said,

"To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost, and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another."

There. There it is. Each line is a knife slicing through the coldest of northern winds. Read it again slowly. Pay attention to what he is saying to you. This is not a person who was trying to be clever or mysterious in his writings. He's not trying to lead you down a convoluted path before he gives you the point. He tells you - those ideas, that "gleam of light" that "flashes . . .from within," - that's not something to ignore. These bards he speaks of - they were not more special than you or I - they were only more determined to say what everyone else was already thinking and they had the ability to do so in an artful way. The torturous part to me and to all writers is the last line - that tomorrow someone will say those words we've held at the tip of our tongues - in the recesses of our diaries and journals and minds - and we will have to accept our own idea from another like a stolen recipe at a family reunion.

Okay, I'll stop for a minute with the literature. I'll just say this was a huge influence on me and how I lived from the ages of 19 to 27. Self-reliance was paramount and Emerson's words were a constant stream of literary fuel. Like many of the women I know, I took great pride in getting through school on my own, living on my own, and thinking for myself. I never was much of a team player anyway - too bossy - so this life suited me fine.

And then I got married.

All you married folk are laughing now, aren't you? Doesn't work quite the same, does it? I wonder how long it took for some of you before the last brick came down. For you young, spry, singular-minded green shoots, the point is this - the idea of self-reliance will change depending on the over-arching goals in your life. It was never my goal to lose my self-reliance. In fact, it was never my goal to get married. It's one thing to fall in love and an entirely different thing to fall in love and sync with someone. That's what happened to me. God sent me a soul mate, and my life made sense for the second time in a different way. Then the fighting began.
And we fought.
And fought.
And fought.
But when I think of it now, I realize I was the only one fighting. He was just living out our vows.

You young girls listen: You get married and it's no longer all about you. This is shocking to the system. And it's not about freedom or getting to do all the things you did on your own. It's about developing that part of yourself that is undeveloped. Sure, you can change a car battery and plan your own vacations and keep a plant alive (most of it, anyway), but do you know how to let your guard down and let someone love you? It's harder than they make it look in the movies. I've never been held back by my husband, but I have struggled against him. See, when you're in love, the other person wants to know what makes you tick. And us self-reliant women have never had to explain that to anyone. We just are who we are. Or are we?

Love has meant looking him in the eye and explaining what drives me. Explaining that, yes, the treadmill is so big it takes up half the room, but I need it for my sanity. Admitting that I really hate someone reading over my shoulder because writing is such a sacred thing to me. Telling him that my life is so perfect, I'm afraid all the time that something will ruin it.

I can't even say that it means the same thing when you're in a committed relationship. I mean, I want to be self-reliant in the "let-me-rearrange-the-furniture-and-don't-tell-me-it-won't-work" sort of way, but do I really want to change my own battery? No.

Tell you what I want to do - I want to make that period of my life part of my wisdom cache. I want to be able to draw from it when my girls are teenagers facing peer pressure. I want to use it when they're in college and going through heart breaks and tough times. I want to remember it when I'm doing an 8.0 incline at 3.4 miles per hour and I'm not sure how much longer I can keep it up.

Maybe I'm too young to be nostalgic, but that's where I am. And it's a good place to be when you watch your little girl struggling to cut in a straight line, her hair falling in her face and the tip of her tongue peeking out of the corner of her mouth in that determined way - looking just like her dad when he's deep in thought. I sit and watch her and daydream about the kind of young woman she's going to be, and I wonder how long it will be before I can start reading her Emerson . . .

For Britt, in celebration of who you are and where you are. But mostly in celebration of where you're going to go . . .


Monday, January 11, 2010

LIFE TIP #6

LIFE TIP #6 - GO FOR A WALK
Now, this sounds a whole lot more simple than it actually is. Hmmmm. I'm thinking this might work better if I change the tip . . . .

