Monday, August 31, 2009

The Reluctant Apple

My church (which really should remain nameless in all of this...but I will tell you that it is in Montgomery, AL) runs an "Apples of Gold" program through the Women's Ministry. In case you are unfamiliar with this program, it attempts to take experienced wives and homemakers and allows them to mentor younger women in the church focusing on a particular theme each night over an seven week period including one night where we get to meet the spouses of everyone and talk about how much we've learned with the program.  Plus, the appetizers that are served that night totally rock.

The "mentors" as they are called either teach a brief cooking lesson, decorate the tables ("table fairies"), or teach a lesson either one night or off and on throughout the class.

Last year, while desperately seeking something interesting to do in service to the church that didn't involve diaper changing, kids, youth, older adults, music, a weekly commitment, food, or anything that involved me standing up in front of the congregation, I thought that this would be a great experience.  Not that I knew what Apples of Gold was exactly...but whatever.

I mean...I've been married for 24 years, I've raised two children and DHR has not been called, my house has not been condemned by the Health Department, and I can cook well enough to host Thanksgiving Dinner for the past several years. All in all...I thought I was qualified! Sign me up!

But you know...sometimes God has a sense of humor.

Oh, I signed up...and I got the call all right...but not as a MENTOR, but as a participant...otherwise known as an APPLE. I was 45 years old being mentored to by people about my age, and this was a very sad state of affairs. There was one other Apple that was my age, and everyone else had not even darkened the door of thirty. Yee haw.

I had heard friends brag about how fabulous the program was and how it was to die for and all that, so I thought...well even if the "dying for" I'm going to do is...of embarrassment...I gave it a whirl.

What follows is the actual week by week synopsis of my "growth" as an Apple. My friends who received this via e-mail enjoyed I'm reprinting it here. One thing that I might explain: I refer to Weight Watchers as "Rehab" because for me...that's what it from "substance abuse". Hope you enjoy it.


As you know, I have been whining about being an "apple" all week. I want to be a "mentor" - which is what I signed up to do, and what I feel that I am qualified to do. However, since this is where God has placed me, and since there are about a gazillion mentors already...I'm committed to being a lowly (if somewhat mushy and old and on my way to dried up) apple for the next six weeks.

Last night, I was the last one to show up, and was quickly escorted to the kitchen where the two cooking mentors were about to amaze us with a simple yet elegant meal option of soup, salad, bread and dessert. Both discussed the various ingredients, how and where to obtain those, shortcuts that might be helpful, and cost saving options for the budget conscious. It became quickly evident that the nine ladies in my group were "lazy and quiet apples" as opposed to "energetic and enthusiastic apples." When provided with the options on how to peel potatoes or chop onions...the only animation from our “bushel of apples” was the fervently discussed option of purchasing precut onions at Publix and how to use hash browns in the soup instead of actually peeling potatoes. Somehow, I do not think that this was necessarily the intention of our mentors.

We were introduced to various cooking implements such as the egg separator and the whisk. The whisk was familiar to most - although the egg separator was another matter entirely. One of the mentors mentioned that she got hers years ago at a Tupperware party as an attendee gift. One other lady (who is slightly older than I am but in FAR better shape) and I were the only two WHO KNEW WHAT A TUPPERWARE PARTY WAS.

Tupperware? (crickets).

Tupperware is now apparently officially dead. At least it is among the young and firm “apples”. Or perhaps…Pampered Chef? Well, they've heard of THAT. Frankly, I separate eggs the old fashioned way, back and forth between the shells. Works for me. And if I had the egg separator...I would probably have put it on eBay by now since it would no doubt ship easily.

So, we moved forward to the of the young and firm “apples” said that she could not imagine putting fruit in a salad. Hello? Have we never been to Panera Bread? They put fruit in almost EVERY salad. The dressing recipe has a dash of Tabasco in it. Well, at least THAT was new to me...

The dessert involved Ritz crackers, pecans, and egg whites (thus the discussion on separating eggs) among other unhealthy ingredients...which means that it is going to taste good. All I can see from my observation point is that once compiled and baked…I'm going to want to eat this...and consumption of this megacaloric robust concoction will never be possible in my lifetime. May as well rip that recipe out of the book now.

They encouraged us to try our hand at these recipes over the coming week so that we get the hang of cooking. And to think that I’ve actually spent the past twenty years attempting to avoid it. I piped up that I might make the meal and take it to someone thus killing two birds with one stone...practicing cooking and being "kind". But will this actually happen? Probably not. I'm spending too many hours on eBay and Freecycle to actually cook. Plus, I don't really want Big Dave to get used to me cooking. I mean, after that one meal, he might convince himself that I want to and/or like to cook and simply quit doing it himself. This is so NOT happening. I wonder if they have "Apples of Gold" for men? They should. Big Dave can whip himself into a frenzy at a Pampered Chef party…which is why we are the proud owners of an apple corer/peeler/slicer with the accompanying stand that has not been used since 1988, and will never be thrown away because it is “his.”

But I digress...

We then looked at the table and a lady impressed me with her "puddle" of fabric on the table. I can set a table...and I can even figure out how to decorate with placemats and napkins...but the "puddle" was a new one on me. As a result of her description of the basic simplicity of the puddle, I intend to purchase a yard of fabric to "puddle" in the middle of my table for future gatherings. This is like saying that I will purchase a yard of fabric for the two times a year that I actually entertain…which are Thanksgiving and Christmas. But wait…there’s more…she also went out to the hostess’ backyard and broke off twigs and leaves and put together an arrangement using I'm not entirely sure what. But, it WAS pretty. The likelihood of me actually being able to create a flower arrangement is approximately the same as me requesting that Big Dave install a pole in the bedroom for me to dance on or me purchasing a thong from Victoria's Secret for myself.

After the cooking lesson, we went into the room for the Bible study. And YES, I have done my homework. All of it. We go over things, read Bible verses off of little pieces of paper, and the book "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein was read to demonstrate kindness...which was a little surreal to me, and also pulled the old heartstrings. I had never read the book...but I'm buying it for my niece and nephew. This was read to us by a lady with a very sweet voice. In fact, all of the mentors had very sweet voices...which I suppose was appropriate since we were on the theme of "kindness" this week. I don't have a sweet voice...which is possibly another reason that I was demoted to “apple” in the first place.

And you know me...I can't just sit there and be a quiet “apple”...I have to "share." I apparently felt it necessary to inform the lady who made soup for her neighbor as an act of kindness but who didn't think that it was "enough" that she was more hung up on what she thought of it rather than just trusting God to make more of it than it really was. Which is exactly what happened. The recipient of said bowl of soup thought it was the best she'd ever eaten. And why was that? Because the recipient had spent all day at the emergency room with her husband, was exhausted, and was slowly losing her grip on reality. That bowl of soup was a lifeline...not JUST a bowl of soup. And I should know about people losing a grip on the crazy lady from Phoenix, AZ on eBay last night who bid $37.50 for one package of 15 and one package of 14 - 8 x 10 retired page protectors. Granted, they are RETIRED. BUT $37.50??? These originally cost me about $8-10.

ANYWAY, I am finding that much like my comments in rehab on Monday night in response to why it is that people drop out of Weight Watchers and say it doesn't work...and I answered "because they refuse to accept that they need to be here...because if they did...they'd be doing the program to the letter"... I tend to say something and then people just stare at me. I don't know if I'm wise or nuts...probably the latter.

After this, we sat down to a meal that freaked me out because I had no clue how to count this in points (I had saved 11) but every fiber of my being wanted me face down in that plate. During the meal, the homeowner’s smoke detector kept screeching at us because her husband didn't have a 9V battery to make it shut every so often, it would scream and we would all fall silent. I ate only one small bite of the dessert and took the rest home to Big Dave. He thought it was "too sweet"...the dessert...not me bringing it to him. I think he's mean for eating my dessert and not at least being eternally grateful that I thought enough of him to bring it home, hide it in my trunk from myself and bring it to him before it started yelling "EAT ME!" from beneath the plastic wrap.

By the way, I did learn due to my request for a “to go” dessert the real reason my "press and seal" wrap never works is because it is HEAT ACTIVATED. At least that's what she said. You have to press it, but leave your fingertips on the edge for a few seconds so that the heat from your body forces the seal. Well, shucks. I thought I was just slow.

I won a set of whisks because my birthday was closest (which means that the law of averages means that I will win no other drawing until at least 2015 so I can quit buying lottery tickets on my random trips to Georgia). The whisks are going in Jill's hope chest, along with the beautifully wrapped framed Bible verse – a gift from the mentors - that was placed lovingly in her Phi Mu pink bedroom. How's that for being kind? Anyway, due to my interpretation of the inspiring Bible study prior to class, I did send some letters yesterday and money to a college kid that I didn't give birth to, so I felt like I demonstrated enough kindness for one day.

At 8:55, they starting singing "Good Night Ladies..." which was our cue to either leave or get ourselves in the kitchen to help clean up. Naturally, because I want to max out my “apple” experience, I went home. I am sincerely looking forward to next week when we will be discussing "Loving Our Husbands"... This should be good...but not quite as good as the upcoming lecture on "Submission." Heaven help us.


I have now graduated from being a "reluctant apple" to being a "grateful apple" since I have now figured out the drill and also know that I got the better end of this whole experience. I'm still too old for this and ask you to humor me by envisioning things the way I do. Imagine a beautiful blue bowl with three perfect Granny Smith apples, two perfect Red Delicious apples, and three Yellow Delicious apples contained within. It is sitting upon a puddle of fabric (let's step up and make it a gold lame or something...) There's a hint of cinnamon in the air intermingled with Pledge signifying that the maid has come and the house is clean. There is the sound of (insert your favorite music here) playing softly in the background and the soft crackle of a fire (or the sound of the gas logs hissing...whatever) in the background. All is well. Beside this idyllic bowl of fruit are is a package of dehydrated apple chips (that would be me). Yes. I'm reminded of the Sesame Street ditty..."One of these things doesn't belong of these things just isn't the same..."

