Sunday, July 25, 2010

Debutante Ball

Last October 5th, I was sitting in this same spot the morning after the most perfect wedding imaginable sending text messages to a friend and writing about the night before. In one of the text messages my friend asked if I had by chance checked my mail since I was questioning something she referenced that puzzled her. It was a Sunday morning...and I with all of the activity the previous day...I hadn't made time.

My curiosity got the better of me and I trudged to the mailbox to see what could possibly be waiting for me there. I honestly had no idea. Then I placed my hand on the usual...the ads, junk mail, bills, and envelope.

An envelope inviting my daughter to join the 2010 Southern Debutante Cotillion. She was selected and I was stunned but grateful. That day was nine and a half months ago...and the "big day" to which it referred...was two days ago. But over those months we were given us something to look forward to...something to dream about. Because I don't care what anyone says...there is an element of magic anytime that we put on formalwear.

Even if that formalwear is magically enhanced by Spanx in the female 39 and holding set. It matters not.

The hunt for a dress was the first consideration. The only requirements Jill had were that it be simple, full, and free of the possibility of failure to maintain its proper it was strapless. She found the dress with little ado, and with no alterations required. We considered both of these to be minor miracles. She was also grateful that it still fit eight months after it was purchased.

Later, the choice of an escort and a guest list came into play. She asked a young man from high school who had always been a friend...and a lot of fun. The guest list was primarily comprised of her college were most everyone else's.

As the date drew near, the logistics of managing college kids in a hotel, providing transportation, and feeding them became a little bit of a challenge. Once we worked out getting them really was no trouble at all...and thankfully, there were no "Debzilla" incidents to report.

Two of my sweet friends sent Jill flowers on Wednesday with a message on the card that read "Can't wait to see our beautiful daughter Friday night." A white basket with a hot pink ribbon, green button mums, white hydrangea and sweetheart roses and pink roses. I love my friends for thinking to add that special touch.

The morning of the ball, the mothers and daughters went to the Montgomery Country Club for brunch. The food was beautifully prepared...fruit salad, chicken crepes, asparagus, broiled tomato half, an assortment of breads, and a dessert of key lime pie. The tables were beautifully adorned, we were elegantly served (I recognized our waiter as a bartender later that night...he obviously had a long day), and the flowers that were leading up to to the ballroom were already in place.

The flowers were blush pink roses with gorgeous white hydrangeas, and blue and purple flowers intertwined with greenery. The effect was simply stunning. A small table was outside the doorway to the Beauvoir Room with a framed copy of the luncheon invitation, and a silver tray for nametags. There was a sense of excitement in the the twenty-three beautiful debutantes and the rest of us took our places at the round tables festively adorned with small floral masterpieces.

After introductions, some last minute details were attended to and after lunch, the girls were taken upstairs for a preview of the rehearsal that would include their fathers and escorts at 6:30 that night. The girls received lessons in how to curtsey - which is apparently a time honored tradition for southern belles-to-be.

Soon afterward, the guests began to arrive in town from points all over the South. Food was brought in, last minute issues were resolved and everyone was accounted for. Even challenges such as an unexpected gulleywasher an hour and a half before the Ball, stopped traffic due to an accident that almost made everyone late, folks arriving from Tuscaloosa (two hours away) after moving out of their apartments at 4:00 that afternoon, an escort who had overslept and had lost his cell phone, "deb hair nightmare" that ended up being converted into something beautiful, a heat index of 107 and some missing cufflinks were all overcome. Thankfully. I'm sure that there was more drama, but this was all that I was made aware of at least.

After the rehearsals, photos, and some food was provided to the debs, fathers, and escorts, the dispensory of liquid courage opened to the relief of everyone who was trying to remember such concepts as "keeping the arms in a 'V'", curtseying with all eyes upon them, gliding instead of speedwalking, not tripping on the steps or the edge of the dance floor, and remaining still while Dad walked around them in a circle. And of course...remembering the gloves.

Before the presentation, the crowd grew in anticipation of seeing the beautiful girls presented. Eventually, the doors closed, after a reprieve of fifteen minutes granted for weather related slowdowns, and the first debutante appeared on the stage.

The presentation flowers were all on a table...nosegays of blush roses, hydrangeas and white and purple flowers. They certainly looked lovely carried by the girls as they stood under an arch adorned by similar flowers spotlighted in their dresses at presentation time.

The dresses and hairstyles chosen were as unique as each of the girls. All were white with flourishes of bows, rhinestones, or lace. Some looked like brides and others like fairy princesses. All were beautiful. Each wore long gloves and most wore pearls. Hair was either swept into an up-do, curled, or otherwise manipulated. Jill chose to wear hers down...which suited her and made her feel more like herself. I thought that she made the right decision for her...and frankly, that's all that really mattered to me.

Jill wanted a simple dress that fit her properly and had a little volume around the skirt. there was a rhinestone clasp on her left side and there was some tulle in part of the skirt. It was perfect for her. In my opinion, she is so beautiful that she really didn't require any other adornment. But then again...I might be a little biased.

Because the girls were called alphabetically, she was presented just between her two sorority sisters and last year's roomates, Emily and Haley. Three beautiful Phi Mus all in a row.

After the presentation, the room was crowded with people who wanted to speak to the debutantes and families for a few minutes before the band jumped into high gear. Out of Jill's graduating class of approximately 75, at least half were in attendance as guests of the various girls. I know this because I hugged the majority of them. She bounced from her duties as hostess to her group of out of town guests to various friends that she had not seen for the first hour after the presentation. She spent the remainder of the evening on the dance floor having a lot of fun and dancing right in front of the band. From my vantage point on the sidelines, she didn't sit down all night.