NEW AND IMPROVED LIFE TIP #6 - CHANGE YOUR SCENERY
That's better. I just had a flashback to my assistant principal days, and I remembered there was really never a proper moment to just take a walk. Sometimes, I would walk the perimeter of the building with the intent of clearing my mind, and then I'd inevitably run into the lovely little couple sneaking kisses next to the soda machines or the teacher running out to his car "just real quick" while his kids monitored themselves (poorly). So, walk always turned to work. Fights were actually the best time for a quiet stroll. I always went after the runner (i.e. the emotional boy who ran because he actually wanted to cry). And I'd just catch up and walk with them in silence until they ran out of steam and started to talk. Incidentally, it's one of the best therapies for junior high kids. Walking and talking. Where was I?

So, yes, "changing your scenery" is an easier term to swallow. And doing it is so much more necessary than I realized. I always talk about going for a walk at work, but the other day, I just quit the jabbering and did it. I put on my coat, said, "I'll be back," and headed for the elevators. I was just tired of staring at numbers, tired of the sound of the heater and the phones, and a cup of coffee just wasn't going to do it that day. I'm not going to lie and tell you the minute I stepped outside, the fresh air rejuvenated me. It didn't happen that way. I work in downtown Houston, so the first thing I noticed when I stepped out into the sunlight a la Ponyboy Curtis was the rank smell of pee. Not urine. Urine is in hospitals. Pee is what people do in places they shouldn't. "I peed my pants." Get it? So, yes, cold, pee-smelling air. Definitely a change of scenery.

But I walked on, and I knew where I was headed. There's the Christ Church Cathedral across Fannin from my office, so I headed down Texas meaning to go sit in the courtyard below.
Lovely, isn't it? We have lunch here some Thursdays. A local restaurant, Treebeards, sets up a satellite restaurant there throughout the week, and it's a big hit.



















I didn't sit because it was too cold, and I'd only been walking for 47 seconds at that point. So, I moved along. A turn around the next corner brought me to Prairie, and soon I was in sight of this. Zoom in and you'll see the Hubcap Grill - lauded as one of the best burger joints in town. We've been. Being a burger connoisseur, I'll concede they make some pretty damned good burgers, but the drink selection sucks. They don't make ice. What you get is a bottle or can of whatever, and that doesn't work for me. Also, there are maybe three tables - plastic - with plastic chairs. And two of them are outside. The other one is in what I can best describe as a lean-to. Your best bet is to call it in and pick it up. I'm not really eating burgers right now, so I moved along.

I don't have a shot of the next scene because I couldn't have gotten away with snapping photos of strangers talking, so I just walked slowly and listened while an electrician explained to someone who had asked him for directions how to get to I-45. Made me laugh. We are the direction-givingest people on the planet, us Houstonians. Contrary to what you may hear, most people in Houston are pretty friendly. If we meet you on the street, most of us smile. If we meet you on a freeway during rush hour traffic, we smile as we cut you off. A friendly lot. A wot. Wot-wot. (I won't explain that one. You know it or you don't)

The next scene was a downtown resident who had his sweatpants rolled up to his knees and who obviously felt a chill, so he stopped to unroll them and to tuck in the most wrinkled tee-shirt I've ever seen before he walked into Molly's Pub. I smiled at the clerk in the cigar shop as I passed him, glared at no one in particular as I passed the worst Italian restaurant in Houston, located uselessly in my building and back to the elevators I went. Took me 10 minutes tops.

Did it it work? Yes, and I'll tell you why. I didn't go for a walk to ponder my life and ruminate on a colossal problem. I didn't go it because I needed to be alone or because if I didn't, someone in the office was going to die a brutal, bloody death at my hands, I did it just because my eyes were tired of seeing the same thing, and my legs were restless.

There's a bookstore four blocks from my office and a Starbucks across the street from that. Tomorrow's scenery has already improved and it wasn't even trying . . .

LIFE TIP OF THE DAY #5

LIFE TIP OF THE DAY #5 - BUY PAJAMAS
Don't take this one personally. I haven't seen your pajamas, and I'm not judging them. It just occurred to me that I spend and inordinate amount of time worrying about Emma's and Ava's pajamas. Are they clean? Are they warm enough? Why are they in the kitchen?