Anyway, I arrived almost late to a beautiful appetizer of mozzarella, fresh basil, and cherry tomatoes drizzled with balsamic reduction. Prior to this, the only "reduction" that I had been familiar with was what I'm trying to accomplish in Rehab. I jumped all over these as I could actually count them fairly easily on WW, and I was a breath away from starvation having eaten nothing since 3pm. Our cooking mentors for the night were AWESOME. One of them was the one who got me started on Creative Memories in the first place in January 1996, and she is just the sweetest person ever. Or was it due to the onions? Anyway, one of them is well-known as an excellent cook and presenter, and I was not disappointed. She proceeded to make meatloaf look attractive, demonstrated the proper chopping of onions, green peppers and sun dried tomatoes, and blended it all together. The other discussed the nutritive properties of whole wheat and showed us how her flour mill works.

I want one. A flour mill.  And I'm so serious. Anyway, I actually wanted to jump up and do this as it looked like so much fun.

We went to the Bible study and the tiny mentor presented the section on "Loving our Husbands" which included such radical ideas as "smelling good", "taking care of ourselves", and "greeting him at the door" which really just are basic...but easily put aside. Big Dave would probably pass out if I did any one of those three things...although I do occasionally smell good and this stint in Rehab is a way of "taking care of myself" I suppose. She did have the guts to say that some women "let themselves go" after they are married with me sitting right beside her - which I thought was quite a step of faith on her part that I would not hurl my massive self over there and knock her unconscious. A lot of what she said is true...but a lot of it is just not applicable to my particular marriage. I did glean a few nuggets, though.

We then went back into the dining room where I sat beside the same girl as last week who just will not eat her vegetables and it irritates me because asparagus is expensive. I almost did the famous, "are you going to eat that?" but restrained myself. I savored my food and counted my points faithfully. The roll almost brought me to tears because it was all so good and because I am so motivated to start making these for everyone I know that I sense another bout of obsession brewing. I can't make anything involving yeast, but they told us not to be afraid. Obviously, they have not seen me attempt to make any kind of bread. It is a sad, sad thing to witness. I cannot even make frozen dough rise.

They also prepared grits from the place in Wetumpka (Oakview Farms) that were AWESOME and put these under the meatloaf and put some pan sauce on it. I'm not really sure, but I think that pan sauce is just grease. I'm not sure how many points there are in "grease" but I tried to count it effectively. They bundled up our desserts - one for us and one for our husbands. I took them home to Big Dave and he told me this week that it was "too rich".

I do not like Big Dave at this point in time.

I took my one bite (and counted don't EVEN start with me) and it was good. I brought the other one to a friend at work who loves chocolate. Unfortunately, due to diverticulitis, a personal aversion to nuts of any kind (it contained pecans in the icing) and the fact that his doctor wants to run a glucose test...he didn't appreciate it either. I just CANNOT win. The important thing was that I didn't consume it...which was a giant leap forward in my recovery.

Anyway, the table decorations were phenomenal again, and NO, I did not photograph them. Why, you ask? Because I was either too hungry, too crowded, or actually eating and was shooed out immediately upon commencement of my meal and did not get to it. So, before you start sending me hate mail...have mercy.

Next week we are doing "Loving Our Children." This should be easy, but knowing my two...I'm in for a rocky week. That's the way my luck goes.


First of all, I get a zero for doing my homework this week. Due to the vehicle gymnastics that we have been doing for the past two weeks, I inadvertently left my book in what is now temporarily Brian's car (formerly mine) and couldn't figure out where I left it. That and the fact that I've been mailing out eBay packages in my limited spare time. I arrived on time, had a bite of cheese ball and cracker chased by a concoction of ginger ale and grape juice that I counted as three points and sat down (on time) for my third lesson in domesticity.

Although I was slightly mesmerized by the mentor’s blinking tiara, I was able to pull it together enough to watch them show us how to make parmesan chicken fingers and homemade macaroni and cheese. guessed it..."How to Love Your Kids" night. I did learn some new things, and someone’s frog prince table was absolutely precious. I was saddened to learn that the table fairy that taught me about puddling fabric is now off duty for the remaining weeks of the class.

One of the mentors read the "Fancy Nancy" book...which at least brought me closure to know what she was talking about since that particular combination of words had been uttered no fewer than 100 times since my arrival. I was pleased to understand what it meant, and enjoyed the my own obsessive little way was proven by the fact that I rushed home to find one on eBay. The fact that they mention France in it was a cue to me that my niece Tara needs this book and the numerous others that are also apparently for sale. I thought I'd start slowly. I'm just "watching" it for now.

We went into the lesson that was very sweetly done by a mentor who had the organization and the forethought (is that a word? I don't know) to provide us with a little box of reminders to go along with what she was saying. And in case you are wondering...NO...I am not putting this box on eBay. (Hey! I won't.) Speaking of eBay (since I have already done so twice), I got into my first tussle with a bad seller last night. I ordered a "lot" of stuff only to find out that the only saving grace was that the lady shipped incredibly fast and that 40% of what she said was supposed to be in there...actually was. I then filed a grievance with PayPal and am getting back the value of the missing "stuff". Let's just suffice it to say that I had some telling clues before I even opened the box...the "Eau de Marlboro" was quite evident and upon opening it I quickly learned that she was apparently a Nascar fan and shopped a lot at the Dollar Tree. I won't elaborate more. I suppose that I should be grateful that I filed when I did...she hadn't received her money yet as PayPal was waiting on proof of shipping or a positive seller rating...and because of this...she was quite willing to negotiate. I am normally a nice person...or at least my seller ratings indicate that my buyers think I am...but I WAS born in Georgia...west central Georgia...and I know a thing or two about "going redneck" if I am pushed to do so. Plus, there's that added bonus for anyone crossing me of my current perimenopausal...and hungry most of the time...and overcaffienated state of being.

After our lesson, we went back in to eat...the food was good...and we had these little parfait things. Now, the original idea of making these "surprise parfaits" was a good one...but the reality of having the combination of chocolate pudding, cool whip and gummy bears is just well...about like it sounds. Peanut M&Ms...yes. Sprinkles...yes. Little conversation hearts and gummy In spite of this, I ate all of my stuff because I could count it for Rehab...and because I was short a milk for the day (justification rocks).

Speaking of Rehab...I'm down a small bowling ball at this point for those of you who either care or are counting. The numerical equivalent of that is 12 lbs. Wow...only 88 to go! At this rate, I will be there a minimum of 44 weeks...but as we all some point (probably next week with my luck)...I will hit a plateau. The plateau is where I start eating nothing but broccoli, drinking five gallons of water a day and going beyond "moving" to outright exercise. I'm hoping that I plateau sometime in 2010, but I'm betting not.

Hope that all is well with you. I'm busy today and still carless...hopefully only through today, though.


Last night's bible lesson was on "submission." What exactly is it about that word? I think it is the "sub" part of in subpar, substitute, subcommittee, subcontract, subpoena, sublease, subculture, subdue, subconscious, and subdivide. We think of it as being less than, under, beneath, or whatever, and since we are all "daughters of the king"...we just have a real problem with that. However, there are also words like subject, subliminal, submarine, and my personal favorite...sublime...that are also sub words without the negative connotation. Well, maybe subliminal needs to go in the first camp...if it involves flashing pictures of popcorn and cokes at a movie screen without my knowledge. It is normally wasted on me anyway since spending $15 in the concession stand is a prerequisite for me to go to the movie theater and I don't care how many points it is. Not getting the overpriced popcorn is like going to the fair and passing on the funnel cake. I mean...why would anyone do THAT?

Oh yeah, and I'm strike two with the homework. Can't find my book. BAD apple. And before you think is not on eBay. The contents of Jill’s closet currently are...I have 78 items on as of this morning...

We show up to a wonderful salsa that includes Monterey Jack cheese, tomatoes, etc. and lime chips. For those of you who have not experienced the magic of Lime Tostados...get a bag and eat 14 of them (3 points!). Really good...and remarkably good with salsa. The mentors made pork tenderloin, a rice/bean dish, and lemon squares. I seriously think that we did less actual cooking demonstration this time, but the food and its presentation were awesome. I am making the tenderloin this weekend for my parents. May make the whole meal.

The apples have suddenly become loud apples...with lots of talking...questions...and we've all pretty much dropped our defenses and have now admitted that we are all pretty clueless in the kitchen but not hopeless. One of the cooking mentors is like the Socrates, E.F. Hutton, or Alan Greenspan of the kitchen. She talks...we listen. She also prays really well and dramatically. Which I love...and I'm sure that God loves too although I'm pretty sure that He is not giving us scores or anything.

The mentors are also sitting behind the cooking mentors and they can't hear as they are asking questions too. You do realize that there are more of them than there are of us...which is why I am a dehydrated apple in the first place. It reassures the young apples that their current clueless state is nothing to be ashamed may just be permanent.

We were given some wheat seeds to sprout for Easter (looks like cool grass) that is likely going to be disastrous. It combines my two major ingredients and live plants. I suspect that my grass will probably either not sprout at all and will turn into some kind of weird fungus that reeks to high heaven or will actually perform and then die the day before Easter. That's my luck. I'm pretty much betting that the former is true...and I will not be able to figure out what the funky smell is. By the way, just so you know, I can keep a poinsettia alive for months...or years...or possibly indefinitely. I have one from last Christmas (2007) and two from this year. They are still in their attractive foil things and they look spindly as all get out, but they are alive. Doesn't that just figure? They are good one month a year...but they just won't die and give me an excuse to get rid of them! I'm thinking of listing them on Freecycle.