There is something just completely fun about watching college kids with a live band. I spent time with my friend watching everyone dance and feeling like I was in the middle of a fraternity formal. The dance styles varied from swing dancing to a couple that completely mezmerized me. They were on the far side of the floor and were taking up a considerable amount of real estate with dancing that closely resembled something that might be seen on the National Geographic Channel with a headdress of some kind. Another group of girls were giggling wildly and often and dancing around like I imagine they did when they were little girls. Except that they were in heels and cocktail dresses.

I loved the band...and the music they were playing. One of Jill's guests was kind enough to ask me to dance...although I do not dance well. I was struggling to swing dance, keep my straps on the dress up (to avoid a Janet Jackson moment) and not run over the gazillion kids out there on the dance floor. However, he survived "Mustang Sally" and me, and I will always hold him in high regard for being kind enough to twirl me around a bit.

I wandered back into the room next to the dance floor a few times for more Diet Coke and one time saw several of Jill's guests "chillin'" when I heard the opening chords of Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me." I just couldn't have that...and shooed them onto the dance floor. My friend and I then proceeded to sing on the edges of the floor...and likely became somebody's "these Moms were like TOTALLY overserved..." moment. Oh well. Being jacked up on Diet Coke because you haven't had caffeine since March is forgivable, I suppose. As is (I hope) knowing all of the words to that song.

The band played on, and the crowd began to thin. The bar closed. The ball ended. It was a long but wonderful, enchanting, and special night.

Outside the transport vehicles lined up, and at a Microtel across town, the unfortunate folks who were booked in rooms near 215, 216 and 217 were probably calling the front desk. No, not really. By that time, everyone was pretty much ready to go to sleep I'm sure. Yeah, right...

Now that it is over, I have a lot of happy memories. I was not able to invite everyone that I wanted there because that would have started a string of invitations that I couldn't afford. My friends hopefully understand that. My family did. We wanted the night to be special for Jill and to include the people who provided her immense and unwavering support...and her best least the ones who would enjoy this kind of thing. I think that this was accomplished, and hope that anyone who was left out or felt slighted by not being included will understand what our priorities were.

We were honored to be among the debutantes selected, and were so excited that so many people altered their schedules to make it happen.

The debutante tradition began to present young women of marriageable age to polite society. I have to admit that seeing all of those beautiful girls in white dresses did make me realize that the next time I see my beautiful daughter and husband attired in a similar fashion will be the day that we give her away.

And that thought - is enough to make me grateful that we are not quite there yet. Time flies by quickly enough as it is. I'll just enjoy my memories of a hot summer night in July when my baby girl curtseyed holding her Daddy's hand while everyone politely applauded. It was truly an amazing night.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hen Party

This past weekend was spent in the company of nine remarkable women in a cabin near Pine Mountain, Georgia. This is the third reunion we have had over the past year; the other two being dinner in Peachtree City, and a meal in Thomaston. We thought that we were ready to step out and spend enough time together to truly have a "Girls Weekend" - since our children are getting older and we realized that we blinked and it has been almost thirty years since we put on our caps and gowns and received our diplomas.

It feels more like...well...YESTERDAY. So with that in mind...we really didn't want to waste any more time.

The cabin was chosen and the invitation to have this weekend was extended about six months ago. Many of us were on board immediately. We knew from spending time together at dinner that we would have fun...and were excited at the prospect of actually having enough time together to truly catch up. Life is usually far too busy for us to spend any time looking back...we are doing all that we can in the here and now with our eyes locked in on the future. The past just seems to get neglected and tucked away...only to be brought out every five years if there are some folks who are organized enough to plan a reunion.

Fortunately, we have had those folks in our class. They've been faithful to put together a reunion for us every five years. I haven't been as faithful...I've only attended two. Lord willing, I won't miss any more.

But, reunions are more "macro" in nature...more broad and less personal. You have time to see everyone...but not enough time to really delve into what is going on in someone's life. Reunions are wonderful...and a great opportunity to reconnect. Yet our intention was to have enough time to truly have conversations about our life's journey, and to recognize that our shared experience of being raised in Thomaston, Georgia and graduating in 1981 bound us to each other in ways that are quite unique and wonderful.

Once the date for the weekend was set, getting commitments to attend was much like herding cats. There were many more who truly wanted to come than actually arrived this weekend. The reasons that some did not come were varied...conflicts in schedules, financial concerns, work, last minute emergencies, and health related problems. Others just felt more comfortable with the occasional dinner and the reunions. That was fine.

But for those of us who were able to make the journey...we all came away feeling glad that we had made the effort from the comments I've seen written back and forth. Personally, I know I am.

We arrived at different points in time...which made the group dynamics a lot more interesting than it would have been otherwise. Several of the girls arrived on Thursday night in a copper 40 year old Cadillac convertible that was not entirely sure that it wanted to be cooperative. One flat tire - changed by a county worker and a prisoner - and carburator-tweaking later, it made it to the cabin.

Although I missed the Thursday night festivities, I understand that the hen party went on well into the all good hen parties should.

On Friday, we participated in a Mary Kay demonstration because one among us is a brand new representative. Nothing will bond you faster than seeing everyone's hair pulled back in a headband while trying to remain on the non-slut side of eyeshadow application. It's a fine me.

Later that afternoon...when everyone had arrived...we descended upon Stubby's Pub for dinner. Shortly after arriving...we realized that we weren't the only Rebels there.

The R.E. Lee Class of 1975 was also in attendance. I turned around to find a family friend and his wife among them, as well as the older brother of one of our classmates. As were two friends from the R.E. Lee Class of 1980 that I hadn't seen in thirty years. They looked like more contemporary versions of the girls I remembered...but certainly not older...which was extremely impressive!