And since I invested my time in a lazy Sunday yesterday, I should have been able to say "I didn't get out of my pajamas until 5PM." In fact, I DID say that. I did.

And it was a LIE.
I don't even own pajamas.

But what was I going to say? I didn't get out of my blue elastic waistband pants that I bought at Ross 8 years ago and the mustard yellow top I bought at Academy who knows when? It doesn't GO, I tell you. They're bum clothes. Clothes that are ugly but comfortable. Let me try that: "I didn't get out of my ugly clothes until 5 PM." It works, but it just doesn't say "comfort." It makes me imagine someone with dirty hair and jelly stains on their shirt.

So, I'm on a mission. I'm going to buy pajamas. I'm going to buy silk pajamas actually. (Raising my own ante here because I'm crazy like that.) If someone asks me what I'm doing this weekend. I'm going to say, "I'm buying pajamas because I deserve them, damnit, now get outta my way." And before you start worrying about my poor husband, don't. I HAVE lingerie. I never said anything about that, but I know how you are, and I know where your mind goes. I said I don't have PAJAMAS. Lord.

So, if you are like me and spend all your time worrying about how everyone else is clothed for bedtime, perhaps you, too should make the leap into the Nighty-Nite section of your local department store. I'm doing it because I just can't be that person anymore. I can no longer abide the lie.

My name is Michelle, and I don't have pajamas.

"Hello, Michelle . . . "

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Life Tip #5

LIFE TIP #5

Write to someone this week. Anyone. Just write something - a haiku or a poem or a dirty joke. Put it in the mail. Repeat as many times as you can to as many people as you can.
I'm going to write to my brother, Mark, in Iraq. So, I know you'll understand I need to reserve any further words for him . . .
God Bless Our Troops and Go Cowboys.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

LIFE TIP #4

LIFE TIP #4 - HAVE A BACK UP PLAN

This is a commercial break life tip session, so pardon my brevity and any typos.
Yes, I'm currently do as most of you are doing, watching a stunned freshman from UT try to fill some pretty big shoes. And I'm rooting for him. I think even Alabama fans grew an immediate soft spot for Mr. Gilbert, whose last minute failed hand-off before the half cost the Longhorns a senseless touchdown. I won't make any predictions. I try to never do that in football because I hate to be wrong. (Except for some odd reason, I can ALWAYS tell you when Romo is going to run it in himself, but he and I have always been tight like that.)

So, this sudden change in game plans got me thinking while I grudgingly did the evening dishes. Back up plans. Who has them? I've grown increasingly interested in them, partly because of how far Brock and I have come together in terms of becoming masters of our finances and because my job calls for it. There is nothing in pipeline logistics that allows a shoot from the hip mentality.

But enough with boring examples. Let's imagine you're in a bad relationship with your boyfriend. He's a loser, he doesn't respect you, and you recently discovered he's been cheating on you with . . . let's say with everyone. (It's my story, and I can do what I want to do, and I say he's an ass.) Okay, so do you have a back up plan? Did you consider the idea that he could stray? Yes? Good.

Okay, so your back up plan is to maim him. Got it. A little extreme, but this is all hypothetical, so I can help you refine your plan without being named as an accomplice. Okay, so do you have your torture method of choice? I'm no expert, but it seems to be the gunshot wound has been very popular over the years. At least that's what I read in the City and State section of our local paper. That's a good back up plan, but I think there are some definite holes you need to fill. For instance, what if you're a poor shot? What if you only have one bullet, and you only managed to graze his ear? These are the things you need to consider. I wouldn't go so far as to put your plan on paper - you know, premeditation isn't smiled upon in civilian courts . . .

But seriously, real back up plans for real people involve things like retirement savings, money market accounts, plenty of life insurance and a will. If you don't even have one of these already in the works, you don't have much of a plan for anything. I'll tell you why I didn't have them before I did - it just seemed like something OTHER people did. It seemed like it would be hard to do. The truth is, if you have a trustworthy person guiding you through the process, none of it is hard. The important thing is to take that first step and don't stop stepping until you've got all your bases covered. The peace of mind is worth it.