We then went into the room to hear our discussion on "submission". The mentor did an excellent job, and she ran over who all we are to submit to in our lives. I have to admit that this is one of those little classes that I am still sitting in and can't graduate out of to save my life. I mean...there are first graders who wave goodbye to me on their way out of the room. I've passed the quizzes on government, teachers, preachers, and the police and barely passed the one on bosses, but the whole husband thing and the God thing have been harder. I feel like a 16 year old 6th grader. Make that a 45 year old 6th grader. I try to be obedient, and I'm actually good at it in theory...not so much in practice. I figured that God would give me a man that was less laid back to make it a little easier...but alas, no. I'm finding that obeying God in the little things is harder than the big things. For example, I went redneck on the lady who sent me the Marlboro infused box last week and she refunded me almost half of what I paid her. God was not happy with this...even thought I was technically right. He is the one who takes vengeance...not moi. He has reminded me of this every day repeatedly. So, this morning, I refunded the money to her that she refunded to me. Maybe I can live with myself today. Once she realizes this, she will know that she was dealing with a psycho. I figure that God intended for her to have a certain amount of money, and I was messing with His plans. Not smart. I have freely admitted that my mercy quotient is zero...justice quotient 10+...which puts me in the "pit bull" category of human beings. Yes, we can be good, but we are highly unstable. I am trying to be more in the German Shepherd/Labrador category with the ultimate goal of Golden Retriever.

Oh, for those of you who are wondering...I missed my rehab meeting on Monday night because I was being traumatized in the dentist's chair with a crown. Yeah, crowns are great on your head...not so great in your mouth. It took four sets of shots to deaden the right lower part of my head. My right nostril was dead, but not where she intended to drill. I was there for two hour of it was spent trying to get my mouth deadened. I have been extremely good so far this week (um...that would be yesterday) and I'm hoping for decent results next Monday. After being a little loosy-goosey at the beach with not recording my intake...and the fact that my body thinks it is time for one of my now-quarterly "visits"...I think that it was wise to keep me out of there for now. I can't open my mouth...because the jaw is sore where she poked me repeatedly trying to get my mouth to calm down. Kept me from overeating the chips and salsa last night since you have to be able to shove it in before it falls down the front of your shirt and look somewhat graceful in the process.

After that, we went into the dining area and they gave me a folding chair at the big table. The only folding chair...and not that I'm complaining or anything....but I'm wondering if any of these ladies have noticed that I'm a bit...overweight. There are eight other of which are sticks. Put the stick in the folding chair where it is less likely that she will crumple it like tin foil. Fortunately, it worked out and I didn't become "that woman who is so fat that she broke a chair in my Apples of Gold class." It didn't cave in...and I am grateful for that. I ate less than half of my lemon square and took the rest home to Big Dave. He actually liked it because it was "sour". We have GOT to get this man some better adjectives. His birthday is in I was again placed beside another Apple (the non-vegetable eater) who actually broke down and tried the pineapple cucumber salsa. I know that this description sounds yucky, but it was actually pretty good. I was proud of her "growth" in this area. I am really sorry that they clipped the wings of the table fairy from weeks 1-3 offense to the current table fairy...I was not inspired. In fact, these tables were more in line with what I can do...and I'm pretty much an imbecile in home decorating. They were attractive...but there were no puddles...and a little too basic in my opinion (although nobody asked for it.) They were "lovely" but that's a far cry from "wow."

We talked about doing a men's version of this called "Steaks of Charcoal" and having the submission lesson include such topics as "releasing the remote" and "asking for directions" but it is unlikely that this will actually occur. The table decorations would be one of those plastic nasty smelling tablecloths (with the creases still in it) in the classic red checkerboard pattern that can easily be procured at the local Dollar Tree...and Chinet plates since we are trying to be "uptown". Big Dave could teach this class as it is our life in any given week.

Anyway, hope that next week's lesson is interesting and that I'll find my book beforehand. Have a great week!


Last night's dinner was quite wonderful with appetizers of little twirly tart things made with the same stuff crescent rolls are made of...can't call it right now. I blew it out and ate more than I should have - 5 - which will probably reflect on the scale this week. Let's hope not. (By the way...for those of you who are counting...I'm up to 14 lbs off at Rehab...putting me squarely in medium bowling ball range). Anyway, we had new cooking mentors. They used so many vegetables in what they were preparing that I saw one Apple (the girl who doesn't eat vegetables) squirm in her seat. Actually, she also shot me a glance and mouthed the words, "I know...if it has color I should try it." Mediterranean tilapia...couscous, veggies, and a stuffed tomato thing. It was quite delightful. It was also easy to count and was not fattening because heaven knows the tart things had done me in points-wise by that time. Don't even get me started talking about dessert...she made these things that look like the outside of a cream puff, and then put a miniscule scoop of ice cream inside them and the whole thing was topped with a puddle of fudge sauce. Needless to say, Big Dave did not get any "happys" from this particular meal... ergo, I didn't have to wake him up from the couch and hear him whine. I ate it. All of it. Every single crumb. And you know what? I LIKED it.

The dance in the kitchen between the two cooking mentors is always enjoyable to watch. Mind you, these ladies are closer to my age than to the typical age of the young firm apples. Yes, the "T" word (Tupperware) came out again last night. This time it was a roller that you could chill by putting cold water in it. The first set of mentors talked a lot and kept the menu simple, the second set, informed a lot and put out menus that were possible but stretched you out of your comfort zone in both ingredients and prep, and the third set, crammed a ton of nutritious food together in a simple yet rock solid way. The two of them in the kitchen was choreographed hysterically...although I seriously doubt that this was their intention at all. Primarily the "dance" consisted of "[drop this], no, this belongs here, where's my..., I used the wrong recipe, ignore this part, [dropped item], use the Tupperware roller, Barefoot Contessa, I forgot that, wait, no, you need to buy the cookbooks, Sam's, [adding more because consistency was weird], Barefoot Contessa...seriously...[searching for utensil], Sam's, [check oven temperature], you need non-stick Reynolds Wrap, ziploc bags and wait...where is my...well, it is SUPPOSED to do this..." and on and on. Hysterical. You know the "frog in a blender dance" that so many men are famous for? Well, this was the culinary version. However, the food that they prepared could not have been tastier, more nutritious or easier to prepare (with the exception of the cream puffy outsides and one of the two tarts.) So, all in all, I enjoyed the entire presentation.

We later went into the room for our bible lesson. Now, let me stop you right here. Do you know women whose voices are so soothing that you feel like you are eight years old with your head on their shoulder, and they are reading a book to you?" You know what I mean...the kind of "MeeMaw" that isn't dipping snuff, sitting on the front porch with a flyswatter, or shelling peas...that's another kind. I mean the kind of lady who has the Southern drawl that just reminds you of magnolia blossoms, cool breezes and lemonade. Well, tonight’s teaching mentor has one of those kind of voices. And she was our speaker on purity. Not only does she sound wonderful, she is an excellent storyteller. She gave us three stories that had all of us on the edge of our seats. I saw eye contact from everyone. Perfect delivery, tie-ins, and so on. I cannot stress to you how soothing, uplifting, and "at home" I felt listening to her. She has that grace and elegance that I so wish I had. I'm too edgy to ever sound like that or make others feel that way in my presence. But, I can certainly appreciate it in others. She stroked our hair with words and fed our spirits with verses that wrapped around us like a warm towel when you were little and had just gotten out of the tub. I just felt comfortable there. Our gift was a very pretty candle, that I'm ashamed to admit I've already looked up on eBay...and they are selling. NO, I have not listed it yet. I'm so bad.

Anyway, the purity thing was the obvious...ruling out Cosmopolitan magazine, R rated movies, people that might cause us to step over the line, and situations that we know are bad. I'd ruled out "Cos-smut-politan" magazine years ago when I realized that I cannot even look at the cover without blushing. I didn't want Jill reading any magazine except Shape, Southern Living, and Readers' Digest...and she has really been good about compliance. Granted, I still have to set fire to the daily dose of Victoria's Secret catalogs that insist on coming in through my mailbox so as to not taint Brian's view of feminine beauty. Or Jill's. Or mine. Actually, I find the whole thing laughable since it will be a cold day in hell before I find myself in a thong. I don't know, though. If I ever get to my goal weight...two pygmy goats from now...I might try one on so that I can know for sure. When I was able to wear such a garment, they didn't exist except in Frederick's of Hollywood.

We had "puddles" again in the table decorations last night, and heart boxes and white plates. I wolfed my food down. Heather was proud to report to me after dinner that she ate the stuffing out of her tomato and that her fish (which she doesn't normally like) was good once she raked some of the stuff off of it. She's trying. I'm so glad for her. She's missing out on so much by living within the confines of chicken fingers and the offerings of any random drive-thru.

I'm thinking of going to J-BUG tonight (Just Between Us Girls) at Frazer at 6:00. Someone I want to hear is speaking and one of the Apples invited me to come. Granted, this Apple weighs less than 50% of what I currently do. She's a sweet girl (and one of the young firm apples). My family is playing "musical cars" once again since Brian has mine and Big Dave has his, Jill is in Tuscaloosa, and "The Destroyer" (Brian's name for his new 1997 Ford Explorer) is having its little engine replaced right now. We're hoping that "The Destroyer" will remain roadworthy until spring of 2011...or beyond. Jill wants another vehicle and we don't want her 1991 Miata to break down. We want to keep it running and hang onto it for a "fun car."

In the world of eBay, I now have a feedback rating of 83 and I'm still at 100%. I have a number of items on there (80-something) and I'm enjoying myself. If anyone wants to feed my addiction and clear out stuff that you don't want and don't want to fool with eBay...let me know. Oh, and for today...if anyone needs a lunch date, please call. The only issue will have to come and get me AND bring me back. Sorry. Don't feel obligated. I'm sure that there's a nice (gag me) frozen dinner with my name on it in the kitchen. If I do not hear from you on any of the above, that is fine...seriously...I'm just throwing it out there.


Some days are a sprint...yesterday was a marathon.

About mid-morning, as I was working, I got a phone call from the mother of one of Jill's sorority sisters giving me my marching orders for the tea on Sunday. As you all know, I do love to be involved, and I really have very little trouble figuring out how to make things happen if given adequate time. If not, whatever I do come up with looks like the climax of any given MacGyver episode with me solving the problem at hand with something random that some people interpret as "creative." Actually, I really do enjoy the adrenaline rush from such but have learned that there's enough stuff in life that comes apart at the seams with adequate preparation to satisfy me without actually adding to it by failing to plan. Ergo, I am not a procrastinator of the highest order...I'm a private...not a 5 star general.