After listening to the band - which was quite talented - but was not singing anything even remotely we recognized - we decided to head back to the cabin. We talked until the wee hours of the night, and then packed it in.

The next morning, a few of us walked for a couple of miles up and down hills, and took time to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Having felt a little defeated on a heartbreak hill...we took a second lap just to conquer it. Later that day we walked all over downtown Warm Springs popping in and out of shops. We then all went to dinner...and a few of them started leaving for home...various commitments calling them back.

After dinner at The Bulloch House, we went back to Stubby's Pub for karaoke. Our numbers had dwindled from ten to six...and we were a fairly quiet bunch for the first couple of hours.

It's generally calm before a storm, I hear.

Because after awhile...we decided to sing as a group. Most of us had not performed in public since Lee High Singers in 1981. A couple of us had privately sworn that there was no way we were getting up there. Like...EVER.

Good thing we didn't put money on it.

Because we ended up singing "Play That Funky Music" - VERY loud and with a little bit of gusto. The only thing missing were the roller skates that most of us associate that song with having heard it about a gazillion times at the Sunset Roller Palace in Thomaston.

Our second selection was "I Love Rock 'n Roll" (Joan Jett)...which brought some enthusiasm from the crowd and polite applause from the ladies in the back who were celebrating their 50th high school reunion.

We were then called up to do a rendition of the Pussycat Dolls' song "Don't Cha". We were more..."Don't Cha just want to let us sing the chorus..." because - frankly - that's pretty much all we knew. We'll try to block out the possibility that the two young men who were filming this on their phones have already uploaded our performance to YouTube.


And while all of this was fun and everything...I almost fell out watching one of the girls on the dance floor with the local Fred Astaire (I'm being nice.) There have been some memorable dances that I've witnessed...but this one was definitely in the top 10. I won't elaborate, but let's just say that the only thing missing was someone yelling out "Who's Your Daddy?"

I learned during "The Electric Slide" that I still dance like a white girl...and probably always will. I was boxed in by two very exuberant dancers and an extremely uncooperative pair of flip flops that one of my friends was wearing. I kept stepping on them...would lose my place, and then was ducking the two headed my way while I was apologizing for stepping on her feet...again. "Spastic" would be an understatement. (Note: I didn't even attempt the "Cha Cha Slide." I'm just not woman enough. And that's really okay. Two of the girls had hip ailments this I'm thinking that this was a very wise decision on my part.)

After closing the place down...we headed back to the cabin and talked again until we were basically comatose, got up this morning, packed up, and headed out.

And here I sit writing this with a smile on my face thinking about how much fun it is to spend time with people who remember you when you were young...and are still speaking to you anyway.

Time heals most wounds, you know. We may have been best friends before someone went down one path or another. And here we are again remembering the good times we had...without discussing the not so good ones. A couple of us didn't really know each other because we graduated from either Lee or Upson. What was funny was that we all knew some of the same people...and we were able to figure out pretty much what happened to anyone who happened to cross our minds. Not in a mean way...more of in an interested to know the rest of the story kind of way.

Well, pretty much.

As I spent time with these women I noticed a few things that I suppose I'd always taken for granted when I was among them. Like the generosity of spirit that each one of them possesses. Each of them brought so much food that we could have fed twice our number...easily.

The fact that certain words are drawn out differently than I've heard in Alabama over the past twenty-seven years while a resident of Alabama...but once heard...they are familiar to my ear. The pronunciations and phrases are just different enough, though, for me to notice.

Or that every one of them is wildly successful in at least one area in their lives...and frankly...more than one. They are wives, mothers, caregivers, therapists, administrators, friends, community servants, and amazing women. I am also quite sure that they don't see themselves as wildly successful either. But they are.

In conversations, I learned the depth of their love for their families, the fact that they are not stuck in time...but have blossomed...whether they left Thomaston or stayed. They shoot straight, and they speak the truth. If you don't really want to might not want to ask.

They also have the ability to pay you a compliment in such a way that is so incredibly direct but also so equally heartfelt that it almost takes your breath away.

They support everything...causes, organizations, relatives, people who are having a tough time, and their friends. They don't leave the dishes for someone else...they do them.

Several of us had some "history"...but after all of these years...and with the understanding that everything turned out as it was supposed to...we've all moved on. Time has healed the wounds, such as they were...and replaced them with the understanding that life is too short to worry about holding grudges.

It was a good weekend. I laughed so much sometimes that my face hurt. And while we missed those who were not there...I really loved spending time with those that were. So, Kayla, Chrystie, Tracy, Jan, Angie, Dana, Kayla, Angela and Renda (a guest among us!)...thank you for a wonderful time.

I look forward to the next hen party...and I will miss you all in the interim.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rambling Thoughts Regarding To-Do Lists and Free Floating Anxiety

I have a list with several items on it and a time limit of about three hours to get it all completed. Me sitting here writing is not so much is more me feeling the need to write and so here I am. Writing about my anxiety sometimes puts it in perspective...and after dealing with all that has been in my head with a whip and a chair today...I'm pretty tired.

Today, I have concerned myself with many things. Some of them have been important and somewhat paying a few bills, balancing my checkbook and allowing Greg the hairdresser to bring my hair back to some semblance of normalcy. That normalcy - of course - now includes altering it a few shades so that I can live in denial for just a wee bit longer.

Denial is my happy place. At least in the world of hair.