When I think of where Brock and I started financially, I sometimes think a magic unicorn must have worked on our lives overnight and gotten them straight. Then one night I discovered that Brock had a unicorn hat that he put on after I'd gone to bed each night because he's had this life long fantasy of BEING a unicorn. Tell you what, I thought twice about getting up to pee after I saw that.

A back up plan means that you're going to have to put some thought into where your life is going and then make a plan for what you will do if the unexpected happens. I won't say it's fun, and you're going to kick yourself repeatedly once you actually get some of these things going and find out how easy it was all along. And if you don't kick yourself, I'll be your back up plan. I've got a unicorn in the house with some mad hooves . . .

Go Texas.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

LIFE TIP OF THE DAY #3

LIFE TIP OF THE DAY :
DO WHAT YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING TO DO, ESPECIALLY IF YOU PROMISED YOU WOULD 8 TIMES IN FRONT OF A CAMERA, OTHERWISE, YOU CAN BE AS FLOPPY AS A FAT FISH IN A HOT PAN AND I WON'T CARE

Breitbart.tv » The C-Span Lie? See Eight Clips of Obama Promising Televised Healthcare Negotiations

I wonder how he's going to get out of this one. 8 times is not like he ambiguously alluded to the wisp of an idea on a foggy mountain cap in Nepal that he may or may not consider the feasibility of possibly televising negotiations on an unnamed network.

I wonder sometimes as I sit and watch the numerable gaffes of this junior high administration who else thinks about this stuff. Is it possible that some people go through their days without ever thinking about the country at all? Seems crazy to me, but I'm sure it's true. People get busy, their lives are full, and when they have a minute, online shopping is probably more entertaining than the Reuters news site. (And you know, I may have just found the reason for the slim pickings in my closet. Buy something to read or buy clothes? If you know me, you know my bookshelf wins almost every time.) Ah, but how great this country would be if we all exercised our right to think . . . to engage in the discourse about the direction of our great nation . . .

But I digress. I offered a variety of possible topics yesterday for today, and since it's a busy day, I'll just do a literary potpourri. (How awful is that word? Never liked it.)

Why I Don't Straighten My Hair

It takes too long and it's going to curl anyway and it makes my hand hurt.

Then end.

Why You Should Never Befriend a Possum

They get comfortable and eat through the floor in your largely unused closet from under your dilapidated house, build a nest out of your shoes and proceed to birth little, comfortable possums.

As presumptuous as this sounds, it's not really the problem. Sure, my aunt Sandra and I screamed and carried on as you would expect us to do when we decided to make use of my closet, but I'll tell you what, it's the defense mechanism of these fat-tailed nuisances that really gets my goat. For as much as we hollered (do Mexicans truly holler? No, it's just a word I use for effect), that mama possum never budged. And here's why you never befriend a possum:
no te pueden tirar esquina.

That's it. Oh. Translate it? Damn. It doesn't translate well, but I'll paraphrase. If you get into a bind, and your possum is your only friend, you're screwed. Because once they scare, they're pretty much as helpful as an ice sculpture. Have you ever scared a possum? I guardedly say I have many times, and while these are stories for another day, the point is this - they freeze. You can stand on your head and cry or throw rocks or toasters or shoes. They. Won't. Move.

Which, in the Case of the Birthing Closet, was an unfortunate thing. It's MUCH easier to be calloused about chasing down an elusive critter. But when they just kind of look up at you with long eyelashes and pink noses, your own survival instincts peter out. And I'm not the authority on the long eyelashes thing. I saw a caricature in a book of a possum once, and the long eyelashes stuck with me. Even so, my uncle Mike has never been one to shirk from the responsibility of protecting me or defying my aunt, so he dutifully collected the offensive, flea-ridden things and even though I know what he did with them, I'm not going to say because even I have a heart and at some point, this tale may end up in the hands of PETA. So, the alternate ending is that he released them into the wild . . .
The moral of the story is when you go looking for a new friend, try a llama or a gerbil.