Anyway, so my marching orders end up resembling a scavenger hunt gone bad and require domesticity of a higher order than I normally can muster. I had to find someone to print 60 napkins (pink or choice!) with Phi Mu on them. That meant that I had to call people (I hate that) and then had to go in person to pick them out and choose from one of the two stupid fonts that they had. This would not normally be a problem, but since "The Destroyer" (Brian's new/old car) is still awaiting release from the engine genie on the Troy Highway, I am totally at the mercy of Big Dave who is totally at the mercy of the three customers he is trying to finish up so that he can get paid and we can get The Destroyer out of hock instead of racking up points on my LL Bean Visa card. We get there on the other side of town (LeCroy Village), and I make my selection. Had to get 100 napkins because they come in lots of 50, and since there must be 60, I had to order up. Essentially, these napkins cost twenty-eight cents each and they had better be cute.

Then she tells me that I have to provide 60 strawberries dipped in white and dark chocolate (an assortment!) with pink sprinkles. Pink sprinkles, naturally, went out of vogue last week with the clearance Valentine's Day paraphernalia. This means that I will have to search the tri-county area for them and will no doubt locate them somewhere random like the Super Foods on McGehee Road where I will probably be unfortunate enough to come face to face with (ex-boyfriend of Jill’s mother) who lives in the vicinity. I'm sure that I'll have to call around again, but I haven't even crossed that bridge yet. Nor have I ever dipped strawberries. Should be interesting. Oh, and I have to provide the toppings for the ice cream sundaes. That SHOULD be easy...but I'm sure that it won't be simply because it SHOULD be.

And that means that Her Highness will be home on Saturday which means that I have to clean her room Friday night because The Boy has been camping out in there playing X-box (before it mysteriously broke). I'd do it tonight, but I have to go take pictures of the Dress Rehearsal for a Mother, and then tomorrow night I'm going to some Ladies' thing at a friend’s church that sounded good at the time. If not...she will find an excuse to suck me into the vortex of Ann Taylor Loft to spend her "buy $50, get $25 free" coupons of which she has four from her last reign of terror.

So, after this call, a trip to pick up a check from Trinity that was supposed to have been sent home with Brian the day before but NOOOO that would have been too easy, a trip to McDonald's which meant that because I was with Big Dave I had to get out of the truck and go in and order because he won't wait in a drive-thru. Before I could get his Mickey D's sweet tea filled, they are shouting out my initials and I'm like, SHUT UP I'M FILLING UP THE DRINK YOU SHOULD BE FILLING, and then I get my bag and go. And YES, I logged the 12 points for that excursion. Went by to check on The Destroyer, and it is (still) not ready.

At 4:00, I was waiting on Big Dave to come get me so that I could report to Guthrie's at 4:30 sharp to pick up the 500 chicken fingers and 140 pieces of toast and I find that he is "busy" and that I am to call The Boy. The Boy is not answering his phone, or the house phone, and I'm dialing incessantly for about 10 minutes before he finally gives it up and picks up. After enduring his whining for 30 seconds, and resorting to a threat to sell him on eBay if he didn't get his rear end in that car right then to get me, he arrived at 4:25 to move me to Phase II of my day.

At 4:50, we arrived at Trinity with said chicken fingers and toast and begin setting up for the 120 students we are anticipating for play practice. It is sophomore night! For those of you who have followed my frustration at never being asked to chair anything at the school, note that this is the culmination of a dream I've had since 1996. We served tons of kids, but not nearly enough to consume the volume of chicken fingers purchased, and one of the sophomore girls asked me to be a speaker for their bible study next week. I had just cut my finger on an aluminum pan and was bleeding, but I did manage to give her my cell number. Some of the kids were actually polite. I've intentionally avoided TPS this year because it doesn't seem the same, but I did enjoy catching up with some of the seniors and finding out their plans for college.

At 6:30, I took out the trash, wiped the tables, cleared up everything and got into the truck with the "William Tell Overture" playing in my mind. Something from the 1990's grunge era was actually playing on the radio - but whatever. Big Dave took me to "Apples of Gold - Part VI" where the kitchen lesson was already in progress. It was the Lucy and Ethel team again and it was the same thing with the organization...or lack thereof. They gave us a lot of great directions, and one girl, who is too cute and has a double name asked several questions about eggs. I had no idea that people actually washed them if they were poaching them as opposed to cooking them to keep germs out. I just don't think like that. She had apparently never constructed a deviled egg in her life because she was perched on the edge of her seat and writing furiously. About eggs. I kid you not.

After this, we went into our room where I was expecting another sweet voice to lull me through the bible study. Alas, no. This teaching mentor kept us awake with the stories and she was anything but quiet. Granted, we are now noisy apples, participating in the bible study and interrupting her, but it was a very different mood in that room from previous weeks. Naturally, I spoke up and stated that my friend Carol’s house is warm and welcoming to me and the only oasis that I am aware of where everything is perfect all of the time...period...end of discussion. It is my version of the "Southern Living masterpiece" that I so enjoy visiting. I learned a lot of things about hospitality and why I think that I've always undervalued my own version. My version of "puddled fabric" is more likely to be brown paper bags with buffalo chicken wings laid out on them and a silver tray...but not from Neiman Marcus...but from Sunday Dinner...with french fries strewn over it. Instead of "cute" or "elegant" china, we're talking the styrofoam plates from WalMart and the cheapest napkins that can be purchased (because you get 500 in a pack) in a pile on the table rather than formed delicately into the shape of a swan. But you know...just like there is room in life for Subway AND The Capital City Club...I suppose that there's room in the hospitality arena for my way of doing things. It is nice to visit the "other side" through Apples of Gold and my not often enough visits to Carol's (and I'm not slighting you girls...I always feel at home with is just amazing to me that I have never seen dirt, cobwebs, gradu, or anything remotely out of place at Carol's EVER...and I've been there enough times to trust my impressions.)

Yes, they gave us directions how to make elegant presentations with our dinner napkins. In my particular case, I am sorry to report, it was an unmitigated waste of paper. Some tree-hugger in California is - quite frankly - justified in her insane quest to stop the "savagery" as we speak.

Dinner was glorious as usual although I would have been a little more heavy handed with the salt. They didn't have the cornbread ready as we sat down to eat, and yes, I did eat my dessert. Something with lady fingers that was good, but not my favorite. Didn't stop me from eating it, though, under the guise of those mysterious 35 points that I can toss to the wind each week. The ham glaze with Dijon mustard was the bomb, and I really liked the potatoes, green beans and the deviled egg. Heather, the non-vegetable eater, offered me her deviled egg. I took it. They decorated it with a little sprig of something green and a pimento. Yeah. I just don't have patience for garnishing...but I do enjoy eating around it. Ol' “I Don’t Eat Vegetables” and I have come a long way together since the early days of Apples when I wanted to be totally redneck and ask "ya gonna eat that?" to her uneaten asparagus but for once was too bashful to ask. My Gammy would have been proud at my restraint.

We received a gift basket for our spare bedroom. I got the bright pink one since it is going in Her Highness' bedroom. That is as close to a guest room as I have.

I then arrived home to find Jill's friend who attends college in town with a written document in his hand that was typed and just needed to be proofread. I was so astounded that I almost fell out. Granted, it needed two hours of tweaking, a soliloquy of his life since December, including portions that I could have done without knowing including significant detail on a current relationship and a blow-by-blow on him getting his truck stuck in a swamp at 4 a.m….and consumption of half a gallon of sweet tea on his part, but it is nice to feel needed. He wants to go to an out of town college next year and needs to get his grades up. I was also so pleased to note how far he's come from the sad little term paper in the 11th grade that was incoherently written on notebook paper to what I received last night. He's growing up. Thank God.

Anyway, I hope that next week will be fun as well. One of the Apples showed us her engagement ring that she received last weekend, and we will get to meet Mr. Wonderful next Tuesday. The other “mature” Apple’s daughter is getting married in April. That's the spectrum our little bushel has been known for these past six weeks. Getting something we gave birth to getting married. I'll give you one final installment of the saga next week. It has been quite a ride.

I finally passed out last night at 1:15am thanks to Tylenol PM and then dragged out of bed to check my eBay at 6:30 this morning. I'm tired. My feedback rating was 103 this morning, and I have achieved my short term goal of a turquoise star. I am down 14 1/2 pounds at Rehab, and once I leave Apples, it will probably start clicking along a little faster.

Have a great week ladies. Sorry for the tome. Couldn't be avoided. Later!

APPLES OF GOLD – The Final Chapter

Well, that title says it all. Except that there will actually be one additional meeting called "Bread Making".

Speaking of bread…this mentor actually made her rolls with seasoned roast beef in them as her appetizer. I parked my immense rear end in a chair beside said rolls and activated what I have learned from Rebel when he is guarding anything that he is trying to keep from Dixie. I tried a lot of different things...low growl, staring, talking to them so they wouldn't focus, or just plain out blocking their path. I ended up taking home two "for later" apparently I am a good student. There was an immense amount of party food on said table...all of which was sampled. It was also the beginning of my "birthday week" which will end tonight (yeah, I go eight days). I gave myself a pass at Rehab this week as a gift. This means that I’ll go on Wednesday night and suffer through another leader who will probably have false enthusiasm and I’ll have to resist the urge to slap her. I've finally gotten over that with my regular leader. I'm even able to be more accepting of her unintentional slaughter of the English language. But I am NOT weighing this week. Lalalalala denial is soo nice sometimes.

The night was a little interesting in many respects...

Have you ever met someone and then just assumed that you knew what their spouse was like? I mean...I think that we all play by the rules somewhat of pairing up with people that are somewhat like us. But sometimes people just throw all of those rules out of the window and marry someone who is just shockingly different than what you would expect. Okay...picture this...Mel Gibson and Joan Rivers. Scary? about Robert Redford and Britney Spears? Get what I mean? I experienced that about three times during this meeting.  So, I've learned that one cannot assume anything about what could possibly attract another person. Seriously. I was pleased that the Apple about to get married has a fiance was as cute as she is...and trust me when I tell you that the wedding pictures will be phenomenal.