I spent some of my conscious hours considering Jill's debutante ball next weekend...and how I'm going to get eleven college juniors to the ball and back without anyone turning into a pumpkin...or showing up on Cops of Montgomery. Not saying that I am dealing with bad kids...I'm not. I'm just saying that I'm not in denial when it comes to college juniors and their celebratory rituals.

One of the other mothers and I called around and pondered the fact that there is no vehicle large enough to transport them because they are all rented out to BP right now. The workers picking up tar balls have to be moved from Point A to Point B somehow...and in case you were wondering...the preferred mode of transportation is apparently every 15 passenger van or Suburban that existed at any point in time in the state of Alabama. Well, except for those owned by the prison system or churches.

Somehow neither of these options seems a bit helpful. A church van full of revelers is just wrong on many levels. A prison van is probably closer to reality...but having "Alabama Department of Corrections" on the side might verge on overkill. At least I certainly hope so.

I could always go out and buy a van...but that seems a bit extreme...even for me.

But enough already...

I've also wondered about things like what I'll eat on the girls' retreat since an open plan is like giving your teenager your credit card and telling her, "Have fun!" I suspect I will do fine, but I do have that simmering in a corner of my mind somewhere. I've also thought about what to wear to Callaway Gardens, why my tomato plants are dying, and how we are going to move Jill out of Tuscaloosa to Montgomery and then from Montgomery to Tuscaloosa over the next two weeks without a screaming match, ridiculous expense, or involving law enforcement.

I've assigned that last worry to Big Dave.

As fast as I can purge something off of my mind (from my to-do list)...three somethings jump up to take its place like some deranged pop-up ad in my brain that got through the ad blocker filter. This is so not helping one bit.

For instance, I called the vet to get the dogs an appointment for shots. Then I remembered I had to go to the post office, needed to write three Phi Mu recs and make a deposit. So I added those...

I checked on Jill's computer class grade (an "A" - yay!) that had not posted, and remembered I needed to pay her sorority bill by August 1st, find a thing to wear under my dress that compresses past sins, and remember to get my toenails done in my spare time between 1 and 2 a.m.

Egad. It's like every to-do list item spawns three more.

So, tonight I am going to pack it up and pack it in. I'm tired of the "what-if" scenarios that are running through my head. I'd love to be able to sit quietly for an hour tomorrow and just write down everything that has been lying in wait. My thoughts seem to be involved in some kind of insane mental paintball tournament or something.

Or as my mother called it when I was in mid-whine tonight..."free floating anxiety."

For many years, I refused to get uptight about things that I couldn't correct or change by clinging to Philippians 4:6-7 which begins with "be anxious for nothing..." I think I need to tattoo that to my forehead.


Well, tomorrow is another day, and it is coming soon. I have yet to pack, and I still have two small things that I need to take care of before I leave tomorrow. I'm sure that this really means that I have six small things that I will actually take care of before I leave...but whatever.

My main "to-do" list still contains several items, but as I look at it now...I'm down to bathe dogs, set up an appointment, find Brian's dust ruffle, Brian's college applications, make fleece blankets, and choose paint colors for the house. I started out with 38 items.

Yes, I number my to-do list...and I mark them off with highlighter so I can see what I've done. I'm sure that this qualifies me for some kind of medication...or at least an evaluation.

It really should make me feel better at least.

What my to-do list tomorrow should be:

See wonderful women who knew me when I was young.
Laugh until my face hurts.
Quit worrying about stupid to-do lists.

I think I'll go with that...:)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On Laziness

Last night I wrote a piece and somehow hit the delete button. It wasn't my favorite, anyway, but it still made me angry that I'd invested time and then it was gone just like that. It got me to thinking about how much time I have indeed wasted this past week, though. I've been reading books instead of doing laundry, sleeping more instead of balancing my checkbook, and watching TV instead of investing time checking in with my friends. Some weeks are like that, but other times it is just out of sheer laziness that I give into my inner entertainment hog.

Laziness R Us. Well, me anyway.

Laziness is a subject that I have tried to steer clear of...primarily of its close - and often unfair - association with people who are overweight. I learned long ago that relatively few of us see ourselves as lazy...just overwhelmed. We give in to a few minutes to ourselves from time to time because we believe we deserve it. Those minutes turn to hours, days, years, and a lifetime. The work ethic that kept our grandparents working a 55 hour workweek with no guarantees after retirement seems to have been extinguished in the current generation. Not all of them, granted, but far too many.

Yet, if the economy does nothing will hand America a giant reality check. Unfortunately, that check appears to be made to the order of Uncle Sam.

I gained weight because I was too lazy to concern myself with proper nutrition, exercise and moderation. I was lazy about my health, and now I'm paying the price for it. Now that I'm trying to reverse my bad behavior, I still get frustrated some days that the weight doesn't just magically fall off of me. Magically as in...well, YESTERDAY.

I have witnessed lazy behavior in other people and remember thinking to myself how sad it is that they don't just try harder...see past their obstacles...and make things happen. I suppose that I was so busy looking at this particular character flaw in others that I failed to fully recognize it in myself.

Yes, I have tendencies toward being lazy. There, I've said it. Not that it makes me feel any better. But my form of being lazy is in expecting other people to pick up the slack when I've done more than my fair share as determined by...well...ME. Or of procrastinating, and then getting everything done so quickly that it makes people truly amazed at my efficiency. I understand how to get things done...I just don't always like to hop to it.

Laziness is not to be confused with rest or recreation. Our bodies and our spirits need the former, and life is sweeter because of the latter. It is when we find ourselves angry that we have to do the mundane tasks in bathrooms...taking care of ourselves that we are heading out into the deep waters.