Why not people?

Because in the sad world that is today, people just might promise you they're going to do something 8 TIMES on national TV and then change their minds . . .

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Mexican Tip of the Day #1

DON'T MAKE EXCUSES ABOUT WHY YOU CAN'T BE THE WIFE YOU WANT TO BE.

This one comes from the heart because I've done it on and off for years now. I'm a working wife and mother. I put in my 40 hours like many others, and my mornings are hectic and never quite as I imagine them in my ever-distracted mind. Neither is dinner for that matter. Or weekends. And it's because all too often, I use being tired as an excuse. It worked for a while, and local restaurants were grateful. However, last week, I learned that what I was lacking was not energy. It was motivation. And my husband unwittingly gave me that motivation last week.

For some odd reason, I decided to buy some fresh chicken and put it in the crock pot for the next day. Threw in some carrots and potatoes, salt and pepper and stuck the whole thing in the fridge till the following morning. Brock was surprised when he saw it but only said "Cool." Smart guy. He had reason to be cautiously optimistic as my culinary follow-through has been sketchy at best.

This was so out of character for me that I completely forgot I'd done it till we walked in that night. He'd forgotten too, but we thoroughly enjoyed the hot and hearty meal on that cold, rainy night. To express how appreciative he was, Brock innocently said, "Damn. I feel married!"

Pause here.

Yes.
That's what he said.
Wow.

Now, while some of you are cussing right now, getting all indignant in Comadre-ville, I want you to stop for a moment. I was not offended. I was not upset. I did not fly into a rage or become of puddle of tears. I was stilled. And sad. My husband was excited about a hot meal that took me ten minutes to prepare.

I hear you still mouthing. "Girl, doesn't he know you WORK?" "He knows where the kitchen is, doesn't he?" I hear you, but see, I have these mental images in my head - photographs my mind took of him over the years. Sit down. I want to show them to you . . .

Look at this one. This is Brock at our old house on Arnim surprising me with new paint in the restroom in the exact shade I wanted. And here's Brock installing crown molding in our first baby's room, and painting the walls in the most delicate shade of yellow pearl. Oh, look at this one. This is Brock tiling our entry way in the slate I wanted. And here he is assembling my behemoth of a treadmill in hopes of surprising me with it. Here he is pulling up carpet and treating the concrete in both girls' rooms and our bedroom. Oh, here's one of him coughing up a lung because he spent too much time inside while he was painting the floors. Here he is installing all the new ceiling fans in the house, replacing doorknobs, and installing hardware on all our kitchen cabinets. On this day, he's building a shed in our backyard. No kit. From the ground up. On this day, he's changing the faucets in all the restrooms and the kitchen. And here he is, giving me heart attack upon heart attack while he expertly and fearlessly changes all the lights in our restrooms.

I mean, really. How unappreciative have I been over the years to a man who never really needs anyone to motivate him to be a good husband? I feel married everyday. He feels married when I feed him. It's comical how simple life really is and how silly it is to even attempt to make excuses for not trying hard enough. Especially since it's not like the stove and I have not been formally introduced. I can cook. I love to bake. And I even collect cookbooks. I just don't regularly use them.

So, since that day, I've been making a real effort, and I've found that I'm not only not tired, I love being in the kitchen. I mean, I've cooked in the past, but not everyday. And now I'm trying to make sure we're all properly fed at every meal. And I think he's going to wonder how long it will last until it becomes the rule rather than the exception.


There's a Japanese proverb, "All married women are not wives." And I agree. I've been married and have stayed married, and intend to always be married. But I have not been a wife all of the time. And last week I learned that a successful wife is skilled not in everything, but is, instead, well-versed and committed to the basics. In some of the basics, I am an honor student, but in others, I could surely benefit from some remedial courses.

So, here I am in Use Your Damned Kitchen 101. And I intend to graduate. With honors.