One of the mentors wrote a poem which was wonderful and everyone shared their experience in Apples. Naturally, I had to express my own. I felt kind of weird doing so because I felt like I cheated getting in there in the first place. But it was okay. I don't know if I was intoxicated on party food or what...but I actually remembered everybody's name and said what I wanted to say. Actually, I had written a poem as well, but chose not to share because I'd gotten wind that this was her thing and I didn't want to pale in comparison.

Overall, it was a lovely experience. I enjoyed my time as a dehydrated apple. I have enjoyed relaying it to you as well. I hope that I will actually be able to apply the lessons that I have learned somewhere because my family certainly is not interested.

For my birthday lunch on Saturday (yeah, we celebrated a day early), I cooked the meatloaf, grits, etc. meal and was so delighted that everyone enjoyed it. HOWEVER, when everyone arrived, I was standing in the kitchen with no makeup, hair brushed but certainly wild, in my short pink and blue striped pink nightgown (sans bra) and my purple pajama pants in size "gargantuan" with my favorite dwarf - Grumpy - gracing them. Needless to say, I was a vision of loveliness. So, my table did not get puddled, the plates and glasses did not match, the silverware was in a pile instead of neatly distributed under a napkin, and the flowers that Big Dave purchased me from Winn Dixie (because he is unfamiliar with the concept of a florist) were on the bar because they were too tall. Also, the dyed daisies just were not providing the ambiance I had so desired. I appreciated the gesture, but I REALLY appreciated the hot pink roses and green mum things that Nedra gave me on Sunday night a whole lot more. They are sitting here on my desk.

Ladies...seriously...we need to discourage the purchase of flowers that are unnaturally fake looking. Plain daisies...yes. Daisies dyed in some funky turquoise color, fuschia, tangerine (wish I were kidding) and neon yellow are just unnatural. Kind of like fat free cheese, the Weight Watchers meals at Applebees, coupons that are buy 8 and get .25 off, Creative Memories pick up squares, parsley, Palmer's chocolate, Boone's Farm strawberry wine, Peeps, Brach's maple candy at Halloween, or non-leather shoes. I mean...WHY BOTHER.

Just letting you all know that if you call me here at work this week, you will likely get a mini version of the witch from the Wizard of Oz...and I don't mean Glinda. I mean the one with the green tint and the wart. Do not be offended. I am trying to soothe myself by listening to Collective Soul, U2, Pearl Jam, Linkin Park and Led Zeppelin on my new iPod and I can't hear the phone ring anyway. Everyone is on vacation, examiners are here, and I am still unable to make the adjustment to Daylight Savings Time. The latter means that I arrive to work with something, makeup, socks, or all of the above. And late. Doesn't matter, though, as I'm working through lunch and late every night. Pity me, forgive me, or just overlook me. Please.

Anyway, I do love this new i-Pod. It is green...and since it arrived just before St. Patrick's Day...I named it Pati. Jill's spelling...don't blame me. She has a red one named Ruby. Why we must name these electronic things is beyond me. And for those of you who know my family's insistence on only purchasing things for me that qualify as "appliances" - you will be happy to note that this qualifies since it has to be plugged in to their streak is unbroken. Brian insisted that I load all of my CDs on it yesterday, so I have learned how to do this because he made me. It is amazing how much you learn with a 16 year old teaching you. They are to us in this realm what we are to them in just about everything else. But with regard to electronics...they are light years ahead of us. We can stumble through and figure it out...but they intuitively understand that if you push the little eject icon instead of fumbling with the thing on the side to release your CD and saying words that you really don't mean (such as the obvious or "I'm going to throw this thing across the room") that it works a lot better. Well, duh. That assumes, however, that we can actually see the stupid little icon. Seeing is becoming more of a challenge to me every day. Which of

There's something random about listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd one moment, Abba the next, and then Linkin Park. Kind of a schizophrenic thing that I can somewhat relate to. Have a lovely day, ladies.

Apples of Gold – Bread Making

Last night was one of those evenings where you just feel like God arranged the right people at the right time to give you a big ol' cosmic hug. I got to the mentor’s house at about 6:00 after fighting with the Wetumpka bound traffic on 231 because - as a banker - I do not possess any cash - ever - which made the toll bridge an impossibility. I wasn't sure if they took debit cards or not...but assumed not... Oh well. I ended up flying down the right lane before realizing that there was a good reason that people were not in said lane...and that was that it veered off before getting to where I needed to go. No biggie. I just turned, did a "u-ie" and it was no problem. The directions were spot I had no difficulty finding the house. It is a beautiful home...trees and a quiet neighborhood...tons of curb appeal...but with a daunting set of steps in front of it. Thanks to Rehab, I had enough weight off to not have any problem climbing them.

We arrived to a delicious chicken salad recipe with crackers and homemade pizzas that were cooked outside on her husband’s "Green Egg". This gave the pizzas a distinctly delicious smoky flavor. I think that Big Dave needs a Green Egg. Seriously. she used her whole wheat recipe to make the crust, put caramelized onions, green pepper, sauteed mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella on them. I know...I'm sending this at lunchtime and you guys are SOOOOO jealous and think that I'm a meanie for going into this much detail. Well, ladies, it was THAT good.

It was a small group as one of the Apples had a stomach virus that nobody wanted, and so the four of us (the mentor, her sister, another mentor, and me) started making the delicious whole wheat rolls. It is a process that starts with real wheat berries, flaxseed, olive oil and honey. She actually grounds her own flour and puts in yeast and lecithin. Needless to was a lot of fun to watch...and I'm really looking forward to making my own on Friday night. She gave me ingredients. I have a mixer and a granite countertop and everything except the honey. That means a trip to Costco...which will not be pretty unless I keep repeating "honey honey honey" to myself and don't get distracted by sampling something like taquitoes or hummus or pomegranate-blueberry-mango-raspberry-lime water or something else random like that and think that I just have to have it. The last hummus I bought (which Jill said was not good) had black olives in it. I like both...just not together.

The neat thing was...the recipe was supposed to make 40 rolls. She let me cut out the rolls and it made exactly 40! I was proud that it didn't turn out at 37 or 43...which would be the norm for me. I also got to make them (cut them out) I know how it feels to handle the dough.

A long-time mystery as to why my biscuits don't turn out may have been answered last night. Too much flour. I think that I am scared of doughy dough...and you can't be scared of doughy dough to make bread. Now for making bricks...un-doughy anything would be highly recommended and necessary. So, I think that the correlation between the bricks that have previously passed as my biscuits and what biscuits are intended to be has finally reached my brain. Although Pillsbury makes a perfectly acceptable biscuit...cheating in this manner is not the same as proudly presenting a basket of freshly baked biscuits that you have actually toiled over out of the oven to your guests. And although on certain days, I do resemble the Pillsbury Doughboy (especially since I have that lovely European non-tint to my skin)... I don't think that pushing the Doughboy's biscuits off as my own is fooling anybody.

She even made cookies using wheat flour. I limited myself to one cookie. I wanted four. They were that good.

The best part, though, was the one-on-one tutoring that I received and the encouragement that the ladies gave me. The wonder-cook even reminded me that my inability to cook well is likely more a function of ignorance rather than ability. I was afraid of the yeast...but even my negative kitchen karma couldn't destroy it. The force was too strong in that kitchen. Let's hope that it carries over to my own. But back to my "Adventures in Cooking" that began sometime in 1983...although really much earlier when I inadvertently served pink mashed potatoes (I used red potatoes and they had soaked) to my Dad and stepmother and salmon croquettes that were somewhat edible at age 13. After years of having very little time to myself, I have learned a way to function doing numerous things simultaneously. For example...I watch movies and scrapbook, read on the commode, rest and watch TV, work and listen to Pati (my iPod), cook and clean the kitchen, do laundry and entertain guests. I don't know how to do anything just by itself. So, imagine if you will...trying to crack an egg one handed your first time...trying to read a recipe that is in liters and grams, or flipping pancakes with the spatula between your toes...and you will understand how I have handicapped myself. Where I should have sat at the feet of people who knew better 20 years ago (the only one I did this with was my mother-in-law...who was a basic but excellent cook)...AND tried to just do one thing at a time...I just tried things...failed often...and resorted to repeating the recipes that were Karen-proof. I lost all desire for healthy cooking because I wasn't encouraged...quit trying because I failed more often than I succeeded, and thought I was an idiot because I couldn't pull off anything short of cooking for 14...which is how my mother-in-law taught me to cook. You peel a 10 lb bag of potatoes and cook them all when you make mashed potatoes (I only use five pounds for the four of us...which should explain my portion size problem to you more clearly), open a 5 lb bag of corn and put a stick of butter in it for "seasoning" or you make enough chili to feed everyone in the neighborhood. However, after years of failing to cook for less than a crowd...I have finally showed the signs of what Kevin Leman calls a "defeated perfectionist" in his Birth Order Book. Meaning...if I can't be good at it...I don't try. Which explains my aversions to housework, weight loss, clothes shopping, painting, and anything involving sewing. Last night, I realized that I have to start slowly...and then in time...I can figure out more. I also have to ask for help. She offered help and I showed up...and as a result...I was blessed.