I know people who take care of a house, family, extended family, church friends, neighbors, coworkers and a large circle of friends and acquaintances without blinking. They are master schedulers and are efficient to such a degree that they end up earning the right to do more and more with less and less time. We as a collective group tend to wear these people out over time, and they end up feeling disillusioned, put upon and bitter that nobody cares enough about them to refuel their tanks. Then we wonder why they go nuts on us later on

Every day gives us opportunities to take our tendency toward ourselves and flip it for the benefit of others. We don't have to take it to extremes, but our lives are not meant to be for our own enjoyment. The enjoyment we have is more complete when we use our gifts and our time in the service of others. Not others who can actually do things for themselves...but those who cannot.

I am challenging myself to cut back on the time that I entertain myself to first rest, and then to either do something productive or for someone else. I want to appreciate my recreation and be more available and aware of the calling God has on my life. Sometimes I worry because I don't seem to be accomplishing anything except flipping calendar pages and dreaming of someday. When I examine why this is...I find that I just don't care enough to push myself off of the couch. This is indeed a sad state of affairs.

Lest you think that I am sitting here scourging myself over a perceived failing, know that I am not. I am just quite sure that part of the reason that life seems to be handing me more lemons than chocolate (yeah, I stole that Facebook friends) is because I haven't really done anything differently. And we all know that insanity's truest definition is "doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."

I don't expect that I'll be volunteering to do fact, I actually intend to volunteer to do far less in the coming year. I want to really focus on what is important to my family. For me, I suppose that means making sure that our budget is carefully watched, our house is kept visitor-ready, and that I do my job at work well.

But most importantly, it means that I am to be consistent and obedient to the call that God has on my life. It is being sensitive to the needs of other people while not sacrificing my time to do things for other people that they really should be doing for themselves. It is making sure that I am using the gifts and talents that I was uniquely given in a way that glorifies God and makes other people comforted or happy in the process.

So, there it is. My pledge to get myself moving. It's time.


The world is full of opposites. They say that we actually attract, and that may be true for some laws of nature. I mean, what goes up...must come down. What goes around...comes around. Wait! That's karma, I think. But I've found that the world is set up to be perfectly divided...male and female, Republican and Democrat, or loud and soft spoken. So, why it shocks me that there are indecisive people in this world...I can't say.

I was born being able to choose. Maybe I didn't choose well...but I could go "yes" or "no" without a whole lot of angst. I've been through periods of time when I didn't really know what I favored...but I've always been able to head out in a direction.

Did I mention that I tend to be directionally impaired? It's totally true.

But lately I've come to realize that what I take for granted is actually a gift. I don't take forty forevers to decide what I want at a restaurant...because I tend to order the same thing every time. I know fairly instantly if I like something or someone...and I can't really explain what goes into making that determination. I have to forcibly withhold my responses sometimes so that I can get all of the facts...or do something radical like actually check my calendar first.

I have friends and family members who fall at the other end of the spectrum. They have no idea what they want for breakfast...much less what they want to do in life. They seem to be waiting on a vision or something. And there's nothing that I can do or say to prod them onward most of the time.

And you know what? It's really okay.

What is not okay - at least in my little world - are the following scenarios:

Spending seven years in college changing majors on Mama and Daddy's dime. (I have four years with assistance, patience, and/or understanding. After're on your own.)

Dating someone for years while trying to figure out if he/she is "the one" or not. (Let me help you...they are NOT.)

Trying to figure out what you want to eat while at the speaker at the Chick-fil-A drive thru at 11:45 a.m. in 97 degree heat. (Please, lady who will inevitably cut me off with your minivan when I'm in a hurry...have a clue already.)

Deciding whether or not you will attend an event and making everyone prepare for both eventualities. (How about we plan for you NOT coming and thn if you figure out where you'll stay.)

Holding out to be able to take the "best deal" if you think alternative plans are going to be offered. (Just shoot straight.)

Allowing other people to believe in you when you don't have the passion, preparation, or endurance to actually follow through on what you say that you want to do. (Don't get me on board unless you mean what you say.)

But aside from these...

Maybe it is actually better to get more facts before you respond. Or be rational enough to listen to people you trust who might give you a better perspective than you can get just figuring out things on your own.

Or something truly might pray about something before you commit. That one act alone would probably solve about 80% of what is wrong in this world...if not more.

So, as you are faced with opportunities to choose...realize that you are being given a tremendous gift. You have free will. You live in America. We have do-overs here for most things. Embrace the occasional bad decision...learn from it...and move on. Don't use it as an excuse to live in some semi-frozen state of being because you can't bear the thought of messing up again.

If you're're going to mess up. If you don't believe me...pick up your Bible. You may not be able to pronounce their names, but you'll recognize a certain thread of boneheadedness that we seem to share as human beings.

Choose wisely...but get off of the fence. Take a chance. Move along. Dust yourself off if you fail miserably, publicly, or extraordinarily. You'll survive it...and will probably be better for it...eventually.

And if you are ever in a drive-thru and can't make up your mind...just order Combo #1 and move on. Please.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Short List

Several weeks ago (when I originally started this blogpost) we were in the midst of grilling when we realized that the propane tank was empty. No warning. Just our sad little chicken breasts lying on a grate with nothing moving them toward golden delicious nirvana. I mean, the oven finished them off, but it was a total buzzkill. I'd been looking forward to grilled chicken all day, you see.

I suppose that all of us have those minor disappointments in any given day. You wake up and realize that somebody put an empty milk carton back in the refrigerator so the pancakes you wanted to make are totally not happening. Or you find that your cat threw up on your bed or the dog left a "present" in the closet. Or every pair of clean underwear is in the washing machine instead of the dryer...except for the pair that turns into a thong midday because the stupid elastic has worn out.

Oh, we just suck it up and carry on...stopping only to whine about it to anyone who will listen. Or we'll save up every one of these mini-grievances and proclaim it a "bad day." Lord help those who come into contact with us on one of THOSE.

My short list of aggravations in life is probably pretty generic. I find that the most common denominators are paying for something I don't get full use of, feeling like I must be politically correct to get along with someone, and having to deal with someone's denial, self-centeredness, failure to plan, or snobbery.

Oh, I get annoyed at paying massive cell phone bills only to find that nobody will answer their cell phones when I need to talk to them. Big Dave is a contractor, so he might be in the midst of pouring concrete or painting on a ten foot ladder...but he does seem to be amazingly busy every time I call. My daughter prefers texting for informational purposes, and will call me when she has time to kill somewhere on her way from point A to point B. The same goes for my mother. My son just never answers it if it is inconvenient for him. "Inconvenient" basically means "every time I call him."

He's 18. What can I say?

I detest idiot drivers, telemarketers, people with fingernails longer than my forearm and people who just have to be different. Being unique is fine. In fact, I really admire people who embrace their inner geek, diva, hermit, or creative genius. What I find annoying is people who are so out there that they tattoo their bald head, pierce things I'm quite sure can't be comfortable or dye their hair colors that do not occur in nature except as pumpkins, crepe myrtles, or algae. I mind the fact that they aren't happy with just being unique...some have to push the envelope into the land of freakishly different.

What I really want to say is "Really? You woke up one day...dreamed up this 'look' and you are perfectly happy with the results? Did you - by chance - eat a lot of lead paint chips as a child?" But of course, I don't. I just try not to let my face register what my mind is thinking.

I don't like double standards, things that don't make sense, and doing something simply because it has always been done that way. I have had enough experience in the line of work I have chosen to truly detest the latter. Banking has more acronyms, procedures, fact checkers, and auditors than any other industry except medicine. Sometimes it is just nice to just cut to the chase and figure out exactly why we are doing what we are doing instead of just continuing to do it because we think that we are supposed to be doing it.

One of the things that I admire the most in people is the ability to take life as it comes instead of planning it into oblivion. I know that's funny coming from a planner...but my type of planning is actually to cover the worst case scenario...and then everything else is golden. Those who uber-plan...and refuse to deviate from the plan...cause me to plan how I'm going to deal with their plan and that just makes me crazy. On the other end of the scale are the non-planners. They never have any resources, time, or energy devoted to making something come together...and they want to make it my problem. I do have a pretty strong MacGyver streak...but dang.

Oh, there are more, but in all fairness, I suppose that all of us have our own short list. I've tried to realize that what annoys me is probably perfectly acceptable to other people...and what I find like fingernails on the chalkboard - so to speak - to someone else.

So, after a week of vacation...of not being annoyed...I'm actually feeling pretty good about life in general. That should last until about 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning if prior experience counts for anything.

As a defensive move, I'm trying to create a short list of things that I am grateful for for each thing that annoys me. An interesting concept, yes?

I am grateful that I can afford cell service and that I have family members who occasionally answer their phones.

I am pleased that I have food to eat, a roof over my head, and people that love me.

I am even grateful for some folks who are "different" because I'm sure that some of them provide the entertainment, art, and new discoveries that I enjoy. At least I sincerely hope so.

So there it is...the antidote to being being grateful. Hope I remember that tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m...

Sunday, July 11, 2010


It has been hot and dry the past week...although the weather has flirted with giving us a great soaking every so often. We may get a five minute downpour, or just experience some cosmic belching match of thunder. Most of us prefer that it rain when it is convenient for us...overnight...when we were going to nap anyway...or when we have been at the ballpark for a gazillion nights straight and don't think we can face one more night on the bleachers with a hotdog and a Gatorade.

When we are homeowners, we want the rain to keep our yards from drying up and our water bills from being astronomical. Unless, of course, we have vacation planned, a formal event that is outside, or we are trying to run an impossible number of errands in an extremely short time frame. I know that I cringe when I hear of someone wanting an outdoor wedding. Not because I don't think that they are lovely...because they often are. It is because I would sincerely hate to have to figure out Plan B when Plan A has been planned meticulously for months.

Jill wants a beach wedding one day. She loves her church, but she has always dreamed of a more casual, laid back experience for her wedding day. Somehow, that suits her. I have been to some lovely weddings outdoors that all ended up just fine...but yet, I somehow know that we will be standing there in the midst of Hurricane Francois or something if we dare to dream.

Rain is not my favorite. I have always seen it as an imposition. I don't like the power being out, the big hair that will inevitably follow if I get out in it, and the fact that I've often run in circles in the rain in any given parking lot because I frequently have some kind of bizarre amnesia about where I park.

But the rain has to fall, and the storms have to blow in occasionally. It is a part of life. No rain...and we get a desert. And no offense meant to Las Vegas...but being in the desert doesn't really do a whole lot for me. I am fair-skinned, freckled and am not particularly enamored with the heat. But, at least if the sun is's not raining...except on those freaky occasions that the two occur simultaneously. Like every time I'm at Disney World.

I think a lot of lives are like that...they seem dry and purposeless because there has been no rain in some time. Sometimes folks will counteract that by dragging in a giant irrigation system of "stuff" or attempt to convince themselves that they no longer require water. We all require water whether we are in active denial about that or not.

Rain is not always a villain. Sometimes it shows up to clear away the dust, grime and pollen. It gives us a fresh perspective and view of the world. Other times, it is longed for because our spirits are virtually parched from the whole experience of trying to maximize our time in the sun. We need the refreshing droplets on the cracked soil of our lives...and something in us to form the tears that we will shed. Because shedding tears of joy, relief, or sadness is what makes us human and wonderful and real.