Anyway, I hope that all of you have a splendid day. I had a roll for breakfast this morning and another for lunch with my Progresso WW soup. I would give you a Rehab update, but I'm stuck...which is better than it should I have to get my head straight to have a good week next week. Let's hope that I can. I don't mean to make you jealous...nah...who am I kidding? Of COURSE I want you to be jealous :)

My eBay feedback score is now 157 and the Crazy Lady Trade of the Day was someone who paid $41.00 (free shipping, though) for a decorative corner rounder. You know...the one that puts the little scalloped edge on it. I was not the recipient of this, unfortunately, but I saw it and just had to see what was up with that. The bidding started at $5. My latest Crazy Lady Trade was $9.49 plus shipping for a pack of Wild Side Paper that I acquired in one of my lots that I didn't really need. I bid on an open pack for $2.25 and won that one along with three sets of alphabet letters. You have to read the ads because some of these people are speaking some version of eBay is close...but nobody completely understands what it is they are selling and skim over the ad as a result. Well...everybody but me. After my "Marlboro infused box incident" I do ask "non-smoking home?" and will not bid unless I receive an enthusiastic "YES" or it is stuck in the ad as it should be in the first place. I also don't assume anything. There are some sneaky sneaky ladies on there who put a photo of about a gazillion stickers and then say that they are selling 100 stickers. Yeah...that means about 20 strips...which is disclosed if you read the ad. Who reads the ad when it looks like you can get 100 sticker strips for $15? The ol' heifers. Wish eBay would run them out. I may buy from them and go redneck just to make them stop. One lady is today advertising "white 12 x 12 paper" that is actually "pages" in the description and in the picture. It is currently going for $5.99 and should finish up today. Had she put the word "pages" it would be going for $15.99 or higher. I may win that one if nobody else reads the ad and skips over it thinking that it is white paper and is fairly priced. I used to inform people that they were being stupid in a nice way...but have found that sometimes the best way for them to discover this is to find out the hard way. I know I have (ALWAYS REMEMBER...NON-SMOKING HOME). Yes...I am a bottom feeder extraordiniare. Call me Catfish.

Oh, and for those of you who know that my musical tastes run to Collective Soul, Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Linkin Park, U2, Train, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tom Petty, Daughtry, Coldplay, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Dave Matthews Band, Nickelback and Creed...I was proud to hear Condoleezza Rice on Jay Leno last night saying that her favorite band was Led Zeppelin. Ol' Condi and I have not outgrown being 14 years old...musically, at least. ROCK ON.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Children's Books

Last week, after posting some thoughts I was having about my son, I was advised to look up a book called "Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch. So, yesterday I went into the local Books-a-Million to obtain a copy.

Since my children are older and my niece and nephew are covered as my sister is definitely pro-book, I haven't wandered into this particular section in quite some time.

I noticed that it was in total disarray...which I am not sure is as much a symptom of sorry employees as it is that it is the way most kids' sections probably always look. I mean...when my kids were small...there was no way that their rooms looked pristine...ever.

That being said, I wasn't totally shocked. However, I was surprised that the way the books were grouped, which meant that it was nearly impossible to find anything. So, unfortunately, I left without the book I showed up to purchase because I just couldn't find it. I have also found that locating a bookstore employee for assistance (or actually receiving help if one is found) is akin to finding someone to check you out in a department store if you are in a hurry, or being able to find the right size on a sale item. In other not happening.

I was trying to avoid online ONLY because I have been seriously fighting the temptation to order Julia Child's cookbook, biography, and the Julia and Julia book (that was recently made into a movie). I feel a bit of obsessiveness trying to sneak in...and for those who know me best...when I start obsessing, it pretty much takes over. I can just visualize trying to cook and finding that I have yet another hobby. So, I think that for now, I am safer to put the cookbook on my Christmas wish list.

However, I will have to order something else to get the free shipping (because this is necessary, as paying for shipping is about as appealing to me as swimsuit shopping). But choosing just one of the remaining books is way too hard! Guess I'll be going that route this afternoon, and I suppose I'll just start with Julia Child's biography...that's the one I'm most curious to read right now.

ANYWAY, I was combing the aisles for the book, and a few other titles just jumped right out at me. I suppose I can tell that Generation X, Y, or Z (certainly not a baby-boomer tail-ender like me) people are now writing AND editing. Some of the titles were quite telling in this regard.

My personal favorite was "Where's the Poop?" by Julie Markes. This is a "lift-the-flap" book using hand drawn animals. The point of the book is to apparently show that all animals defecate in different places as evidenced by the monkeys' flap being up a tree, and so forth. I can only imagine being in attendance as the author was pushing this particular literary wonder. I'll have to rate this one an "ewwww..." for obvious reasons

The next highest one on the atrocity scale was "Walter the Farting Dog" by William Ketzwinkle and Glenn Murray. This one just screams "we are stuck in college and we can't get out and we need some financing so we don't have to grow up and get a real job" but that might just be my take on it. The title was enough for me to put it back on the shelf without opening it at all. All I know is that my mother would have gotten one of her famous wooden spoons and worn out my behind for even proposing THAT particular title. (To my mother, "fart" is the "F-word." It was one of the few rules of life growing up (the others being: never go into her purse for any reason, never wake her up on a Saturday morning, and do not photograph her without proper hair and makeup or without warning. The latter was finally demolished in May 2006 after three consecutive days of rain in London.)

And then there are those books that are just wrong on some level such as "Seven Blind Mice" by Ed Young. No offense, Mr. Young, but could we not figure out a way to have the mice be ADHD or something a little less tacky? I mean, seriously. I still hate "Three Blind Mice" as a little song...and now we're up to seven in your book?

Speaking of tacky, how about "Tacky the Penguin" by Helen Lester. Apparently we are playing on the recent popularity of penguins and trying to inspire kids to just be themselves. That goes against everything that we are taught here in the South since being "tacky" is one of the worst things that we can say about a person, event, or manner of speaking. I know that we should be using the Northern term "tactless"...but nope, down here, we just call it "tacky." And we definitely don't name our children or animals such.

Another winning title was "Aliens are Coming" by Meagan McCarthy. No, THAT won't spark any angst will it? Please. I watched the movie "Frogs" when I was nine years old, and I still have trouble with them (unless they are of the stuffed animal variety). I don't care if they are one inch long and adhered to my door instead of the eight pound wonders hopping all over the screen in that horrid film. The resulting screaming is about the same on my part.

I also found that I was offended by the title "The Grouchy Ladybug" by Eric Carle because it brought back memories of Rush Week(yeah, yeah, I know they call it Recruitment now, but whatever) at Troy when all the Phi Mus were all grumpy and wanting it to be over. Since our symbol was the ladybug (and I hear it is making a return to the campus of The University of Alabama...yay!), this just has a negative connotation to me. I am not anti-Eric Carle at all since "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" was one of Jill's favorites.

Then I saw "The 7 Habits of Happy Kids" by Steven Covey and Stacey Curtis because it is never too early to start selling self-help books, is it Mr. Covey? What's next? Little classroom organizers with the wide rule lines and that dotted line in the middle? I think not.

On the upside, I did see a book called "Pinkalicious" by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann...probably two Phi Mus from somewhere. It was a cute book about eating some pink cupcakes and turning pink. The fact that they were eating in the book was my second clue that it was written by some sisters. (If they aren't Phi Mus, they so totally SHOULD be.)

When my kids were little, I read the book "Goodnight Moon" so many times that I can still recite most of it. I was disturbed to find a book called "Goodnight Bush" in the bookstore...a total left-wing conspiracy to discredit President Bush featuring Dick Cheney sitting in the rocking chair (as opposed to the old lady whispering "hush" with his gun on his lap) and oil refineries outside the windows. Okay, on a cleverness scale of 1-10, I'll have to give it an eleven. However, it is just so...WRONG...on so many levels (the biggest one being...that they use the same familiar illustrations and wording. And in all fairness...this was NOT in the children's section, it was in the humor section where I was looking for Erma Bombeck books.)

I noticed that Dr. Seuss is still there, as are The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, the American Girl books, and Amelia Bedelia. I read Beverly Cleary books...and those are still out in force. I am glad that they are still there to compete with "Walter the Farting Dog" and all that.

I also saw some celebrity books like one that looked charming written by Dolly Parton, and I've been told that Madonna is now writing some. I would definitely purchase the former but not the latter...primarily because I've not forgiven Madonna for inspiring the bob I sported my senior year of college. I also think that it is probably next to impossible to discount the skank factor enough in anything she'd write to make it palatable to me.

All in all, I enjoyed my little trip to the children's book aisle. I know that I'm in a holding pattern right now...not really a consumer...but hoping one day to be again. I still have my Beatrix Potter books from childhood as well as a book called "If Everybody Did" that my grandmother purchased for me in 1966.

If you purchase a book for a child...inscribe a message to him or her in the cover, and put the date on it. My grandmother and great-aunt did this for me, and my mother did it for my kids. It is nice to be able to look back and see the faith that they had in me all of those years ago by giving me wonderful books to read. And if any of you haven't read Max Lucado's books for should. They are absolutely wonderful.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Blue Gumball

Ever had one of those periods in your life where you just felt like you were swirling around in a sea of confusion? Visualize the Ti-D-Bowl Man in his little navy blazer, white pants, and cap hanging on for dear life in his minature boat as the blue water swirls around him, and that pretty much describes it. In case you haven't thought of the Ti-D-Bowl Man in years...well...neither have I.

All I know was that at this particular moment in time, some changes had to be made. I had to quit thinking of the present and the past, and start looking to the future. This was impossible, however, because every time I turned around something else was going wrong.

Within a 30 day period, I found myself transferring colleges, replacing a car that died, dealing with people I disappointed, and trying to get it together. At the time, I was working in a sandwich shop, and was totally unsure how all of the threads of life were going to tie into a bow, knot, or would just sit there and trip me up like untied shoelaces or something.

Although there were times when we were extraordinarily busy, there were times during the day that were very slow. I had time to sit there and think, and watch time pass. One afternoon, I realized that by the door... there was a gumball machine. For a dime, you could get one of those large gumballs. So, every time that I had an extra dime, I would put it in the slot, and turn the handle.

And while this will sound very trivial, I thought that it was important - for whatever reason - to get a blue one. Why blue? Because there is no blue food...and it was just something rare and uncommon. There were a fair number of blue ones in there, but for whatever reason, I just kept managing to get every other color of the, orange, yellow, pink, green, purple or white. And every day, I'd put another dime or two into the slot.

The days passed, and after a couple of weeks, it began to be a quest with me. I saw other people get the blue ones I missed. I kept up my routine and started wondering if there was a correlation between not getting a blue gumball...and all of the craziness and angst I was going through at the time. I even started thinking that if I ever did manage to get one...everything would start getting better. I just held on and figured that it would be my sign.

And then one day...

I looked down...and the gumball was blue.

Although everything didn't immediately get better, things slowly and eventually did. Sometimes, you just need something to give you hope that the present awfulness is going to morph into something you can live with...or you think you can. I just know that at this particular point in my life, I did not have enough understanding to realize that God was using my obsession with a blue gumball to keep me focused on making positive changes and moving forward.

After that summer when everything changed, I realized that my life then started to faintly resemble the one I am living now...except now I'd like to think I have better sense through experience, wisdom, and a better understanding of how God works in our lives.

I hope that if anyone reading this is waiting on a "sign" or something to change...that you be reminded that God is in control of your circumstances. It may seem to be an exercise in futility, marking time, or the opposite of what you want right now...but you are not able to see the whole picture. None of us can. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that we can trace God's hand.

If you have just received an answer, and you are trying to figure out what steps to take...just be aware that you aren't alone.

Now when I get a blue gumball in a gumball machine by random chance...I think back on that time of a crossroads in my life, and all of the changes set in motion then that put me on a different trajectory than may have occurred had I chosen differently. I also think it is something wonderful and seeing a rainbow, having a perfect rose on the bush outside, having my gardenias or tea olives bloom, or catching an awesome sunrise or sunset.

Those markers just let me know that I'm in God's thoughts...and I know that I am...we all are. He sends them to us to give us hope, or reassurance, or just a happy surprise. At least that's the way I see it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Erma Bombeck

Have you ever had one of those times in your life when people were putting something in front of your face, you saw it, but you were not paying enough attention to it? This is like that Taylor Swift song about the boy who doesn't notice her because he is too busy chasing the cheerleader or whatever. OH, you thought I didn't listen to country music? Well, you would be correct except that my daughter insisted that I listen to a couple of Taylor Swift's songs because she knows that I like people who are amazingly talented - especially at a young age - and because Jill is a big fan.

(Note: Britney Spears, Tatum O'Neal, Drew Barrymore, Michael Jackson, and Lindsey Lohan - who started out brilliantly as young performers royally screwed up my original fabulous impression of them by being such boneheads as adults. I have totally forgiven Drew who pulled herself together and is a good actress and Tatum because she went to the house and raised her kids and got herself off the front page of the National Enquirer every other week. LeeAnn Rimes is seriously on her way to being on the "bad" list for being a hussy-tramp if said tabloids are to be believed. Wait. Did I just write that? Never mind.)

Anyway, back to my original point, which you probably just scrolled up to find. Sometimes, we have things put in our face and we totally miss whatever it is that God is trying to tell us. I always feel like a total doofus when this happens...primarily because it tends to happen more often than I'd like (which, for the NEVER).

For the past six months or more, my scrapbooking ladies group members have been referring to me as "Erma K" because they said that my writing reminds them of Erma Bombeck. I've heard it at least a dozen times over the past year from various people who are totally unrelated. Tonight, another friend brought it up, and the blondeness cleared and this thought emerged..."So, I think perhaps, maybe, I'll look into that...yeah."

Ya think? I mean, I remember enjoying her writing, but I have not read it in several years. So, I went to the source of all knowledge as I currently know it - Wikipedia - and found out a few interesting facts.

The most stunningly obvious was that Erma Bombeck was an incredibly normal woman. I'm very pleased to know this, because after wanting to be exceptional my entire life...I've realized and have finally accepted the fact that I am exceptionally normalish. Maybe not in every sense...but normal (ie boring) enough. I would have loved to have been able to recite the Presidents in order at age 3, been a member of the Partridge Family (I thought I could do as well as that girl Suzanne whatever who was called Tracy and who appeared to do very little), or end up being a lottery winner or something. Alas, NO.

I learned that Erma Bombeck was a person of faith (Catholic), a mother (3 kids), wife, and that she wrote a LOT. I suppose in those ways...other than the fact that I am Methodist and have two children...I can relate. She wrote about her life and tried to find the bright side in most things. She seems like someone who I might have known, liked, and laughed with over a cup of coffee.

So, I find it a high compliment that my friends have told me that my writing reminds them of her. I am honored by this, in fact...far more than I realized I would be, and now I don't want to sound like I'm anywhere near her caliber because I am not, but hey, WOW...thanks, you guys!

Below are a few of the quotes of hers that I found on that pretty much run the gamut of hilarious to reflective...which I suppose is what she was and is in the memories of those of us who were blessed to have read her work. Enjoy...I have...and intend to again when I go to Books-a-Million tomorrow to buy one of her books.

A friend never defends a husband who gets his wife an electric skillet for her birthday.
Erma Bombeck

A friend will tell you she saw your old boyfriend - and he's a priest.
Erma Bombeck

All of us have moments in out lives that test our courage. Taking children into a house with a white carpet is one of them.
Erma Bombeck

Anybody who watches three games of football in a row should be declared brain dead.
Erma Bombeck

Before you try to keep up with the Joneses, be sure they're not trying to keep up with you.
Erma Bombeck

Being a child at home alone in the summer is a high-risk occupation. If you call your mother at work thirteen times an hour, she can hurt you.
Erma Bombeck

Car designers are just going to have to come up with an automobile that outlasts the payments.
Erma Bombeck

Children make your life important.
Erma Bombeck

Did you ever notice that the first piece of luggage on the carousel never belongs to anyone?
Erma Bombeck

Do you know what you call those who use towels and never wash them, eat meals and never do the dishes, sit in rooms they never clean, and are entertained till they drop? If you have just answered, "A house guest," you're wrong because I have just described my kids.
Erma Bombeck

Don't confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.
Erma Bombeck

Dreams have only one owner at a time. That's why dreamers are lonely.
Erma Bombeck

For some of us, watching a miniseries that lasts longer than most marriages is not easy.
Erma Bombeck

For years my wedding ring has done its job. It has led me not into temptation. It has reminded my husband numerous times at parties that it's time to go home. It has been a source of relief to a dinner companion. It has been a status symbol in the maternity ward.
Erma Bombeck

Getting out of the hospital is a lot like resigning from a book club. You're not out of it until the computer says you're out of it.
Erma Bombeck

God created man, but I could do better.
Erma Bombeck

Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving.
Erma Bombeck

House guests should be regarded as perishables: Leave them out too long and they go bad.
Erma Bombeck

Housework, if you do it right, will kill you.
Erma Bombeck

How come anything you buy will go on sale next week?
Erma Bombeck

Humorists can never start to take themselves seriously. It's literary suicide.
Erma Bombeck

I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.
Erma Bombeck

I have a hat. It is graceful and feminine and give me a certain dignity, as if I were attending a state funeral or something. Someday I may get up enough courage to wear it, instead of carrying it.
Erma Bombeck

I have a theory about the human mind. A brain is a lot like a computer. It will only take so many facts, and then it will go on overload and blow up.
Erma Bombeck

I haven't trusted polls since I read that 62% of women had affairs during their lunch hour. I've never met a woman in my life who would give up lunch for sex.
Erma Bombeck

I never leaf through a copy of National Geographic without realizing how lucky we are to live in a society where it is traditional to wear clothes.
Erma Bombeck

I take a very practical view of raising children. I put a sign in each of their rooms: "Checkout Time is 18 years."
Erma Bombeck

I was too old for a paper route, too young for Social Security and too tired for an affair.
Erma Bombeck

I will buy any creme, cosmetic, or elixir from a woman with a European accent.
Erma Bombeck

I've exercised with women so thin that buzzards followed them to their cars.
Erma Bombeck

If a man watches three football games in a row, he should be declared legally dead.
Erma Bombeck

If you can't make it better, you can laugh at it.
Erma Bombeck

In general my children refuse to eat anything that hasn't danced in television.
Erma Bombeck

In two decades I've lost a total of 789 pounds. I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.
Erma Bombeck

It goes without saying that you should never have more children than you have car windows.
Erma Bombeck

It is not until you become a mother that your judgment slowly turns to compassion and understanding.
Erma Bombeck

It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.
Erma Bombeck

Like religion, politics, and family planning, cereal is not a topic to be brought up in public. It's too controversial.
Erma Bombeck

Thursday, August 27, 2009


There are days when my productivity level astounds me. It is almost like I sit outside of myself amazed at how the little columns of numbers add up, and the stacks of paper are whipped into nice little standardized bundles of supporting documentation.

My hair even looks good on these days. My mascara is not clumping, there is no traffic in the school zones, and my favorite people don't call me to give me an excuse to give me somewhere else to put my attention. I am Producto-woman...hear me roar! I am the epitome of need that file? I have my hand on it. You want coffee? It should be ready right My checking account is balanced, my pantry is full, and I actually remembered to get something out of the freezer to defrost for dinner tonight. OH, and dinner will be yummy, satisfying, healthy, and low-fat. I'm SO Rachael Ray today!

And just so you know...days like these represent approximately 2% of the 365 each year. Which means that the other 98% of the time...the days look something like...well...THIS...

OH, I hear Big Dave in the shower...that must mean it is almost time for him to go get my coffee...what time is it? *roll over*


What do you mean...6:30? And is that my coffee that has turned into something lukewarm sitting on this nightstand? What is up with THAT? Egad.

*Drag self out of bed.* Staring at me is Dixie, my shih tzu. This means that she has been waiting on me to get up and is NOT happy that I have obviously ignored not only David, and coffee...but her as well. I mean, heaven forbid that anyone other than me put these dogs outside for their morning ____ well, you know... How is it possible that I have overslept?

After washing my hair, I sit in front of the computer screen. This is a luxury that I am only supposed to allow myself IF I get up in time, which I have so NOT done. Ah! I'll dry my hair at the same time!

Um. No. That would be my immediate thought process upon looking at what happens to my hair while I am drying it and typing on Facebook and Twitter. It is a sad cross between Phyllis Diller and a barfly. This is, of course, PERFECT, since I have to go to the Probate Office and renew my drivers' license today since it expires on Sunday...which I assure you will be the day before the State Trooper that haunts the strip of road that gets me from out here in the sticks into civilization (the name of it is Pike Road...which is also the name of the town that I live in...which should tell you something about the thriving metropolis which I call home.) This particular Trooper can't speak in a way that any of my family (two of which have been stopped by said officer) can understand, but they get the fact that they are getting a ticket...the international language of BOHICA (bend over, here it comes again) is apparently sufficient enough.