I know that a lot of people fear the storms of life, and go through a lot of trouble to avoid them. They want backup generators in case the power goes out, and own umbrellas the size of small football stadiums. Not me.

Although I will readily admit that I cursed the rain in London in 2006 because it messed up the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and brought a chilling cold front with it in the month of May that was not only intense but unexpected...I've realized that the storms have to be borne to fully appreciate the sun and calm.

My sister is getting married in November at an outdoor venue. I wish for her azure blue skies and a perfect temperature for her special day. But even after the ceremony, I wish for them the ability and desire to dance in the rain and weather the storms that inevitably come in life even for those of us who build our house on a rock instead of sand.

Today, there is a 50/50 chance of rain. But this is the South, and if there's anything that's predictable about living here (other than excellent sweet tea, rednecks, and mosquitos) - it is knowing that the weather forecast for the summer is simply "excrutiatingly hot" and that determining actual rainfall is impossible. Big Dave is outside preparing for a potential downpour by mowing the lawn before the sky makes its intentions known one way or the other. He loves the outdoors and is even blessed with a sunny spite of being married to me for 25 years. But there is an equal chance that the rain will fall and the storms will blow in and nix his grandiose plans of yard maintenance.

Perhaps not.

As for me, I'm going to just drag a chair up by the pool and open up the book I started at the beach while I get up from time to time to move laundry to and fro. Even if it storms...I'll be fine.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Vacation 2010

I just got back from the annual beach vacation. It is an opportunity to go to the same spot of real estate on which I have spent vacation time for the past 37 years in Inlet Beach, Florida. Inlet Beach has been eclipsed by its more affluent next door neighbor - Rosemary Beach - just outside of Panama City Beach - but like most things in my life...I normally call whatever it is by what I knew it by first. This tendency extends to calling banks, department stores, and restaurants by names that they did business under many moons ago.

I basically consider the original name to be like a corporate maiden name or something.

So, on July 5th, I took off with my sister, Linda, her two kids and my two for points south. Dad and Irlyn were already there...and we settled in and waited for the arrival of the other two sisters who had spent the previous day in New Orleans. Time flew it always does...and the next day brought my brother...followed by Big Dave on Wednesday. A lot of seafood was consumed, books were read, and sunscreen was applied. Other than a couple of Pilates and power yoga classes (of which I did not partake because I didn't want anyone to get hurt laughing hysterically at my ineptitude)- it was what takes place on thousands of other beach vacations every year. Sun, sand, and surf. Food, fun, and family.

Wednesday, July 7th marked a milestone for Big Dave and me. We have now been married 25 years - a quarter of a century. Sadly, I actually remember turning 25 years of age about a gazillion years ago, and being amazed that I was that old. As if. I'd quite frankly like to give my young self a huge eye roll right now.

I was a bride at 22...just a month after starting my first job in banking and finishing my degree at Troy State University. (You can call it Troy University if you diploma says Troy State University, is signed by George C. Wallace as governor, and actually has the words "Summa Cum Laude" on it - which is amazingly scary.)

We marked the occasion by watching the video of our wedding...freshly preserved on DVD from its little unsafe VHS tape enviroment through some magic performed at the Costco Photo Center. And NO, it wasn't just because I had a coupon...although I WILL admit that it did provide some incentive.

The tape began...and after fourteen forevers waiting for people to be seated, it was a lot of fun to take a walk down Memory Lane. I was amazingly slim, there was an abundance of facial hair on a number of the groomsmen, and I got ribbed for having the bridesmaids decked out in pale pink taffeta...but whatever. Hey, I am a Phi Mu, and because of this fact...that wedding was going to be rocking some pink. (Side note: If you've ever seen "Steel Magnolias" you might know that Shelby's wedding colors of pink and well PINK...were because the character she is based upon (the sister of the writer) was a Phi Mu. I kid thee not. At least I didn't have a red velvet armadillo grooms there's that.)

In the video, I saw the happy faces of my friends, family, neighbors, and sorority sisters as they were all those years ago. I watched my precious Gammy being escorted down the aisle and my mother looking gorgeous like she always does. I saw the church of my childhood adorned in pink carnations and yellow gladiolas and an extraordinarly nervous (and exhausted) groom standing up there waiting for me. I approached in my mother's wedding dress, traded rings and headed back down the aisle smiling like my mother-in-law told me that I ought to be. She was right.

It was nice to recall my natural hair color (as well as Big Dave's) and to remember the days of weddings when it was possible to have a nice reception in the Social Hall of the church after the ceremony instead of spending enough money to educate a kid for a year in college on just the flowers. I also saw the gorgeous wedding and groom's cakes that my sister-in-law, Wendy, made for the reception. She also made a couple of the dresses for the attendants and for me as well.

My little white hat was on as I left the church ducking the birdseed and making my way into the in-laws' (un)Reliant K (as Big Dave refers to it). We took their car because my Chevette was ridiculously unreliable and his white truck was even more so. We stopped through Montgomery to drop off some items after I drove from Georgia to Alabama while David was passed out from exhaustion with his head against the passenger window. All with the "Just Married" paraphenalia and lovely messages shoe polished all over the windows of the car. No, that wasn't embarrasing at all.

I was still wearing my hat, by the way.

We stopped at Darryl's Restaurant on the Eastern Boulevard in Montgomery for dinner. It is now a Hooters. *SIGH*

Where did we go from there? Inlet Beach, of course. We rode through the tourist-laden streets of Panama City Beach blaring Tears for Fears' "Shout" out the window and looking for the Miracle Strip Amusement Park.