SO looking forward to that trip to the Probate Office...which is also known as the third circle of Hell.

I use the straightener, look a lot like Rod Stewart's sister now, and I leave for work. It is late. Of course it is. When I arrive at work, there is no coffee because the hogs have shut it down already for the morning. One of the guys will make coffee, the other three apparently have wives who do that for them at home and have now convinced themselves that opening the premeasured packet from Royal Cup and putting it in the little bin thingy and pushing "start" is either too difficult or menial for them to concern themselves with because they are busy, busy, and obviously CAFFEINATED...which I am NOT...and desperately want to be.

I get to my office, and get a phone call from a friend who wants a favor...which I am glad to do, but I then receive a total of five faxes that aren't mine while waiting on the one that is. I then get into a conversation with a person who tells me that although it is his responsibility to do something...he can't figure out if he is really supposed to do it or not because he hasn't been doing it although the approval clearly states that he is supposed to be doing it and he wants to know if I think this is a big deal and I tell him absolutely yes that the examiners will be furious if they pull that file and so he freaks and asks me if it would be okay if he just sent it all to me so that I could do it for him and I say...NO.

Sorry. By this time, I have FOUND the coffee...and we are ON.

Anyway, moving on...I managed to get one thing done before Jill calls. She is going off because one of the three she lives with has hogged the storage bowls and leaves her non-matching blanket in the living room unfolded. Another one is leaving her clothes in the washing machine and the other is not cleaning and it is her week to clean.

I give up and decide to go to the Probate Office. I mean...why not? May as well. I'm about as productive as any given bag boy at Winn-Dixie when the manager is not around...and if I am not going to be able to do anything I'm supposed to be doing, then maybe I'll go to lunch when nobody else is, and I'll be more productive. As if.

I end up running a host of errands from calling a friend who is missing her freshman in college, returning a purple notebook (because I got the eyebrow over not only the color but the type of notebook it was) to Target, making Brian's deposit (so I can suck it back out of his account because he owes me money), and then going across town.

I go to Planet Fitness and cancel Jill's membership because she and a friend had a wild idea that they might go work out together but it was a colossal fail of 10 on the fail scale and so I wanted the $10 a month to just stop already. I then returned uniforms to Buckhead that Brian was supposed to return but hadn't (like I am remotely surprised by this revelation). This was probably a good thing as he snatched a pair of long pants out of the bag and put them on yesterday because they had chapel and he had forgotten about it and left the house in shorts. That's one demerit we will not be getting...which is good...because he has a belt aversion and naturally, he is supposed to be wearing one. Never mind that the pants weren't hemmed. Oh well. I left there, and went on to the Probate Office.

I passed two very pregnant women struggling to get to the door in the parking lot, and was pleased that I could at least move faster than they could. I got to the counter, and the lady looked at me and said..."the computer is down."

Really? GREAT.

I leave, pass the ladies almost making it in to the Probate Office and I head over to Big Lots. I spend five minutes amid the stuff that would be really great if I A) Had any use whatsoever for any of it and B) They had the All Bran Fiber drink mix stuff that keeps me from eating. I ended up buying some mints, nuts, oatmeal raisin cookies for Big Dave, and some South Beach drink mix...a sad substitute for my All Bran.

I flew out of there to Taco Bell, where I - for the first time in my adult life - got excellent service in the drive-thru. The order was even correct. Hope I don't wake up at 2 am with food poisoning.

Anyway, I went by Bed, Bath and Beyond to buy those stupid slimline hangers to put the gazillion shirts I've been washing for two days on in Brian's closet. I bought a dog bed, too. Why? I don't know. I had a coupon. Sue me.

Got back to work and everything on my list was done except returning a bra to Belk's. Since I am fairly sure that it fits about as well as its twin that I hate with a passion...and therefore, I am tempted to just set the thing on fire, I am fairly sure that this might give me some closure...except that I want my money back.

So, I returned from my adventure...and got back to work. Sixteen phone calls and fifty some odd e-mails later, I realized that it was nearly 5:00. I'd be giddy, except that I won't be in the office tomorrow, and so I had to work late.

Of course.

And it was raining outside.

I finally finished that deal and the one with the person from earlier, who had miraculously figured it all out and sent me what I needed. Yay for him.

I left the office and then went in search of a composition book. CVS was a wash. Winn-Dixie had it. They also had chicken, ice cream, watermelon, cheese, dog food, barbecue sauce and other stuff that I didn't really need on sale. So, naturally, I bought them.

After telling the bag boy who was flirting with the girl named Brooklyn according to the tattoo on her arm to get over and load my stuff in the cart, he asked if I needed help to my car. I let him walk with me long enough to tell him that if he didn't start paying attention to his customers that the cashiers were going to turn on him and sufficiently scared him before darting to my car.

And then I came home.

OH, it sounds like I had a very productive day, yes? Well...I got it all done...but it certainly wasn't pretty.

I have to be at the office at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning to drive to Mobile. Here's hoping that tomorrow is a Disney happy kind of day where bluebirds circle my perfect hair while I pull into the driveway of the bank at exactly 6:59. The odds of that are about as good as waking up spontaneously thinner, younger, and the latest Powerball winner.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009


My son, Brian, is seventeen. He is 5'3" and about 115 pounds...a late bloomer. He gets it from his Dad, who graduated from high school and weighed something like 125 pounds at 5'10". He also wasn't helped by having Crohn's Disease (he's in remission, thankfully) and being among the pickiest eaters on the planet.

Brian came into the world at a whopping 8 pounds 5 1/2 ounces after a nine month gestation. He was totally different from his sister (other than the obvious) and required very little in the way of care or maintenance. He was content to sit in the corner and play with his feet, and as he got older, his biggest thrill was to crawl over to steal his sister's Cheerios. He even put himself to sleep. He slept through the night at eight weeks.

Did I mention that he was a beautiful baby? People would actually stop me and tell me how gorgeous he was. And even though he was mine...they weren't exaggerating.

Raising Brian was a joy, and was very simple. You do have to realize that my point of reference was his sister, whose first five years are a virtual blur to me. Other than a few select memories of curly fries, a fit in the middle of Wal-Mart and hiding from me in the then Gayfers Department Store, all I remember is being tired, frazzled and being required to rock her incessantly.

Brian refused to feed himself until after he turned four. Oh, he would hold a fork, and would even act like he was eating, but it was all just a facade. He was also a food critic of the highest magnitude, and would rear his platinum blonde curly haired self back to stare at something foreign I might have thought was getting by him. Not so. He survived on cereal, pasta, and scrambled eggs.

When he started school, I started packing him peanut butter sandwiches (no jelly) and he ate these until he was in the 8th grade. By then, he started eating corn, green beans, broccoli, potatoes, and rice. We could count the number of foods he would eat on our fingers and toes.

Among his favorites was chicken fingers. He ate so many of these, I would not have been shocked had he sprouted feathers. He also started eating McDonald's hamburgers - plain - but only because he wanted the french fries.

Now that he is grown, he takes himself to purchase his beloved chicken fingers (which he eats with barbecue sauce), sweet tea (he doesn't drink colas much because of the Crohn's) and french fries. He went to at least three fast food establishments so often that people actually started fixing his food the second that he walked in the door. I realize that this is NOT good. But, when you want to put weight on a kid...nothing beats fast food for this. He needed calories. He found them. I've had people tell me that we should regulate his diet more carefully. As long as he is in remission...there is no problem eating whatever he wants to eat.

Brian is now a junior in high school. My great sweet kid with the dimples and the bright blue eyes is a teenager. He and I do not have the close relationship that I had so hoped for once his sister was out on her own. I try, but much like I have never understood why a Mom's change of life and a girl's teenage years coincide often...I hate that I am at this point with my son when he is big time hormonal from having three years behind in growth on overdrive for the past year.. I miss my boy.

So, for the past three days, I have tried to be SuperMom. I'm trying to be kind. This has resulted in me doing SIX loads of laundry, sweeping gradu out from under his bed, being winked at by something living in a cup that I swear could probably cure cancer, and making two pitchers of tea. As I write this I am down to TWO more loads, and then I have the task of figuring out what still fits and what doesn't. I'm betting that about 75% of what I just washed is donated to Goodwill or put on eBay...the Polos anyway.

Because he was self reliant (except for the feeding), was always honest, and made excellent grades, we allowed him the latitude to not be hounded. This may or may not have been a mistake. Last year, he didn't try his best...and it showed. Oh, it is nothing like the wrong crowd or weekend drinking binges that other parents are dealing with at this age. I mean, he is home most of the time, and if he drank, the medication he takes would land him in the hospital. It was just the difficulty of being 16 and having every restaurant offer you the kids' menu that was wearing on him.

He's past a lot of that now. He had a little girlfriend over the summer. He has a part time job at a gym, and he can wire anything in your car you want wired. He's quite brilliant at that. He has also promised to do better in school this year since I think that he can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I do pity his future roommates, though.

But amid all of the trying to be the perfect mother, I have found that my self-reliant kid really just wants me to get out and exercise. To go to the gym, and to feel better about myself so that when he is less than three years...I won't be sad. So, he's started the breaking away process prematurely. And of course, what this means for me is that I'm not handling it very well.

Nobody said that raising boys was easy. Even good boys.

So, mothers of little boys...remember to hug them tight, enjoy their Spiderman pajamas, and if they want you to "play Legos" with all I'd love that privilege right now.

Sorry to be overly sentimental, but you know, life is just what it is sometimes. And while this same kid can amaze me, anger me, and annoy me, he is apart from much as I hate that. I also understand why people start treating their animals like their children when the kids grow up. I'm shockingly close to that right now.

So, as I look at him grow into the man he is going to be one day, I only hope that God is working mightily on this boy. I also hope that there is a godly vertically challenged, bright, beautiful, neat freak of a girl out there who will be his helpmate. Because judging by my recent experience. He's going to need some serious help. At least in the realm of housekeeping. But I have faith that this boy is also going to be a man of God, and will one day let me see glimpses of the little guy he once was. The little guy that I miss desperately...even though he is in the next room excitedly discussing with his Dad some headset he bought with his own money. Later!