But I've digressed...

We actually had a wonderful meal Wednesday night at a restaurant we visited on our honeymoon and were delighted to note that the fare has significantly improved in the interim. The bill for the meal reflected that improvement, naturally. (And, NO, it wasn't a Hooters.)

On Thursday, my sister's fiance' arrived, and we were all there for a few short hours. On Friday, Jill left for a trip to Lake Pickwick and a few days in Memphis.

And then as quickly as all vacations tend to became time to come home.

Today we drove back, celebrated my mother's 39th birthday at Bonefish Grill and gave her a present that made her cry. She said it was because she liked her gift so much. I hope it wasn't because she was hoping for a trip to Hawaii or something.

Vacations have a way of making us get out of our routines, invest time doing things that we actually like to do, and remind us that life is more than the could-a-would-a-should-a existence that we find ourselves waist-deep in most of the time.

I had time to stop this week and smell the roses...figuratively. I'm just glad that I didn't see or smell the oil...well, other than a little Hawaiian Tropic, perhaps. Life blows by so quickly that we really need to stop sometimes and just put everything on hold. Quit worrying, and do a little reflecting. To take time to listen to a sister describe the plans for her upcoming nuptuals, accept refrigerator art from extraordinarily cute little people and sit on the beach hoping you aren't getting extra crispy while reading ridiculously bad novels.

I pretty much did all of the above.

And now I am home...making sweet tea for my son and listening to Big Dave snoring gently on the couch. My dogs have almost forgiven me for leaving them for a week (although they are probably just mourning the fact that they are here instead of there and I'm in denial) and I'm honestly pretty happy to be sleeping in my own bed tonight.

Life is good. And vacation isn't over until Tuesday. SWEET.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy People

Every day it is possible to turn on your radio, television, or newspaper and find a gazillion reasons to be unhappy. It isn't hard. Sometimes the unhappiness just brings a suitcase and camps out in our houses and lives for awhile, and we live in shades of gray instead of vibrancy. Oh, we'll go through the gyrations of the day to day things that we must do, but we won't have any spark, any oomph, or any desire to do anything other than what we must.

Been there. Done that. Just gave the tee shirt to Goodwill.

I won't sit here and go all Tony Robbins on you, or tell you that your life will be wonderful if you just believe it will be. There are real problems out there that can drag your life through a season of unhappiness...when you are just pleased to get through the hours much less the days. Most of us are very sympathetic to those who are going through a valley not of their own making and more often than not each and every one of us is going to be curled up in the fetal position on our couches at least once or twice in our lives. Probably more often than that...but I'm being hopeful.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who are blissfully, excrutiatingly happy. Life has handed them everything they've ever wanted and they really don't know what to do with the embarrassment of riches. They almost seem to have animated bluebirds singing around their heads and are so over the top from time to time that you can barely tolerate being around them for fear that you'll snap and slap them silly. It normally doesn't intervenes...or the blush comes off the rose, or something equally tragic. But for a time in their lives...everything looks clearer, more beautiful, and more precious.

Funny thing...we never forget our lives at each end of the spectrum. We always remember the pain...and the joy. We can distinctly recall those points in time when life was exactly the way we wanted it and we thought that it would always remain that way. We can also remember the devastation of our spirits when we weren't sure that we were going to make it out intact. And then we did.

The secret to being happy is contentment. You may not be where you want to be in some areas of your life...but you are probably not sitting in the sewer in all of them. You just have to figure out how to minimize the stench of what is wrong in your life so that you can actually smell the roses. A lot of people fight this so hard by waiting to enjoy anything until every duck is in a row. Until every dream has come true. In the meantime, we miss out on what tiny sparks of joy are contained in every day. The surprises, breathtaking views, sweet words, sincere appreciation, and people that make this too-short existence of ours really worth all of the junk we sometimes have to put up with in a given day.

Personally, I love knowing the good news of other people. I love seeing kids that I know excel and grow into amazing men and women. I enjoy hearing about new babies, upcoming marriages, and the success of people who have worked hard to have the privilege to live their dreams. Somehow I feel that if things are going well for other people and maybe not going so well for me, that there is still hope for something good to happen. Why be jealous of other peoples' success or happiness? Don't you want people to give you a thumbs up when it is your turn to shine?

I know I do.

I learned a long time ago that life isn't perfect. And those who we feel have perfect lives have the same insecurities and doubts that we do. Plus, I've also found out that people will definitely surprise you. Those who have it all together can have a freak out of major proportions and have to start over completely from scratch. And those who have had roadblock after roadblock placed in front of them can end up well beyond their expectations in terms of living the dream.

Some people have more advantages, talents, and fortunate circumstances than others, and we may find that we don't have the ability, the stamina, or the will to do anything that we set our minds to do. But instead of staying on the original path, we have to look at what we can do instead of what we cannot. To lament what might have been is simply a waste of time. And digging into other people who seem to have what we do not is not only unattractive but is actually self-defeating.

So, play nice and quit trying to tear other people down. Life's too short to be a toad.

I personally like happy people. Those who are newly in love, have just found out that they've won the virtual lottery in something in their lives, or are just reaping the benefits of the years of study and dedication that they have sown. I say...good for them.

So, if you are surrounded by a ridiculously happy person...laugh with them. Don't try to ground will take care of that. Unless they ask, of course. Just enjoy being somewhere close to the magic that my humble opinion...not quite common enough. Perhaps if we did this instead of trying to find a way to sabotage whatever it is that is lifting their spirits...we'd find that we are among the happy people as well.